Kiri is a digital journalist for bayofplentytimes.co.nz.

Traumatic incidents triple at Tauranga schools

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Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell. Photo/file
Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell. Photo/file

The number of traumatic incidents - including sudden deaths and allegations of sexual misconduct at Tauranga schools - has almost tripled within a year.

Figures released under the Official Information Act to the Bay of Plenty Times reveal there were 17 cases which prompted a response by specialised Traumatic Incident teams to 22 Tauranga schools in 2015.

In 2014 there were six and in 2013 there were eight.

Last year these figures included nine sudden deaths, two sudden serious illnesses, a suicide attempt and an allegation of sexual misconduct.

As professionals, you have to be the strong one for the children but you are often needing that support as well. So it's great to know the trauma team are there.
Katikati Primary School's Carly Andrews

In the Western Bay of Plenty, Traumatic Incident teams were called to assist six times in 2015 and once in 2014.

Last year there were three sudden deaths and three accidental deaths.

The Ministry of Education offers Traumatic Incident teams to work with schools and early childhood educators to provide support in the wake of traumatic events.

The Ministry's deputy secretary for sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said the incidents could involve the accidental death of a long-serving teacher, a principal who may have suddenly become seriously ill, or a staff member who may face criminal allegations.

Ms Casey said it was important to note that although the incidents impacted schools or early childhood education centres, the majority of cases happened in the community rather than in the facility itself.

Katikati Primary School's Jasnoor Kaur, 8, died in the fatal car crash near the Kaimai Ranges in 2014. Photo/file
Katikati Primary School's Jasnoor Kaur, 8, died in the fatal car crash near the Kaimai Ranges in 2014. Photo/file

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said the school called on the teams on a case-by-case basis.

"You go through pretty tough times. There are some times you don't need your team on site, but many times when you do and I think the Ministry has been really pro-active on this."

Mr Randell referred to two recent suddent deaths.

The deaths were hard on the people who usually encountered the students each day, he said.

"Kids can't cope with that," Mr Randell said.

"The hardest ones to deal with are when they happen in the holidays."

Mr Randell recalled the death of two students who died at McLaren Falls a day or two before school began.

"That hit us all like a tonne of bricks," he said.

Mr Randell said local schools did well at offering support to each other and this was important because often school staff could be just as upset as students.

The school had a memorial garden for nine students who had died suddenly. The causes of their deaths included crashes, undiagnosed heart problems, and a student who died in their sleep, he said.

You go through pretty tough times. There are some times you don't need your team on site, but many times when you do...
Otumoetai College's Dave Randell

Mr Randell said there was no preparing for traumatic incidents but the help offered by the Ministry was invaluable.

Katikati Primary School acting principal Carly Andrews said the school had experienced the death of a staff member and two students in recent years, including 8-year-old Jasnoor Kaur who died in a crash in the Kaimai Range in 2014.

"It's huge. It has huge repercussions throughout the school. Not only do children get attached to each other, teachers do too. It's equally traumatic," she said.

"As professionals, you have to be the strong one for the children but you are often needing that support as well. So it's great to know the trauma team are there."

Ms Andrews said it was especially hard as many of the 5 to 12-year-old students were experiencing the death of someone for the first time.

In each of the three Katikati deaths, a memorial service was held at the school. This helped staff and students in their grieving process, Ms Andrews said.

Traumatic incidents in Tauranga
2015

¦9 sudden deaths
¦1 property damage, natural disaster
¦2 sudden serious illness
¦1 accidental death
¦1 suicide attempt
¦1 allegation of sexual misconduct
¦1 property damage, arson
¦1 property damage, accidental fire
2014
¦3 sudden deaths
¦1 accidental death
¦1 allegation of serious crime
¦1 violence
2013
¦5 sudden deaths
¦1 accidental death
¦1 suicide attempt
¦1 allegations of serious crime
- Ministry of Education

- Bay of Plenty Times

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