By: Simon Collins
A high school student was held down and shot in the leg with a BB gun by bullies who later joked about it on social media.
The Year 9 boy with mild Asperger Syndrome was also roughed up in Tauranga Boys’ College toilets and “tormented”on the way home.
The victim received an email from another boy at the college saying: “I am going to kill you mo ha ha ha DIE!.”
Police have investigated and the two students involved in the shooting were suspended. But they have now returned to class under what college principal Robert Mangan described as “strict behaviour contracts”.
The ongoing bullying has left the family bereft. The boy’s grandparents, whom the Heraldhas agreed to call just “John and Gloria” to protect their grandson, said their daughter, the boy’s mother, had to go on medication for depression and sleeplessness because of the bullying.
“The mother says, ‘What else can I do?’ She’s been everywhere and nobody seems interested. Now if anybody asks her about it she bursts into tears. It’s an awful thing, she can’t talk about it now,” John said.
John, 77, served 18 years in the police and wrote to the Tauranga district police commander after lodging a complaint when he learned of the shooting in July and then hearing nothing back for months.
“Last week for the first time we saw a policeman, a youth aid officer came to talk to us, and told me there is not much they can do because of the age of the boys – which to me doesn’t make sense,” John said. “It’s just been ignored.”
John’s grandson did not tell anyone after he was shot in late June, and it only came to light when his cousin, who also attends the college, saw a Facebook post with the boy’s photo and a comment saying: “He dont like me he f**kin hates me just bc i held him down while he got shot by a bb gun.”
Another boy commented: “Hahaha he started crying.”
John said his grandson “was sitting on the playing field by the administration block when these boys grabbed him, held him down and shot him in the leg”.
On another occasion, the cousin found the boy being roughed up in the toilets.
“The cousin said he physically had to pull them off him,” John said.
The boy received the death threat from an email address at the college on August 22, and his mother now picks him up after school to protect him.
“Two weeks ago, for the first time this year, she didn’t pick him up, and he was followed all the way home and abused and tormented,” John said.
His grandson now tries to avoid going to the toilet at school, he said.
“He spends his day now at school avoiding those boys – you imagine what his day must be like,” John said.
“The school’s answer is that at lunchtime and breaks he can go into the school library to avoid those people.”
The college has also given him a card he can show a teacher to leave a class at any time if he feels unsafe.
“All the kids see this … it just makes him a better target.”
Mangan confirmed two boys were suspended and then placed on “strict behaviour contracts” after the victim was held down by one and shot by the other in the leg with a plastic BB gun pellet.
The two boys apologised to the victim in writing, Mangan said.
The two offenders’ behaviour was now being monitored closely and reported on daily to management.
He confirmed the victim was given “a card which allows him to leave any class he is uncomfortable in at any time, to enable him to access support from the Pastoral Care”.
“He does not have to show this in front of the other boys, but can do so discreetly at the teacher’s desk or outside the classroom should he wish.
“His classroom teachers were made aware of the incident and the need to support him.”
Mangan said the college was not aware of the attack in the toilets, but did investigate the emailed death threat and the recent bullying on the way home.
The offenders were “withdrawn from class for a period of time in a supervised room” and their parents were notified.
The school did not tell victims of bullying to hide in the library, he said, but did “offer students alternative options, such as the library or the music room, to spend their break in should they choose”.
Western Bay of Plenty police commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said police had spoken to “all parties” about the shooting and the matter referred to youth aid.
“Police have been liaising with the school and the safety of the victim and ongoing support has been a priority for police.”
Autism NZ outreach coordinator Jo Lloyd said she offered training for both students and teachers to help them understand what it felt like to think differently.
“It’s giving them practical examples of how it might feel like if you have some sort of processing disorder, or when the bell goes really loudly,” she said.
“And they say: ‘That’s why you put your hands over your ears when this happens’, or, ‘That’s why you have to run out of the class’. They get it.”
Asperger Syndrome Q&A
Q. What is it?
A. Asperger Syndrome is a high-functioning form of autism. Ideas which are abstract, metaphorical or idiomatic may cause confusion and be taken literally. John says his grandson “takes everything seriously, he can’t take a joke”.
Q. How common is it?
A. About one in every 66 people are on the autism spectrum. Boys are nine times more likely than girls to have Asperger Syndrome.
Q. How can we help people with it?
A. Special education programmes and structured support can really make a difference to a child’s life, helping to maximise skills and achieve full potential in adulthood.
Source: NZ Herald