Media Release 7 June 2013
Family First NZ says that the Paeroa Central Primary School experience of being pressured to keep a violent pupil in schools despite the danger that the pupil would place other children in is just the tip of the iceberg as schools are pressured by the Ministry of Education and so-called ‘experts’ to ignore bad behaviour.
“The only reason the Ministry backed down on this one was because of the principled stand by the Principal and the Board of the school, and the subsequent media coverage and public furore. But this case is nothing new,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
“Schools are being forced to turn a ‘blind eye’ to increasingly unacceptable behaviour and violence because of a drive by the Ministry of Education to reduce the numbers of suspensions and expulsions. It seems ironic that as we are saying no to violence within families and our community, schools are tolerating an unacceptable level of violence, sexual and offensive behaviour and intimidation.”
“The rights of children and teachers to be safe are paramount and should not be sacrificed because of students who place other children at risk.”
The Children’s Commissioner, Ombudsman, Families Commission and Principal Youth Court Judge have all called for lower suspension and expulsion rates. The number of students being stood down for bad behaviour is at its lowest point for more than a decade, but principals and teachers say there are still an increasing number of children who are difficult to handle.
Post-Primary Teachers Association president Robin Duff has called the situation “intolerable”, and said that competitiveness in schools gave them an incentive to hide issues of violence towards teachers and staff, and some schools didn’t want police involved because it could lead to negative publicity. According to media reports, the national executive of the PPTA was “particularly concerned” to learn that some schools were actually forbidding teachers from reporting instances to police.
Figures released to the NZ Herald last year under the Official Information Act reveal that in the 11 months to November 2012, more than 21,000 school students faced serious disciplinary action. Of those, 1874 were aged under 10 – including 170 5- and 6-year-olds – and 75 were banned from returning to their school after going before the board of trustees for a disciplinary hearing. Figures from 2011 revealed that more than 1000 students have been removed from schools for possessing or using a weapon in the past two years. At least 700 cases involved knives, blades, hammers, scissors and guns, including replicas.
“The Ministry of Education is burying both its head and the extent of the problem in the sand, and both staff and children are being put at risk by the unacceptable behaviour of a minority who know that the consequences of their behaviour are negligible,” says Mr McCoskrie. “They’ve been exposed by Paeroa Central Primary School.”