Students at Auckland's Rosehill College are demanding change after a series of brutal fights involving gang members were captured on camera at the premises.
Counties Manukau Police were called to the south Auckland school in Papakura on Thursday at around 2pm after reports of several students fighting. In footage sent to Newshub of a fight the day before, dozens of students can be seen violently punching and throwing each other to the ground.
Both the police and the school have confirmed that a large fight took place on Wednesday - which footage sent to Newshub shows - but police were not called to this incident. The fight was broken up and a student was stood down.
There was another fighting incident on Thursday, which police responded to after a student made a complaint, but police say no fighting occurred when they arrived at the scene. Students and parents are now demanding action and change at the school.
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The Ministry of Education said it has spoken to the school's principal Sue Blakely, telling Newshub the ministry is satisfied that the school is "taking this matter seriously" and has "appropriate systems in place to effectively manage" the situation.
"We understand how distressing an incident like this can be, not only on those directly impacted, but for all students and staff," said the Ministry of Education's Deputy Secretary Sector Enablement and Support, Katrina Casey.
What went down at Rosehill College
A student who wants to remain anonymous told Newshub police were called to the school because students' parents were fighting other students on their children's behalf. The source also said there have been "multiple fights" at the school recently, and said it's an unsafe place.
Principal Sue Blakely told Newshub on Friday she acknowledges that there have been fights in the school and "each has been dealt with at the time, with stand downs or suspensions issued as warranted."
She said the fight on Wednesday started when a student asked two others for a cigarette. The others said they didn't smoke and called them "losers". It is alleged that one of them pushed the student who had asked for a cigarette, and a fight broke out.
The following day, one student was suspended as information was being collected about Wednesday's fight. But by lunchtime another fight broke out, this time with "different students involved," Ms Blakely said.
"A large crowd of spectators and followers gathered and moved around the school," she told Newshub. "This crowd did swell to the numbers reported [around 150 students]."
She said no weapons were brought on site and there is "no evidence that adults were involved in fighting."
But police confirmed to Newshub that one of the parents allegedly involved in Thursday's incident has been identified and is affiliated to a gang. He has been trespassed by the school and spoken to by police, Counties Manukau Police Inspector Tony Walkelin said.
Police had a presence at the school on Friday to prevent further flare-ups, which Inspector Wakelin said should help the community "feel safe".
But both parents and students have had enough.
'A decline in pride and mana'
Rosehill College is now facing a backlash from students - who want to remain anonymous - after the school instructed them in an assembly not to speak to media until the investigation is finished or else face being stood down.
Students are demanding action from the school following the multiple violent incidents. The anonymous student told Newshub a group of pupils have called on the school to "undertake a serious investigation".
"We believe the current system in place is not strong enough and leading to a decline in pride and mana within the Rosehill College name," a letter to the school leadership also sent to Newshub reads.
"This must be sorted as soon as possible before any repeated actions take place. If this is not taken seriously we will know the students' wellbeing and ability to strive for excellence is not taken seriously."
The student said it's been the worst year at Rosehill College in terms of fights, but nothing is being done. He said Thursday's fight was a reaction to one the day before, which police have confirmed is true.
The source said "parents or older friends" came to the school on Thursday to protect some students from being attacked. Those parents or older friends are also believed to be Black Power gang members.
"From the view of a window during the lockdown, I can say I saw what appeared gang-related tattoos on a face of these parents or friends," the student told Newshub.
He said complaints made by parents haven't been taken seriously by the school and that there appears to be no consequences for students who bully and cause fights. Students are also said to smoke cigarettes and cannabis on school grounds.
"I know it's not just the school's fault that these events have taken place but with the school reaction today, I have felt Rosehill is heading down the wrong direction into fixing these issues and many more students agree."
The Ministry of Education told Newshub the school's Boards of Trustees are responsible for behaviour management and disciplinary processes, and make all the decisions themselves on the outcome of any incidents.
"That means the Chair of the Board of Trustees or the Principal are best placed to respond to questions about the outcome of any discipline matters."
The Rosehill College Board of Trustees was approached by Newshub for comment on allegations of drug use at the school, to which the board replied, where there is evidence, students will be stood down for five days and given counselling support.
Should students fail a random drug test, they are highly likely to be suspended and appear before members of the board. But in incidences of bullying, resolving the underlying issue is "important to ensure that the relationship between students is repaired," the board said.
"Both offender and victim will be interviewed to uncover why the bullying has occurred and a restorative conference is held. As part of the conference, an agreement is made as to how they will interact in the future."
The school can also impose disciplinary consequences up to and including suspension, the board said. If the agreement is broken, then that is likely to result in a disciplinary action.
'My son did this out of self-defence'
Parents of Rosehill College students are demanding answers from the school, with one father anonymously telling Newshub his son - who appears in the violent footage - was acting out of self-defence.
"To be honest with you, Rosehill has been a total sweep it under the carpet attitude, and those so called Black Power gang members did not go there with weapons or to cause trouble - they saved my son and daughter from being rushed," he said.
Parents of students directly involved in fighting were contacted to keep their students at home while the school investigates, Principal Blakely told Newshub. She said consequences for those students will be issued when the investigation is finished.
The father who spoke to Newshub said violence is common at Rosehill College and is calling on the school to lift its standards and help students feel safer.
"Parents have an expectation that their children will go to school and be safe," Inspector Wakelin told Newshub, adding that the behaviour which has taken place at the school is "unacceptable".
"I am confident after talking to the principal this morning that the school and police will be working to ensure the safety of our children, which remains our priority," he said.
Principal Blakely said she is "extremely disappointed that students have chosen to act this way," and said she wants to acknowledge the large majority of students who are "respectful, responsible and caring young adults".
Anyone with information is asked to contact Papakura Police on 09 261 1300 or alternatively, information can be provided to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.