Bad behaviour sees thousands punished

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2013

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Thousands of Waikato school pupils were disciplined for serious offences, including assault, drug abuse and arson last year, with one pupil below the age of 16 expelled for sexual misconduct, latest figures show.

The Ministry of Education statistics - issued under the Official Information Act - show there were 2151 stand-downs at Waikato schools last year, which resulted in 455 suspensions, 145 exclusions and 14 expulsions.

The most common offence was physical assault on other pupils, with 604 cases, followed by continual disobedience, verbal assault on staff, and drugs and substance abuse.

There were 17 cases of sexual misconduct and harassment and one pupil, aged under 16, was removed from a school for sexual misconduct.

The total number of serious offences was down slightly from 2193 in 2011.

Hamilton's Fraser High School had the highest number of stand-downs (132), suspensions (43) and exclusions (24) last year but the school also has one of the largest rolls in the region.

Fraser High staff were unavailable for comment.

Melville High School and Fairfield College each had 116 stand-downs.

Morrinsville College cut its number of stand-downs by more than 100 last year, from 149 in 2011 - the highest in the region - to 44.

A high-profile assault at the college in 2011 severely unsettled pupils and the community and set the tone for a "horror year", principal John Inger said.

The school examined its discipline processes after the 2011 assault, in which a girl was badly beaten in a toilet.

"We implemented more board meetings with at-risk kids and the board also dished out some consequences to kids who were coming before them, in terms of trying to keep them on track, and it's certainly made an impact."

New Zealand Principals' Federation president Philip Harding said stand-downs were declining nationally.

"I think there's a recognition that if you flick a kid out of your school, if you exclude a child, you're simply saying: ‘we've failed, you can go somewhere else'.

"There are cases, of course, where a child's behaviour is so manifestly unacceptable that you've got to send them a fairly strong message. But I think schools are reluctant to do that if there's any other path to explore." jonathan.carson@waikatotimes.co.nz

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