School de­fends pun­ish­ment af­ter dis­abled teen bul­lied

Sunday Star-Times - - NEWS - AN­DRE CHUMKO

A Welling­ton high school’s re­ac­tion to bul­ly­ing of a Down syn­drome pupil has been la­belled vic­tim-blam­ing.

At the end of 2017 the Welling­ton East Girls’ Col­lege com­mu­nity was rocked by claims con­cern­ing images of 15-year-old Holly Reed.

A for­mer prin­ci­pal who con­ducted an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion sug­gested the school pun­ish one pupil with com­mu­nity ser­vice, and con­sider pun­ish­ment for two oth­ers.

Prin­ci­pal Sally Haughton said the sit­u­a­tion as it was first pre­sented was har­row­ing but ‘‘a dif­fer­ent truth has come out’’.

Holly’s mother, Nicki Craw­ford, said it was ‘‘crazy’’ the girls in­volved were al­lowed to re­main at the school, when Holly had to be re­moved for her own safety.

Vic­to­ria Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Vanessa Green, whose re­search spe­cialises in bul­ly­ing and peer re­la­tion­ships, said the school was ‘‘es­sen­tially blam­ing the vic­tim’’.

It was send­ing a mes­sage that ‘‘ba­si­cally you can do any­thing, to any­one, par­tic­u­larly a child with a dis­abil­ity, and you’ll get away with it’’.

Holly Reed

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