'It was a school yard fracas that ended seriously'
EDUCATION Queensland was keen yesterday to play down suggestions of racism and bullying, after a Gympie school yard fight turned into a medical emergency on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Education Minister Kate Jones denied reports that the fight was an incident of bullying. And there was no "coward punch" involved, he said.
"It was a school yard fracas that ended more seriously than usual," he said.
Friends of the injured boy also questioned claims that racial taunting provoked the punch, which resulted in a student being flown to Brisbane with facial injuries described as serious.
The incident, occurred at Gympie State High School, involving two boys, one of whom was flown to Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane.
The boy who threw the punch, Tremayne Hopkins, said he had suffered racially based abuse, including on that occasion.
Gympie woman Christina Lawrence telephoned The Gympie Times and said her grand daughter, who identified herself as Hanna Cuthbert, was a friend of the injured boy, who has not been able to be contacted, and wanted to speak on his behalf.
She denied he was inclined to racism and said he was good friends with a part-Aboriginal boy at the school.
"He's not a racist. They got into a scrap," she said.
The injured boy had received a broken tooth and had also been subject to abuse and teasing in class.
Principal Anthony Lanskey said he was not in a position to comment, as the matter was being handled by Education Queensland.
The department said a statement was being prepared, but it had not been received at The Gympie Times by 6pm.
Tremayne Hopkins was backed in his version of events by his football coach Jason McPherson, who said he had heard from several other boys who had witnessed the situation.
The fight has been a big issue among local Facebook users, some arguing that the punch was provoked, others saying it was a case of "sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me".
That was also contested by others who said words can also cause permanent damage to people's self-esteem.
A 14-YEAR-OLD boy punched a schoolmate this week as a consequence of two years of racial abuse and bullying, the Gympie High boy's family claims.
The other student was flown to Brisbane's Lady Cilento Hospital for treatment on Tuesday and was recovering yesterday.
Tremayne Hopkins and his mother, Meegan Grennan, told of repeated racial taunts, insults and challenges to fight over a long period prior to Tremayne losing his temper on Tuesday afternoon.
Agreeing to be identified, they claimed Tremayne was not a bully, but had been the victim of bullying and racism, to the point where he could not tolerate it any longer.
They were keen to correct the description of the incident by one source as a "coward punch."
It was front-on and a direct response to insults and challenges issued by the injured student, they said.
"I'd rather my son punched someone in the face than take his own life down the track, because he's been bullied.
"And that's what happens to people who just take it," she said.
"Tremayne was standing up to bullying.
"He doesn't go around hitting people. He goes to school to learn and go about his business and he's getting good grades," she said.
Tremayne said he had not insulted the other boy, who had often called him a "black c***".
Both students have been suspended from the school, pending an Education Department and police investigation.
But it was understood late yesterday that no charges will be laid, after witnesses and associates backed Tremayne's version of events.
"We were going out to play football," the Gympie Devils junior player said.
"He was telling all of us to go away and he called me a black c***.
"I said 'calm down' and he said it again and I went down and hit him.
"The teacher came up and brought me to the office.
"I told the principal what happened."
Tremayne's supporters yesterday included his football coach, Jason McPherson, who said Tremayne had won a club award for his volunteer work and support to younger players who were getting bullied.
"Although I don't condone fighting outside the ring, I hope all learn from this negative experience to both boys," he said.
"He is welcome at my place any day of the week," Mr McPherson said.
"People shouldn't have to put up with racial remarks," Ms Grennan told The Gympie Times yesterday.