Children's Commissioner calls for compulsory anti-bullying programmes as Auckland college in firing line

The Children's Commissioner is calling for compulsory anti-bullying programmes in every New Zealand school as a top Auckland college finds itself in the firing line.

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The Children's Commissioner is calling for compulsory anti-bullying programmes following cases at Sacred Heart College. Source: 1 NEWS

Sacred Heart College has been slammed by the Chief Ombudsman for its response to bullying complaints.

One of the victims was just 11 when the verbal and physical abuse began.

"I just hated having to go to school, I wanted to stay home as much as possible, it made me feel anxious, worried, scared for my safety," said the student, who 1 NEWS has chosen not to name.

Now 15, he alleges he was bullied for most of the year at Sacred Heart College.

His mother, Siobhan Harvey, kept a record of 90 witnessed incidents of bullying during the year.

"At one point I tried to walk to my class and I was stopped by a group of about 10 boys blocking my way," the student told 1 NEWS.

"As I tried to push past them they pushed me to the ground."

His mother recalls a story when one child came up to her son, and said "go and commit suicide so I can piss on your grave."

"We had to drop our son off to school every morning knowing we were going to be worried for the rest of the day," she said.

The son was diagnosed with severe anxiety and left the school, which has come under the microscope of the Chief Ombudsman, Peter Boshier.

In a report he says it's the third complaint about Sacred Heart that the office has dealt with in recent times.

He notes a "failure by the college to deal effectively with this behaviour," which has "taken a toll on the health of a student".

He also found the Board of Trustees response to Ms Harvey's complaint to be "unreasonable" and "not well handled".

Another former Sacred Heart student from 2016 spoke to 1 NEWS on the condition of anonymity, and says it's a familiar story.

"I'd be pushed and shoved," he said.

"I'd be taunted, and those sorts of experiences stick with you and create long term consequences."

1 NEWS emailed Sacred Heart for comment today.

We asked if it had a culture of bullying in 2016, and if it has one now. 

It responded with a statement prepared yesterday, saying the board accepts the situation in 2016 was not well handled, and that a raft of changes have been made. 

It also offered reassurance that new initiatives will be implemented to develop a stronger and caring college.

For the Children's Commissioner, there's a broader issue at play.

"The sad and perhaps shocking reality is we lead the world in terms of reported bullying in our schools and that is a badge of utter disgrace," Andrew Becroft said.

A recent report found nearly a third of secondary students reported having been bullied at school.

The commissioner wants validated anti-bullying programmes to be compulsory in schools.

"We've got to be crystal clear about a culture that makes non bullying the baseline.

"There's got to be a climate where children can report without fear or shame issues that they confront."

Ms Harvey would like to see change, but says she is sceptical after what her son has already endured.