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The boy who allegedly stabbed his 11-year-old schoolmate in the head had been bullied at school for over a year and may have "just snapped", sources say.
About a dozen children witnessed the incident in a South Auckland classroom and there was no teacher present.
An adult source close to the boy's family said he would sometimes come home in tears after playground bullying.
The alleged attack with scissors during a fight with the other boy was completely outside his usual demeanour, the source said.
"It's just not in his nature. He gets frightened and hates confrontation. He hates violence.
"He's such a great boy, I don't know what came over him. He's not dangerous, he's not what people think he is. He has a heart of gold."
He had been bullied at the Pacific Christian School in Mangere for "over a year now", and might have finally acted out.
At the police station on Tuesday afternoon, after the fight that morning, the boy was in tears, the source said.
"He said the [other] boy was mocking his mum and dad. I think ... he realised. I could see the remorse on his face. He was beside himself."
The boy, also 11, had been involved in other fights at school but always only "to protect himself", the source said.
The school had been made aware of the bullying by his family in the past couple of months.
"He's ... been bullied for over a year now and he's just snapped. It doesn't matter how old you are, a human being can only take so much," the source said.
The injured boy remained in a critical but stable condition at the Starship hospital last night. His family would not comment on the incident yesterday.
School principal Lisita Paongo also declined to comment, saying she wanted to focus on helping the pupils involved, as well as those who had witnessed the stabbing.
Detective Inspector Dave Lynch said witnesses still needed to be interviewed. No charges had yet been laid.
Katrina Casey, Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support, said its traumatic incident team had been providing support, "and they will continue to provide support for as long as it is needed".
- Sam Boyer of the New Zealand Herald