Enraged pupil prompts school to seek police help

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2013

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An Invercargill primary school principal who called police yesterday to deal with an out-of-control pupil said it was the sensible thing to do in the circumstances.

Classes at Fernworth Primary School were locked down and police called when an agitated 11-year-old boy became aggressive towards other pupils and threw school equipment around the hallway.

Principal Anne Walker said the boy had become upset and "struggled to deal with the situation", so the school rang police. "Short of physically restraining the child, it seemed like the sensible decision to make [to call police]."

Ministry of Education guidelines say teachers can restrain children physically as a last resort if they are going to injure themselves or others.

Ms Walker said classrooms at the school were locked down as a preventive measure and police were called to ensure the situation was handled the right way.

The boy had become aggressive, threatened other pupils and threw sports equipment around the hallway, she said.

"The other students have managed very well and we are supporting them through that."

No-one was hurt.

The school would discuss the boy's behaviour and make decisions about him from there, she said. It was only the second or third time in the past eight years the school had called police because of a pupil's behaviour, she said.

Senior Sergeant Dave Raynes, of Invercargill, said by the time police arrived the boy was calm and they took him home.

Police Youth Aid would follow up the incident to see if the boy had a "history" and whether he needed some help, Mr Raynes said. Police would also refer the incident to Child, Youth and Family, he said.

It was rare for police to be called to schools to deal with violent children, Mr Raynes said, adding it was more common for police to be called to households where young children were "smashing windows and going ballistic".

Southland Boys' High School rector Ian Baldwin said he could recall only three occasions in 13 years when he and senior staff had used reasonable force to restrain pupils at the school; and there had been just one occasion when he had called police to deal with unruly children.

He believed the rules were adequate for teachers to deal with unruly pupils, but said primary schools were more vulnerable because they had fewer senior staff experienced in dealing with conflict who were able to step in.

"The rule of thumb is if a child doesn't take a reasonable warning and still endangers themselves or others, use it [reasonable force], but if it exacerbates the situation, step back and call police."

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School students today were more respectful than they were in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, but fighting had been replaced with verbal bullying and text bullying, he said.

"Highly dysfunctional" children made up a small percentage of students in schools, but there were now more of them because last year the Government closed institutions nationwide, including McKenzie Residential School in Christchurch, that were designed to modify the behaviour of the worst-behaved children, he said.

"Those kids have been put back into the mainstream . . . those incidents [of violent out-of-control students] are going to happen because we have got a small but increasing number of dysfunctional kids."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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