Dylan Thorne

Dylan is the deputy editor of the Bay of Plenty Times.

Editorial: No need for alarm

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It is a common dilemma for educators: How do you balance the rights of an individual pupil against the need to maintain order in the classroom?

At the root of the problem is the need to ensure the majority of pupils are safe and able to learn free from distractions while, at the same time, attempting to keep young people in school.

This was a point raised by Principal Youth Court Judge, Andrew Becroft when he declared education was the ultimate crime-fighting tool. It was essential, he said, that boys were kept at school as long as possible to reduce the chance they would eventually drift into a life of crime.

Almost 200 Western Bay students have been suspended and at least 48 excluded in the past 18 months.

Tauranga Boys' College handed out the highest number of suspensions, with 37 since January 2012, but its 1700 students also makes it one of the largest schools in the area.

Tauranga Girls' College had the second highest number, 35, followed by Te Puke High School with 25 and Mount Maunganui College, 23.

Nationwide there were 4700 suspensions. The list, supplied by the Ministry of Education, had only schools where there had been more than five suspensions.

The numbers have sparked calls for a major overhaul of the way schools keep difficult children engaged, with YouthLaw pushing for the establishment of an independent review function for suspension decisions while the Principals' Federation says the number of suspensions is "troubling".

I don't agree that a review is needed or that the number of suspensions is cause for alarm. Some of these youths can be extremely disruptive in the classroom - often to the point where their behaviour impacts on their classmates' learning opportunities.

As Tauranga Boys' principal Robert Mangan points out, suspensions were a last resort and were handed down only when it was in the greater interest of students and staff.

Schools are left with little choice but to suspend or exclude pupils if their behaviour is consistently disruptive.

If a child has ongoing behavioural problems this needs to be addressed by parents, not by schools.

The act of suspending a child from school reinforces this important message.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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