Further allegations of bullying, assault at King's College emerge amid National MP Sam Uffindell fallout

Warning: This article deals with violence and sexual violence

Further allegations of bullying and assault at Auckland's King's College have emerged after it was revealed a National MP was asked to leave the school after violently attacking another student. 

One former student told Newshub the school has a culture of "hyper-masculinity" and toxic traditions, while another claimed bullying and assaults were commonplace. 

On Monday it was revealed National MP Sam Uffindell was asked to leave the prestigious private school more than 20 years ago after a violent nighttime attack on a younger student. 

Details of the attack emerged after Uffindell's victim came forward. The victim said the National MP had contacted him last year to make amends. He'd accepted that apology until he saw Uffindell was running for Parliament and felt the apology wasn't genuine.

The victim was only 13 when the attack happened and it involved Uffindell and three other teens at King's College.

"I was covering my head ... they were smashing me," the victim told Stuff. 

"I don't remember much, but when it was over, everyone ran into the next dorm and lay down on the floor between the beds there to hide."

Uffindell said the attack was the "stupidest and dumbest thing" he's ever done and he's incredibly remorseful. 

He said he informed the National Party's pre-selection committee about the attack before he was selected as a candidate and went on to win the Tauranga by-election.

On Wednesday Uffindell was stood down from the Party's caucus and an independent investigation was launched after further allegations emerged against him from a former flatmate. 

Uffindell's former university flatmate told RNZ she lived with him in 2003 and claimed he had a pattern of bullying, was "verbally aggressive", and would destroy the flat when highly intoxicated on drugs or alcohol.

Uffindell denied the allegations of intimidation or bullying but admitted to using cannabis as a student. 

The allegations have prompted other former King's College students to come forward about their experiences at the school. 

Scare tactics and intimidation

One former student, who left the school in 2017, told Newshub while they never saw anyone being beaten, the school had a culture of "hyper-masculinity and toxic traditions". 

"Hazing was common, hierarchy was enforced. I remember a year 13 cornering me and saying “food, fat, cash, or bash” and I had the option to either give him food, get a fatigue which was an hour of labour as punishment, give him money or get bashed," the former student told Newshub.  

"It was all a scare tactic or an intimidation tactic. From my experience, no one I know ever got seriously hurt or bullied. But when you fill a house full of hormonal boys it’s just going to be unpredictable and emotional." 

Another former student told Newshub they attended the school in 2000 and assaults, bullying and raids were commonplace. 

They said in their time at the school they were physically attacked multiple times. 

"I suffered a broken hand from being intentionally stomped on, had a coat hanger thrown in my left eye nearly blinding me and causing me to spend a week in Auckland hospital and had countless 'raids' occur in the middle of the night leading to extensive bruising and blood being drawn," they told Newshub. 

"On one occasion I was forcibly made to black out due to a senior pushing me against a wall so hard I couldn't breathe and collapsed onto an emergency fire alarm box, smacked my head on it as I passed out and woke up with blood pouring down my face. 

"There were also others in my house who had moderate injuries from deliberate and unprovoked attacks from senior students at the school and staff there usually did nothing to investigate or reprimand those responsible."

They went on to claim during their time at the school a student was injured after being sexually assaulted with a coat hanger. 

He said Uffindell's attack is "just one of countless situations where students have been subjected to abuse and traumatic scenarios". 

Singer, songwriter and social commentator Lizzie Marvelly has also spoken out about her experiences at the school. 

In a Twitter thread, Marvelly said bullying was rife when she attended the school in 2006 to 2007. 

Marvelly went on to say she was attacked online by King's students with "disgustingly violent comments" in 2017.

She said the comments included students saying, "life was good when women couldn't vote" and "you're the reason I beat women". 

"One of the chants at school events that the boys would scream at the girls was "get back in the kitchen!", the "head of school" had to be a boy, the highest ranking girl prefect was in charge of the social functions," she said. 

King's College headmaster Simon Lamb told Newshub every student has a right to feel safe at school. 

"We are deeply sorry for any student who did not have the good experience they deserved while at the school," Lamb told Newshub. 

"We have invested heavily, and continue to do so, in a pastoral care approach that emphasises the importance of student wellbeing and respect for others. The latest ERO report on the College states "the school is a physically and emotionally safe place for students". 

 "Our Student Guidelines and Discipline Policies make it clear we will not tolerate any breaches of major school rules, including bullying, harassment and gross misbehaviour.  These Policies are regularly reviewed and updated every three years and are published each year in our Student Handbook."

Lamb said any unacceptable behaviour is "firmly dealt with in accordance with our Discipline Policies".  

He said the school won't comment on individual incidents to ensure "we respect the privacy rights of all children involved".  

He said any student, past or present, who wants to discuss concerns about their time at King's College should contact him. 

University of Auckland faculty of education and social work senior lecturer Dr John Fenaughty told RNZ bullying has a serious impact on victims. 

"We know that the long-term effects of bullying include a higher likelihood of depression and anxiety. There are also some physical symptoms that can be produced. There's even research suggesting that it can affect the physical development of a person," Dr Fenaughty told RNZ. 

"Sometimes people ironically think, 'Oh well, physical bullying must be worse than relational bullying' but actually the research shows that relational bullying can be just as bad psychologically and sometimes even worse for the targets of that bullying than physical bullying.

"Both forms of bullying are incredibly dangerous in the long-term."

Where to find help and support: 

  • Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633
  • Women's Refuge - 0800 733 843 (0800 REFUGE)
  • Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737
  • What's Up - 0800 WHATS UP (0800 942 8787)
  • Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
  • Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat
  • Samaritans - 0800 726 666
  • Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
  • Shakti Community Council - 0800 742 584