Family First NZ says that reports of knife attacks in primary schools, suspensions of new entrants for disobedience and aggression, and increasing levels of criminal assaults being committed by primary school age students is no surprise – and will worsen, especially when schools are pressured to accept and accommodate increasingly defiant and unacceptable behaviour by children, and as parental authority is undermined by politicians.
“We have tried to bury our heads in the sand on this growing problem – but the problem hasn’t gone away and is only worsening. And it will get worse as parents feel disempowered by anti-smacking laws, the underlying message of children’s rights over parental responsibility, and discipline being deemed a dirty word,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“In 2008, Family First caught out the Ministry of Education when the ministry’s student engagement report buried the primary school figures in a graph with no raw numbers and no commentary. In fact, the number of primary school children stood down and suspended had grown from 4800 in 2000 to 6595 in 2007. That year, 945 primary school students were suspended and 5650 stood down – 28 per cent of the total number of students at all levels stood down in that year,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“And it’s not just in schools. Ministry of Justice statistics released last year showed that from 1998-2008, the number of police apprehensions for grievous/serious assaults by 10-13 year olds increased by more than 70%. For each of the most recent two years, there had been almost 1,000 apprehensions for 10-13 year olds for all violent offences, which include aggravated robbery, sexual violation, indecent assault, and serious assaults – an increase of a third since 1998,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“Alarm bells should be ringing when there has been a 70% increase in the number of young children committing a serious enough act of violence to warrant police involvement, and almost 1000 children are being chucked out of primary schools for behaviour that is just so bad that schools have got to the point where they can’t even work with it – even when the Ministry of Education is pressuring schools not to suspend or expel students.”
“There are many factors that may be contributing to these statistics including the levels of violence in the media and games, the undermining of parental and school authority, the ‘rights’ culture being fed to young people, and family breakdown and fatherlessness,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“But one thing is clear – the situation will only get worse unless we return authority and responsibility to parents and teachers.”