Teachers can use force on kids – cop

The Dominion Post 06 September 2008

Teachers should not be afraid to “man-handle” violent children if they pose immediate risks, even if it means leaving bruising, the top youth aid cop says. Serious sexual offenders as young as 12, who would be labelled paedophiles if they were adults, are preying on young victims, Inspector Chris Graveson says. Many have themselves been victims of sexual abuse, and youth violence has become significantly worse in the past five years. But many teachers are too cautious about using force in classrooms to protect children, despite being entitled to under the Crimes Act, he says. Though forcible restraint might leave bruising on a child – and women bruise more easily than men – it can be necessary if the child poses immediate danger.

“If force is going to have to be used then that’s an actual risk of what can happen. “You hear people saying, ‘you can’t touch children. You can’t do this, you can’t do that’. [But] if a child’s being attacked, you’re duty-bound to intervene.” The children’s commissioner’s office rejected Mr Graveson’s comments. It was never appropriate to use enough force to cause bruising, office general manager Gordon McFadyen said. “This office would be very surprised if it was official police policy to encourage teachers to use a level of force that would leave bruises on primary school children.” Mr Graveson made the comments to primary school teachers in Wellington yesterday during an Educational Institute seminar on disruptive pupils.