Education Ministry Bullies School Into Accepting Violence

Media Release 6 June 2013
Family First NZ is labeling the Ministry of Education “bullies” as they pressure Paeroa Central Primary school to re-enrol a violent pupil despite the danger that the pupil would place the other children in, but says that this case is just the tip of the iceberg as schools are being pressured to ignore bad behaviour.

“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,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“The school is quite right to reject the demands of the Ministry of Education. The rights of children and teachers to be safe are paramount and should not be sacrificed because of one student who obviously needs far more intensive care than the mainstream education system can offer.”

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 is still an increasing number of children who are difficult to handle.

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.

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.

“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.

“Parents can’t discipline, teachers can’t discipline, and now Boards of Trustees can’t discipline. It’s certainly going to get a lot worse for our communities.”

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