Napier Girls’ High School principal Dawn Ackroyd has been working with the police to ensure their girls are protected against any more indecent assaults. Photo / Warren Buckland

The recent spate of indecent assaults on young women in the region of Hawke’s Bay have outraged people and caused principals to put measures in place to ensure further attacks do not happen.

Students from Woodford House in Havelock North and Napier Girls’ High School have reported being grabbed by a man while out on the street in two separate incidents.

Woodford House principal Julie Peterson ensured that “The safety of our girls is paramount and it is our duty to ensure girls are equipped and empowered with the skills and knowledge they need to stay safe at all times.”

Mrs Peterson said proactive communication was extremely important during a crisis or when an incident occurred to ensure the school community was well informed with accurate information.

“Once we have gathered the facts and spoken to key people such as the police, we send an email to board members, staff and parents. We also send the girls a message on our learning management system called Schoology. We then talk to the girls in assembly or during their homeroom time.”

As a boarding school, she said they had robust security systems and rules in place for when the girls left the school grounds as well as 24 hour supervision.

“We use a biometric scanning system called ScanOne, which the girls sign in and out of using their thumbprint,” Mrs Peterson said.

“We have been well supported by police who have taken a proactive approach in their investigations. I met with the Child Protection Team on Monday who offered their ongoing support to the Woodford House community.”

One of their students’ parents is a security expert and former police officer, who has previously run workshops with the girls and staff on safety, she said.

Since the incidents occurred, they have been looking into running a situational awareness and self defence programme.

“We have also had cyber security expert John Parsons run workshops with students, staff and parents about the issues and dangers associated with the inappropriate use of computers, mobile phones and the internet, as cybersafety is also very important.”

Despite what has happened, Napier Girls’ High School principal Dawn Ackroyd believed the Hawke’s Bay community is safe.

“The police do a fantastic job in liaising with schools, keeping us updated and following up on any information that is passed on.”

Ms Ackroyd said they informed their students by speaking to them and the community via email.

Similarly to Woodford House, they had told their students to keep safe by “walking in pairs, avoid secluded areas, be vigilant, report any suspicious behaviour by contacting police and if necessary call 111”.

The school provided self-defence for Year 10 students and had offered extra classes for Year 9 and 10 students.

Hawke’s Bay Secondary Principals’ Association chairman and Taradale High School principal Stephen Hensman said, “The safety of our students is paramount, and the impact of indecent assault can be long-lasting, so principals throughout Hawke’s Bay have been active in response to the recent spate of indecent assaults in the district.

“We have used our communication channels with families and students to disseminate the advice provided by the police about how to keep safe while exercising, and we have kept one another informed if any incidents have affected our own students.”

The specific advice they have been disseminating includes: 
– Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Avoid looking at smartphones or wearing ear buds while walking/running.
– Always keep to well-lit areas and avoid secluded parks, reserves or streets.
– Keep bags containing valuables close to your body and keep your mobile phone where you can reach it quickly.
– Walk/run on the outer edge of footpaths rather than near bushes.
– We also advise that girls walk/run in pairs at all times.
– If anyone encounters an incident or notices suspicious activity, call police on 111 immediately.

Source: Hawke’s Bay Today


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