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Parents left upset after not being told student threatened to 'shoot up' Christchurch school


Controversy has erupted at Christchurch’s Shirley Boys’ High School after it was revealed a student threatened to "shoot up" his classmates last week.

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The boy has been warned by police and allowed to return to Shirley Boys' High, but it's left some parents worried for their children's safety. Source: 1 NEWS

The boy has been warned by police and allowed to return to class with counselling, but it's left some parents worried for their children's safety.

A mother of one the students, who didn’t want to be identified, says she initially decided to keep her son home.

“I send my son to school knowing he's going to be safe, I don't feel that way anymore,” she says.

“I feel the student needs to be held accountable for what he's said, he needs to know what he's done is really, really wrong.”

Shirley Boys’ Headmaster John Laurenson says it played out on October 22, when a student lost his temper with friends and threatened a school shooting.

It happened outside of school hours, meaning there was no need for a lock down.

However, one of the boy’s friend’s told the school dean, who then called police and an investigation ensued. Police found it was an off-the-cuff remark, with no present threat, but that hasn’t offered any solace to some parents at the school.

Mr Laurenson is describing the ordeal as a moment of immaturity and is allowing the boy to return without any punishment.

“I don't see that standing a boy down school is actually going to achieve very much, given the action of the police, a more positive action is counselling,” he says.

“We're not talking about an adult here, we're talking about a very immature action.”

But parents weren't told about the situation until almost a week after it happened, as exaggerated rumours swirled in the school community.

The aggrieved mother at Shirley Boys’ says the lack of communication was “disgusting”.

“Parents should have been informed straight away, to stop rumours and things spreading that obviously aren't true,” she says.

“Give parents a decision, give them an informed decision so they can say, ‘okay, I feel comfortable with this’, or ‘no, I don't feel comfortable and I'm not going to send my son to school, because I don't know that he's safe’.”

School shootings are a major fear for many parents following terrible attacks in the US at schools like Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas High.

Post Primary Teachers' Association President Jack Boyle says threats are seen from time to time in Kiwi schools and can be difficult to deal with.

“All schools are required to have emergency management plans and processes to deal with those sort of situations,” he says.

“When we're talking about threats of violence, they are thankfully less frequent, and we've got pretty good emergency procedures in place across schools.”

Mr Laurenson says while his school acted quickly by calling police it could have communicated better.

“On reflection, if we had this again, and God forbid that we would, the message for people is keep in the back of your mind social media and fire something out very quickly,” he says.

But some won't rest easy until the boy is suspended, and say he needs to learn a lesson, and be held accountable for his actions.

The dispute is one many schools will face with principals and staff facing the difficult job of picking the difference between a moment of immaturity or cause for major concern.