About 100 Christchurch Girls’ High School students leading a sexual harassment protest have been turned away by police and their principal en route to their target – Christchurch Boys’ High.
The students began a protest during their lunch break on Thursday.
It comes after a fight on social media sparked up this week when chalked graffiti highlighting LGBTQIA+ rights, feminism and sexual harassment appeared on the walls and pavements of Christchurch Boys’ High on Monday.
Stuff understands the graffiti was put up by students at Christchurch Girls’ High.
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Instagram accounts linked to the schools’ students have since been exchanging barbs.
A student linked to Christchurch Girls’ High posted for students who were victims of sexual assault by students at the boys’ school to come forward.
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An account using CBHS initials created in response carried the caption: “This account is referring to the allegations with no proof. No one cares about your false allegations”.
It used hashtags such as “feminismiscancer” and “mensrightsactivist”.
On Thursday, the protesting students carried banners with slogans like “our bodies are not your conversation starters”, “my assaulter got a second chance”, “no more excuses, dismantle rape culture” and “boys will be boys”, with boys crossed out and “responsible” written in its place.
Police were called to the school as the students took to the streets to head to Christchurch Boys’ High.
They were followed by a police car, but were stopped when a second police car arrived about 100 metres down the road. Principal Christine O’Neill had also got in her car to stop the students.
O’Neill said she had become aware of the protest, but issues had been raised over the last week concerning gender violence.
“It was really important to encourage students to speak up about that, and it’s not helpful to single out individual boys’ schools. It’s important to address global, systemic issues.”
Police were called as a precaution, so they would not have any external visitors on-sight.
She did not condone the group of students who went off-site.
“My concern is primarily for their safety – that they return to school where they’re meant to be, and they understand that there is appropriate and constructive ways to go about social change.
“For them to learn that because they are young people.”
She said there were adequate avenues within the school for the students to voice themselves, but they could always continue to work on it.
Police youth and community relations manager Phil Newton said the students were stopped “due to traffic and safety concerns”.
They were a short distance from the school when they were requested to turn back.
A Christchurch Girls’ High parent, who wanted to remain anonymous, said it was “sad” and “disappointing” the students were silenced.
It was important their voices were not suppressed, she said.
“It would be nice to be allowed to have their freedom of speech.”
Christchurch Boys’ High headmaster Nic Hill said he was aware of the protest.
“I don’t have any comment to make on this other than that the two schools are working very closely together with our students on the issues,” he said.
The chalked statements on Monday were also aimed at Hill, claiming he “protects bullies” and telling him to “control your boys”.
Tabby Besley, managing director of InsideOut, a national organisation that helps improve the safety of Rainbow youths, said the graffiti was a “clear cry for support” from those students.