School defends punishment after disabled teen bullied
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’’.