Some Bay of Plenty students have been acting out, resulting in the number of stand-downs in the region's schools hitting a five-year peak. Verbal assaults on staff, continual disobedience and theft, vandalism or arson are among the reasons behind the stand-downs, and one Tauranga principal says it's because of "increasingly complex" students in the classroom. Bay of Plenty Times education reporter Caroline Fleming reveals the Tauranga schools with the highest rate of stand-downs and what experts think is behind the increase.
Students being stood down from schools in the Bay of Plenty have hit a five-year high, with physical assaults and drugs in schools becoming more frequent.
Ministry of Education figures provided to the Bay of Plenty Times under the Official Information Act showed that in the Bay of Plenty, the number of stand-downs increased 54 per cent in the five years between 2013 and 2017.
A total of 1100 students were stood down in 2017, compared with 715 in 2013.
According to the Ministry of Education, a stand-down is the removal of a student from school for a period of up to five days. The ministry said the decision was made by the principal and could be a positive mechanism for preventing escalation.
Stand-downs were most common for students aged between 13 and 15.
The data outlined the reasons behind the stand-downs and showed physical assaults and drugs had both increased substantially between 2013 and 2017.
Physical assaults on students and staff increased from 227 to 352 in that timeframe.
The number of students being stood down for drugs, including substance abuse, more than doubled between 2013 and 2017. Forty-nine students were stood down for this in 2013, compared with 107 in 2017.
Other reasons included verbal assault on staff, continual disobedience, and theft, vandalism or arson.
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Family Matters child and adolescent psychotherapist Joanne Bruce said these findings were "overwhelming" but worked in parallel with increases in anxiety and mental health issues she had seen in her work with youth.
She said aggressive outbursts could come as a result of undiagnosed mental health issues.
Tauranga mental health and addiction worker Vaughan Cruickshank said peer pressure played a big factor in schools and stand-downs were not always the best option. He said surrounding the student with support and help could be a better option.
He said rising numbers of adolescents were presenting with mental health issues and they could suffer from "coexisting disorders" with substance abuse sometimes a result.
The number of stand-downs in the Bay of Plenty were just below the New Zealand average.
According to the Ministry of Education, the schools with the highest rate of stand-downs between 2013 and 2017 in the Western Bay of Plenty were Katikati College, followed by Otumoetai College and Tauranga Girls' College.
The Ministry's figures were ranked by age-standardisation rates per 1000 students, which was a statistical method for a fair comparison between schools.
This meant that although a school like Otumoetai College had a higher total number of stand-downs than Katikati College, in terms of roll size and different age distributions, Katikati College had a higher rate.
Katikati College principal Carolyn Pentecost said the school had high expectations for students and when behaviour placed themselves or others at risk of harm, it needed to be addressed with effective action.
Tauranga Girls' College principal Tara Kanji said the college set high standards and expectations of behaviour and endeavoured to put support mechanisms in place to avoid stand-downs as the first measure of a consequence.
Otumoetai College principal Russell Gordon said the school strived to create an emotionally and physically safe environment for all students and used stand-downs as a way of teaching a "life lesson" and consequences to a student.
Tauranga Intermediate School recorded the fourth highest stand-downs in the Western Bay, followed by Tauranga Boys' College.
Tauranga Intermediate principal Cameron Mitchell declined to comment.
Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said stand-downs were an important behavioural tool, especially as over the years, the school had been presented with "increasingly complex" students.
He said he noticed a higher prevalence of stand-downs in year 9 and 10 students and this was usually a signal for the school to provide ongoing support to the student.
Stand-downs were not measures of student behaviour, but a measure of a school's response to behaviour, said deputy secretary sector enablement and support from the Ministry of Education Katrina Casey.
"What one school may choose to stand-down or suspend for, another may not."
The number of suspensions and exclusions had not seen significant changes over the years and expulsion rates had decreased.
The Bay of Plenty schools with the highest number of stand-downs:
1. Murupara Area School
2. Opotiki College
3. Katikati College
4. Whakatane High School
5.Tarawera High School
6. Otumoetai College
7. Tauranga Girls' College
8. Tauranga Intermediate
9. Trident High School
10. Tauranga Boys' College