School threatens legal action after dad erects anti-bullying sign outside gates

A dad has used a large sign outside Christchurch's Waimairi School to protest after his 9-year-old daughter was ...
A dad has used a large sign outside Christchurch's Waimairi School to protest after his 9-year-old daughter was repeatedly assaulted by classmates. Photo: STACY SQUIRES/FAIRFAX NZ

He expected an apology.

Instead, a father who put an anti-bullying sign outside Christchurch's Waimairi School has been called "a nuisance" by its lawyer and threatened with police action.

The man removed the 1.8-metre sign on Wednesday evening, but said he anticipated putting it back to protest the physical assaults and humiliation his 9-year-old daughter endured.

"It was really heating up. The [emails] from the lawyers were coming bang, bang, bang yesterday afternoon.

"I was hoping it [the sign] would cause the school to wake up and realise, 'he's not going to stop until we take action.'"

The man, who cannot be named without identifying his daughter, was dissatisfied with Waimairi School's response after his daughter was repeatedly kicked, punched, bitten and choked by other students over 18 months.

One email from the school's lawyer, David Beck, to the father's lawyer, read: "Your client has turned up outside school with a sign causing a nuisance [and] has been on to the Press – if you can counsel him to desist further it would help."

Another said: "Our client [Waimairi School] is reluctant to have any confrontation, but they will get the police involved if he continues."

The father said his daughter spent multiple lunchtimes a week in restorative justice-style meetings with her bullies months after he asked them to stop.

The bullying, which included students trying to pull down her underwear in front of classmates and a March attack where she was punched 10 times and suffered a split lip, turned his "loving and gentle girl" into an angry child who frequently ran away from school, he said.

He considered taking his daughter out of the school, but her mother did not want to.

Waimairi School board chair Cory Bedford said the father was yet to lodge a formal complaint with the board of trustees. This would be the next step if disputes with the school could not be resolved.

Bedford said he offered to meet the man in March but the meeting never happened.

On Wednesday he said the school was investigating the father's claims, but declined to comment further, citing the child's privacy.

Most parents spoken to on Thursday morning supported Waimairi School and principal Mike Anderson.

"I've never met a principal who is more passionate in his stance against bullying," one mother said.

Another parent said when her children had issues in the past, they were dealt with quickly.

A father of two girls at the school said, while the sign may not have been the best way to address the problem, "if nothing was being done, maybe it was the only way".

The father said he was "overwhelmed" by the public response in support of his sign, which included "three or four" messages from parents at the school whose children were bullied.

"One woman was at the end of her wits with kids at the school who have been bullied so much that she hates going to school," he said.

A former parent said she pulled her youngest child out of Waimairi School after her oldest child was physically bullied in the last week about seven years ago.

"I don't think you'll find a school where there isn't bullying. This was just a culture I didn't like," she said.

"It was almost, 'what did you do to create this issue', rather than 'the bully was wrong'."

- Stuff