Probe school strapping, say Greens

By Claire Trevett

Green MP Sue Bradford says education authorities must investigate whether private Christian schools are flouting the law after repeated refusals by several schools to reveal their policies on corporal punishment.

The call follows reports in the Herald of Tyndale Park Christian School's corporal punishment policy under which parents "authorised" the school to strap their children.

Under the Education Act 1989, the use of force is illegal at schools except by a parent or guardian of the child. The Ministry of Education said the power of the parent cannot be delegated to the school.

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Yesterday, the Eduction Review Office said it had asked to see the school policy in its five reviews of Tyndale Park school since 1992, but the school had refused.

"We have not found evidence of teachers administering corporal punishment to students at the school, but neither have we found policies at the school that state that the school will not use corporal punishment on students."

According to ERO reports, at least two other private Christian schools - Silverstream Christian School and Wainuiomata Christian College - have refused to assure the ERO that corporal punishment was not used.

Green MP Sue Bradford has written to Minister of Education Steve Maharey, asking for an urgent investigation into the possible use of corporal punishment at private schools.

"A full investigation must be launched to ascertain whether any child has been assaulted by staff and if so prosecutions must be considered. I believe this is a disgraceful policy, which will encourage abuse of children. I am appalled that any organisation that is tasked with the welfare and education of young people would consider it a desirable discipline option."

Mr Maharey would not comment on an investigation, but said "the law applies to all schools, state and private. Signing a form doesn't change that."

The Ministry of Education has said it had no jurisdiction over private schools and could not intervene unless there was a complaint that corporal punishment had actually been administered by staff.

Such a case would be referred to the police and the staff member could be prosecuted under the Crimes Act.

Yesterday school manager Jan Brinkman refused to comment on whether corporal punishment had been used at the school.

Tyndale Park's policy acknowledges corporal punishment is illegal, but the school policy claims to have a mandate from God to discipline students.

Examples of when the strap can be used include "such misbehaviour as defiant disobedience, unwholesome or disrespectful speech, dishonesty and violence towards others."

Association for Christian Schools chairman Roger Morris said it was up to each school to determine its own policies. He said Tyndale Park was not one of the association's members, but most Christian schools believed corporal punishment was included in the parent's responsibilities to educate their children.

"As a body we wouldn't be anti-smacking, but it's not something that the significant majority of our schools would have taking place in school. We are not anti it, but we don't use it because it's against the law."

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