Schools battling student thugs

The Dominion Post 21 July 2007
Violence and dangerous behaviour is on the rise in schools with more pupils assaulting teachers and classmates, new Education Ministry figures reveal. The sobering statistics – which shed light on the reasons why many pupils were stood down or suspended in 2005 and 2006 – were released yesterday under the Official Information Act. The figures have sparked calls for more resources to deal with dangerous pupils to make classrooms safer.The Education Ministry is promising to tackle the problem, worried about what will happen if the troubled children are allowed to carry their behaviour into society. Pupils were suspended, stood down or kicked out of school nearly 30,000 times last year, mostly for disobedience, violence and abuse. Post-Primary Teachers’ Association president Robin Duff said the figures supported evidence from teachers that classrooms were becoming more violent. More assistance to manage difficult pupils, smaller classes to help defuse violent situations and effective counselling were needed.Stand-downs – the removal of a pupil from school for up to five days for misbehaviour – accounted for 22,467 cases last year. Dangerous behaviour jumped by 13 per cent, assaults on pupils by 1 per cent and assaults on teachers by 5 per cent. Arsons rose by 23 per cent, alcohol offences 42 per cent and vandalism 21 per cent. Suspensions – which trigger a more formal process that can lead to a pupil’s permanent removal – fell slightly to 5008 cases. Dangerous behaviour rose by 14 per cent, assaults on staff 11 per cent, arson 11 per cent, vandalism 50 per cent and alcohol offences 53 per cent. Drug offences were down across both groups, as were sexual misconduct and weapons offences.