Titirangi Rudolf Steiner Messenger

The Story of the Titirangi Three

Welcome - don’t shoot the messenger.

[originally published on the 22nd of June, 2009]


This site aims to represent parents who are interested to know that there are unacceptable levels of bullying, harassment and uncontrolled aggression taking place at the Titirangi Steiner School. Those parents may have left, may be at the school or may be thinking of sending their children there.

It also aims to keep children safe, by bringing the safety issues into the public arena so that people will be properly informed. Some of what we will have to put up here is quite shocking and we wouldn’t have believed it if we had not experienced it ourselves.

The reason that our daughter of 8 years old went to the Steiner School is because her little sister was having such a great time at kindy. We loved the natural environment, the relaxed atmosphere and freindly kindy teachers.

So when the local primary school showed themselves unwilling to sort out the bullying there, we persuaded our eldest daughter to do a trial at the Steiner school. She tried two weeks and really liked the difference in the teaching which in quality to detail appeared superior to what is offered in local state schools. She did come back reporting that the 17 or so boys were pretty full on, but we just thought that was because 17 boys would be a bit overwhelming for anyone, when there were only five girls.

After the two weeks there was a holiday. During the holiday our eldest daughter became very anxious about going back to school and it was obvious that she was very conflicted. She is a child who has always loved going to school.

That was when we started to be around during the playtimes, because our eldest daughter told us that that was when things happened and she didn't know how to stay safe because it wasn't clear where the adults where.

Before the beginning of the term, Susanne and Angel talked twice to hammer out a way that everyone would feel that our eldest daughter was being taken care of.

That was the basis that the first full term of our eldest daughter’s life at Steiner began.

When things started happening at the beginning of term, and the list of infringements of personal space was big right from the off, we tried to deal with them by talking to our eldest daughter in the first instance and to be honest we thought that it was probably just her not being used to such 'boisterous boys'. Susanne, her teacher, had set up the idea that it was a kiwi thing, to be wild, although I questioned why wildness should necessarily be associated with any kind of violence. That was the first time it occurred to us that there was some kind of agenda of acceptance of physical hurting.

At the time, however, it only seemed as if that must be a relative concept or ideal, we had no way of knowing that it would prove to be an actual policy, that we would have been seen to have 'fundamental disagreement to', necessitating booting us out.....who could possibly imagine that?

Because 'the school', which can mean teachers and management, or management, teachers and trustees, or all them and parents, depending on what suits, do not believe that my daughter was pushed down into the water as we have shown in the video, and those that saw my distress about it and other incidents will not come forward and attest to it.

Likewise they do not believe there was an axe, and in fact apparently there never is one, according to parents reporting their own children.

So we are seen as both crazy, melodramatic, and aggressive because we are seen to have reacted without there actually being anything to react to.....

As parents we were asked to watch our daughter being hit and accept it. Now the whole school community have all been asked to watch us being hit, and accept it. For the most part, they seem to be accepting it quite well really, which may help to explain why our daughter got hit in the first place.

We came into the school on a ‘we don’t like watching children getting battered’ kind of a vibe and we have been ousted, it seems by the ‘oh shut up it’s just boisterousness, she/he likes it really, just goes all coy’ lobby. Our experience would suggest that the majority of parents at the school fall into this category. If that is the case, then the longer this site is up the better, until enrolments dry up completely as the logical outcome of such villainy. Let those whose children need to bully others, and those who are willing to see their own children battered, find their way to this school community, where they will feel right at home.

But we don’t really believe that is what is going on, just that life is busy and stressful, and the structure of the school means that the College is both secretive and all powerful. Information is also extremely carefully distributed. But it is still a school, an institution of learning, a business that is subject to lots of different kinds of laws as well as natural ones.

Still, we are pretty shocked that a school full of parents who are paying for their children’s education, and therefore with ultimate power, can be so quiet about child abuse.

It must be because they are not really aware. Well, all that’s changing now.

At the moment, we are still thinking about the best way to use this space, and we hope to show that there is another way of approaching the problems of bullying, whether it is children or adults that are being bullied. Although the school claims to be against a “zero tolerance” approach and are now talking quite a lot about ‘social inclusion’, they have shown that they can’t “tolerate” and in fact need to “socially exclude” us for continuously saying ‘no’ to our little girl being used as a punch-bag for a bunch of notoriously rough boys.

As concerned parents observing shocking infringements of personal space and gradations of assault taking place in the school and seeing the fear grow in our daughter, we began by approaching the school using all available and published methods and met with teachers, then management and entered into an email correspondence about the daily life of our daughter there. On the 8th June 2009 we learned that they had terminated that correspondence by serving notice of their lack of further offer of places for all our three children from that very day.

In the past, when not listened to by institutions, people just suffered, having no way to tell the world. But that is no longer true. The internet represents a shared space, visible to all, those at the school from which we are barred and other parents who may also be concerned about their children’s safety. People reading this may also be considering coming here, and sending their children to the school. Reading the prospectus, they may not be prepared for the realities of school life. It is also visible to all those within the school whose vocal encouragement of our continuing struggle, spurred us on.

We understand how, when torn between speaking up for what we know to be right, and having a school for our kids to go to that is different and special in some way, it is easy to settle for protecting our own corner, especially when institutions don’t really want to change.

We hope that by being transparent about our own case, that the community, including parents and teachers will find the courage of their own convictions. Either everybody can insist that the bullying is dealt with, even if that means making long-resisted changes. Or the the school must be advertised in such a way that those coming there understand that their children may be intentionally hurt there, and if they do not like that, they should not come.

We have moved the issue to this website so that it at least exists somewhere, even if the school cannot seem to contain it. Ironically this means that the issue will become more public, which is seen to be threatening to the school.

As a consequence it has been suggested to us that since we have now ‘left’, the only reason we can have for continuing to pursue this subject is a vengeful one, which is therefore invalid. But an injustice has been done and it needs to be put right.

That injustice is quite simply the lie that the school is a safe place for all children. Basically, at the moment, if you’ve got children who, as of 2009, are 8 and a half until 10 and a half, don’t send them to this school unless they like being hit (and attacked from behind, sometimes in groups), and you are prepared for them to hit back. A lot. Four children have left this class in May/June, all of them because of the behavioural problems. The school denies this but it is so obvious you’d have to be a bit slow not to put it together and we will put the evidence up here too.

Of course there is the injustice that the school community has perpetrated on us and our children and we can assure you that the harm that has been done to our eldest daughter alone is enough to encourage us in our aims, to publicise the facts and demonstrate (a Steiner principle), to her what to do when people think you are there for them to abuse in some way. You say “NO” very loudly indeed. The school’s own policy says that you must tell if you are being bullied, and we are assuring you all that we will. In some ways we see this as a bit of honest advertising for the school, who, in spite of woefully inadequate systems and a slowness in addressing stuff that is entirely unnecessary, cheerfully proclaim that their school is a safe place for children! Try telling that to the four families whose children have left this problem class over the last couple of months. Or to the many, largely immigrant families who still live around here although they have received “the treatment” from the Steiner “community”.

Having thought about it in depth, we have decided to publish the correspondence we have had with the school about this. It is here in its entirety but with names occluded to protect the children. This is the first step in examining how the school came to take such a reactionary and illogical step as trying to silence the very people who were trying to improve the situation. There is plenty of other material to process and examine in this regard, and we feel more secure knowing that however the school community, teachers, management, trustees and parents have chosen to treat us, it will be recorded here in its entirety for others to see and judge.

Sceptics and others can now see the effort we actually did put in to working with the school on this, over a long period of time, and trying really hard to be patient, whilst witnessing our daughter being so torn, loving the curriculum and fearing assault. If you read it and wonder about the method of communication, please try and find any pointers from the school about it, and how to do it ‘better’.

Our children have paid the price for the lack of moral will in the school community to tackle the real problems, and we heard this week of more violence in the class. To keep children safe, this information needs to be available to those who may be considering this school for their children.

In a fair world this might spur the school to address the bullying with the vigour it needs to create the safe space for all children that is advertised globally, possibly even prompting people to emigrate to this particular part of the world, with all the upheaval and financial outlay that involves. As things stand, having made such huge investments, it evidently becomes even harder for parents to speak up and risk losing what they have given up so much for. Especially when they can see this example of what happens to people who will not shut up about it.

We will be only too pleased to advertise positive changes on this site if the school manages to address the issues in such a way that the bullying stops, and will be regularly asking the school community to contribute to this site. The message is simply that when the issues are properly addressed, then the advertising for the school will be better. Co-incidentally that will also create the environment and conditions such that our children could be safe to go back and benefit from the marvellous Steiner curriculum, which we chose for them, as well.

This approach then has the potential to be part of a holistic solution to both the school’s problem and our own because when the denial about the real issues is removed, the school will have no further reason to exclude those who risked so much sticking their necks out to bring those issues up. That would take some imagination though.

And if nobody will play, then it will stay here as a testament to that and a warning to others.

So welcome, and remember guys, you don’t shoot the messenger. :-)