Court appearance sparks debate on youth support

JONO GALUSZKA
Last updated 09:00 14/06/2014

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A Palmerston North judge has criticised the lack of support for children excluded from school, saying he sees too many of them being kicked out with no backup plan.

But a man who works with excluded teenagers in the city says the issue was with children not engaging in alternative education programmes.

Judge Gerard Lynch made the comments in the Palmerston North District Court this week while sentencing 21-year-old Regan Reynolds.

Reynolds was sentenced to two years and eight months' imprisonment on 16 charges, ranging from breaching release conditions to six counts of unlawfully possessing firearms and ammunition.

The most serious of those came about after police raided his house.

They found a stolen Honda motorbike valued at $7000, 56 grams of cannabis, two methamphetamine pipes and about 2g of cannabis oil.

When they looked under his bed they found three firearms - a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, a .243 hunting rifle and a .22 rifle which had the stock cut down so it could be held in one hand. The shotgun and .243 rifle were both stolen and Reynolds did not hold a firearms licence.

His house had a closed-circuit television system, enabling him to monitor people coming and going.

The judge asked Reynolds to describe his life until now.

Reynolds said he was expelled from school for smoking cannabis when 15 years old. While he did the occasional course and got some work, he fell into a world of crime and was sent to jail. Upon release he failed to report to probation, so he tried to avoid police and started dealing cannabis.

The judge said he saw people like Reynolds too often.

"In youth court I see it day in, day out . . . young men exited from schools with no plan B."

While no-one had forced Reynolds to get the guns and sell drugs, he could feel let down by the way he had been treated upon being expelled, the judge said.

"I look back to when you were 15, and that's when I see problems arise for you. As a community, maybe we need to do more for young men expelled from schools."

Start manager Peter Butler said those excluded from schools were put into alternative education programmes, with an aim of addressing their issues and reintegrating them into mainstream education. However, some students would still decide not to engage with the programmes.

"Most are really good, but the odd young person does not see the value in education. Later in life they will find it hard to gain meaningful employment, and realise education plays a huge part."

The high school population in Palmerston North was about 5000-strong, and Start worked with about 3 per cent of them, Butler said.

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There were about 50 people in alternative education programmes, which showed most Palmerston North high school students were doing well.

- Manawatu Standard

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