Fewer school violence cases

By nathan.crombie@age.co.nz, Nathan Crombie, Teuila Fuatai

Violence, abuse and dangerous behaviour have sparked more than 150 stand-downs, suspensions and permanent student dismissals from Wairarapa schools this year.

Figures released to the Times-Age from the Education Ministry show more than half were due to physical assaults on staff and students.

In total 82 violent incidents resulted in disciplinary cases in the year to October 16.

Three students were permanently excluded from school - all aged under 16.

Since 2009 cases of violent and dangerous behaviour have steadily dropped; falling 25 per cent between 2010 and 2011.

Lakeview School principal Ed Hodgkinson said the school had reaped significant benefits from programmes aimed at lessening violent behaviour among students and there had been no suspensions for violence at the school this year.

The Positive Behaviour for Learning programme and visits from White Ribbon ambassadors had contributed to a drop in violent incidents at the school.

"The figures have dropped and are continuing to drop," Mr Hodgkinson said.

"We've come a long way. The school is a much safer place than before and we're aiming to have zero violence at Lakeview."

Masterton Intermediate School principal Kara Mason said there had been some stand-downs and suspensions at the school "for various things" and the school dealt with violence on a case-by-case basis and included restorative justice as an option.

"You have to look at the circumstances and put each incident in its own context. There is no one set of procedures we use," Ms Mason said.

Kuranui College principal Geoff Shepherd said there had been few instances of student violence at the Greytown school this year and no stand-downs or suspensions enforced for violence.

"Like all schools we have had a small amount of violent incidents but those cases have been very rare this year," Mr Shepherd said. The school used a restorative-justice model to deal with student violence. It involved a formalised meeting between the offending child and the victim, often including family members and supporters.

Nationally violent and harmful behaviour offences accounted for more than half of all primary and secondary student stand-downs, suspensions and permanent dismissals from schools this year. Of the 17,558 disciplinary cases, nearly 9000 were for physical and verbal assaults on staff and students, weapons offences and other types of harmful or dangerous behaviour.

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

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.


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