130 Rotorua students face tough discipline

By Teuila Fuatai


Violence, abuse and dangerous behaviour by students have sparked 130 stand-downs, suspensions and permanent dismissals from Rotorua schools last year.

Education Ministry figures released under the Official Information Act show most were due to physical assaults on staff and students. More than 70 violent incidents resulted in disciplinary cases in the year to October 16, 2012, with three students permanently dismissed from school _ all aged under 16.

Rotorua principal Colin Watkins said children had to understand violence was unacceptable. Local schools used several programmes aimed at helping students deal with anger in alternative ways, the Westbrook School principal said.

"Most Rotorua schools, for example, run restorative practices.''

These involved building a strong, positive school culture, Mr Watkins said.

"A lot of kids now choose not to be violent.

"It's in their psyche now to know and understand there are alternatives to violence.''

In the past two years, the number of disciplinary cases for violent and dangerous behaviour in Rotorua schools has remained steady, after dropping significantly from more than 160 in 2010.

"Violence at schools has decreased markedly over the last couple of decades,'' Mr Watkins said.

"Society in general is less forgiving of violence and more determined to stamp violence out.''

In August, a John Paul College student was attacked outside the school. Rotorua Boys' High School principal Chris Grinter apologised for the incident when students from his school were found to be involved.

Nationally, violent and harmful behaviour offences accounted for more than half of all student stand-downs, suspensions and permanent dismissals from primary and secondary schools this year.

Of the 17,558 disciplinary cases, nearly 9000 were for violence, abuse, dangerous behaviour or weapons offences.

New Zealand Principals' Federation president Paul Drummond said removing pupils from school was a last resort.

Many schools had introduced programmes aimed at promoting positive learning cultures and discouraging antisocial behaviour.

Student disciplinary cases for violence and dangerous behaviour have dropped significantly in recent years, down 30 per cent since 2009.

But the decline may not neces sarily correlate to less violence in schools, Mr Drummond cautioned.

"Schools have put a lot of resources into managing serious behaviour and whether or not that's reflective of a decrease in antisocial behaviour outside the school gate _ I just don't know.

"There are still obviously instances of serious misconduct that are challenging to manage.''

Many violence offences involved male students in their intermediate and early high school years, Mr Drummond said.

"Just by their normal maturation they are starting to challenge and it's also a time when some children are starting to be disengaged from school.

"Risk-taking of adolescents can be connected to that but some of it is also environmental reasons and the social environment they are in.''

Sadly, violence among primary school students was not uncommon either, he said.

Dysfunctional families, psychological and physical abuse, and problems with alcohol and drugs were often at play, Mr Drummond said.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Robin Duff said some schools were reluctant to impose disciplinary action against students or report them to the ministry.

They feared being judged by parents on the number of violent incidents that occurred.


 


Note: Figures include physical and verbal assault on staff and students, weapons offences and "other'' types of harmful or dangerous behaviour.

* Stand down: Removal of a student up to five days. Decision is made by the principal.

* Suspension: Formal removal of a student from school until the board of trustees decides the outcome at a meeting. The board can extend or lift the suspension, or terminate the student's enrolment at the school.

* Exclusion: Permanent termination of a student, aged 15 and under, from school.

* Expulsion: Permanent termination of a student, aged 16 and over, from school.

Source: Education Ministry

 

- Rotorua Daily Post

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