November 2009 Leaflet

Why we are protesting

We are here because of the appalling way my family has been treated by the Titirangi Steiner School: my eldest daughter who was 8 at the time was being regularly bullied in her class by children who had been behaving in this way since Kindy.

We informed the teacher and management about it and after four months of us telling the school, them reassuring us that they took the matter seriously and nothing ever changing, they expelled our children, including my child at Kindy who never had any problems, and my little one at playgroup.

But we weren't the only ones this happened to: three other families had left the same class in previous weeks, also because of bullying, and we've since learned of many others who have suffered at the hands of this school over the years because of the management’s refusal to deal with bullying.

Our children, especially our eldest, have been severely affected by their treatment here, to the extent that we are seeking help for them.

What the school says to other people

The manager never gave us proper reasons why the school kicked us out, but here is what they say to anyone enquiring about this event:

"The school's policy with regard to bullying is one of social inclusion."

Setting aside the irony of being kicked out because the school believes in ‘social inclusion’, in the four months of communicating with them, the school never used that term. Not once. They only started mentioning it once they excluded us and we began making a fuss.

But social inclusion doesn't mean letting children bully others without consequences.

We never advocated expelling children, however. We simply wanted them to stop the bullying or separate the children. They have no such policy here.

“The behaviour of the parents became unacceptable to both the school and other parents.”

All we did was write emails to management and had meetings with staff. Many parents were in fact glad that someone was finally doing something about the bullying but I doubt they’ll be brave enough to speak out now having seen what can happen if you do.

We didn’t protest or complain publicly about the situation until after we were kicked out, when we were rightfully angry at the school’s inefficiency and its inability to protect children.

This is a school that told us that expelling a bully would be violent to the child. They had no such problem expelling a ‘sensitive child’ (as her teacher identified her) and her younger siblings.

"Our enrolment agreement with parents requires them to provide an ongoing commitment to Waldorf Education which, in our view, was not forthcoming in this case. "

Unless bullying is part of Steiner education, their statement is groundless: we were committed to their education system, even going to an anthroposophical doctor, on teacher’s advice, to help our daughter build her confidence up so she could cope with the bullying.

But even if what they say were true, is it the school's policy to evict people without notice or warning, suddenly, with no possibility of appeal?

Our eldest child loved the curriculum and we were determined to help her thrive there, by making her class the safe environment the school claims it was.

We were scheduled to have a meeting with management, trustees and teachers to discuss behavioural management. A meeting proposed by the manager himself. But on the day of that meeting we unexpectedly received a letter cancelling it and chucking us out instead.

When we went to the school to demand an explanation on the record for this sudden and violent action, they refused to talk to us, issued us with trespass notices and called the police within minutes of our arrival.

"The school has investigated all incidents reported by this family and has found them to be without substance. "

In all the correspondence detailing many events of violent behaviour, the school only questioned one, which was due to a case of mistaken identity on our part. If they queried one, you'd think they would’ve flagged up others if they had doubts. They never questioned any of our other reports while we were at the school.

Where you can find out more

Visit our website, which includes all the correspondence between us and the school as well as a few videos explaining the situation in greater detail:

Having read the correspondence in its entirety, one of the trustees said the following:

“I am of the view that you and your family have been very badly treated. [...] You are being blamed for everything that is wrong in the school rather than seen as the catalyst of change that is needed [...] My wife & I discussed your situation at length and we questioned what we would do if we had been in your situation... we concluded that we would have not kept quiet either.”

Sadly, trustees are powerless at this school.

How can a school do this?

There’s an important loophole in the current Education Law that allows some New Zealand schools, Private Non- Integrated (PNi) ones like the Titirangi Steiner School, to operate almost entirely without safeguard or supervision by any Ministry Department. These schools are not covered by the vast majority of sections of the Education Act, including those covering protection of children from bullying and from damaging actions by the school. As a parent sending your child(ren) to such a school you need to be sure that the institution is up to the job, without Ministry support.

But at the moment PNi schools aren’t by law obliged to inform parents of the school's different status in law with regards to the children's reduced protection and rights, a situation that further puts children at risk through parents being ignorant about it.

We are calling for compulsory disclaimers in these schools that all parents must sign to show that they have been made fully aware of the implications for their children's safety and their rights in sending them to a PNi school.

If you agree with this, please sign the petition at:

Thank you for your time.

We produced this leaflet in November 2009. It gives a good illustration of how the school were trying to spin the expulsions into something less damaging to their reputation, and shows how not everyone was happy with what was going on nor how the manager was handling the situation.