Law should get tough on school bullies, say principals

Dominion Post 11/05/2011

Increasing female violence has contributed to a jump in the number of assaults at schools and educational institutes, says a principals’ representative who is advocating prison terms for repeat student offenders. The number of recorded offences of “acts intended to cause injury” at schools or education institutes increased 23 per cent from 2004 to last year, Statistics New Zealand figures show. The number peaked at 839 in 2009, but Secondary Principals Association president Patrick Walsh said principals had noted a continued increase in incidents and severity of violence in schools. Higher female violence, a spillover of domestic violence and increased exposure to violent movies and games were all to blame, he said, calling for the criminal justice system to take a harder line. “If they’re charged with assault, they should face the punishments, [but] if they’re under … 16 they get a family group conference and maybe curfew and some community service and that doesn’t send the right signal.” Prison sentences, fines and reparation should be used more, he said. A “carrot and stick approach” to bullying was needed, with schools already providing incentives for pupils.