10 months without school for teen

By Sophie Ryan

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A 13-year-old girl has gone 10 months without schooling while consultations between the school and social agencies fail to find a solution for her difficult behaviour.

The teen's mother says she is sick and tired of reaching no resolution for her daughter, who wants to be able to move on, whether it be to a different school, alternative education, or reinstatement at her current school.

She is enrolled at Tikipunga High School and principal Peter Garelja says this is one of the most difficult cases he has ever seen.

"Sometimes when the situation is complex, the solution may be complex too," he said.

The student's mother said the process the school had taken had failed her daughter, who had not done any studies since the saga began in September last year.

Her mother explained that the bad behaviour began after her daughter was beaten up at school, and she became withdrawn and unco-operative.

She said her daughter had retaliated after being picked on.

"I admit, her attitude hasn't been great, but the plans haven't worked and, meanwhile, my daughter is not getting an education."

The mother said her daughter had been labelled the bully on other occasions.

Mr Garelja said the longest the teen had been in school before a suspension being reinstated was a couple of weeks.

Cross-agency meetings have been held between the family, the school and social workers to try to come up with a solution. Counsellors have also been called in to work with the teen.

Throughout the 10 months, contracts had been drawn up with behavioural guidelines and expectations when everyone felt the student was ready to return to school, but within a matter of days the contracts were broken by the student, Mr Garelja said.

Alternative Education Whangarei co-ordinator Staci Paul said situations like this were becoming much more common in Whangarei.

Ms Paul co-ordinates Alternative Education which caters to students who have been excluded from mainstream schools.

The 59 places in Alternative Education Whangarei were all taken for term one this year, a first in her 13 years of experience, Ms Paul said.

She said most of the students ended up with her after behavioural incidents at school or truancy.

Mr Geralja said he hoped the system in place for difficult students was more effective than had been shown in this girl's case. "Where and when we can, we put in an initiative that the young person can work with," Ms Paul said.

"However, these cases are definitely becoming more prevalent."

The parents of the teen are determined not to have an expulsion on their daughter's record, but are hoping to have her shifted to a different school, or look in to options with Alternative Education Whangarei.

The family met the board of trustees again yesterday but no final decision was made on the teen's future.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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