By James Ihaka and Isaac Davison

A boy who stabbed his teacher four times with a knife had been bullied by other pupils, his family say.

The boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, stabbed Te Puke High School maths teacher Steve Hose in the back of the neck and shoulder on Monday shortly after class began at 11am.

He is in custody at a secure Child, Youth and Family residential placement facility in Auckland.

A close whanau member told the Herald the family were still in shock, saying the attack was “completely out of character” for the Year 9 pupil.

The man said the boy was “little and placid” and a “quiet thinker” who, because of his size, had been a target for bullies.

He had been suspended from school this year for about three days after he apparently fought older students who he claimed had been picking on him.

The man said the school had a culture of bullying and people would write affidavits in support of his claim.

“There were a number of occasions where [the boy] was bullied. I am of the opinion this is what led him to do what he did.

Still, this is completely out of character … we don’t condone what has happened but we need to know what could have triggered him to do something like this.”

The school principal, Alan Liddle, said the school had no formal record or allegations of the boy being bullied.

He said an internal investigation would deal with all circumstances surrounding the attack.

The boy had been in the care of his grandmother at her home in Manoeka on the outskirts of Te Puke after his parents split when he was a few months old.

He apparently had asthma, but enjoyed playing rugby league.

His relative said he was kindhearted and would help prepare his younger cousins for school and could be seen helping his elderly neighbours with their gardens and lawns.

“You could say he has had it pretty rough but things could have been worse if he had stayed with his parents.”

Asked if the boy had any gang affiliations, he said “he did not have a patch…but that does not mean he was not a prospect. It is a possibility.”

Rachael Adams, the boy’s legal representative, said a family group conference would take place within the next few weeks.