Boot camps dismissed, by principals

BY BECK ELVEN
Last updated 05:00 19/03/2009

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Boot camps for troubled youth are a quick fix that will not stem violence and bullying in schools, experts say.

The Principals Federation has called on the Government to reject boot camps. The call follows expert advice given at this week's two-day behaviour summit in Wellington.

Federation national president Ernie Buutveld said yesterday the Government should be more considered in its quest to reform the country's troubled youth.

"Some of these plans just don't cut the mustard in terms of getting bang for your buck," he said.

"In this economic crisis, we need to be careful and listen to the experts. When using public money, it's not wise to rush head-long into anything.

"We need to be surer of the end result."

Youth Affairs Minister Paula Bennett agreed "boot camps haven't worked in the past which is why we're not doing them".

Bennett said the Government approach was to "take the 40 worst young offenders, give them military-style discipline, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, set them up with a mentor, educate them and order them to take a parenting course if needed".

Ross James, director of the Canterbury Youth Development Programme Trust, said boot camps ought to complement other devices. "Boot camps on their own do not work," he said.

"But if you take this military-style activity and wrap supporting programmes around it like drug and alcohol counselling, anger management and parent education then we are looking at better outcomes.

"We need to get rid of this vision of a blaring, bollocking drill sergeant on TV. It's about using the expertise within the military."

Papanui High School principal Denis Pyatt said boot camps were a knee-jerk response.

"Short-term interventions like boot camps look attractive but the kids causing the problems are not products of the school, they are products of the environment," he said.

"The concept of getting a kid and bashing them through a highly disciplined environment, then actually changing them, is ludicrous.

"Any parent will tell you that you can't change kids that way.

"The problems are deeper and more profound."

Linwood College principal Rob Burroughs agreed boot camps were successful when combined with ongoing support and mentoring.

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