By: Nicholas Jones

Auckland Primary Principals’ Association president Kevin Bush says the restraint rules are concerning teachers. Photo / Michelle Hyslop

Some children are being left to trash classrooms because teachers are unsure of their right to restrain students following a law change.

Principals are calling for an urgent review of new rules – and Education Minister Chris Hipkins has told the Weekend Herald he is open to that, saying “the balance is not quite right”.

Whetu Cormick, president of the NZ Principals’ Federation, said the rules rolled out last year had led some teachers to question their right to restrain students.

“[Students] might be throwing chairs at big screen TVs and smashing windows, and all teachers are now doing is taking the rest of the kids away and leaving the child to trash the room.

“And we have been told by the Ministry to leave them to it. So property doesn’t matter. Whereas in the past you would step in immediately to restrain the child or remove that child.”

Under rules introduced in August last year schools must file incident reports to the Ministry of Education and notify parents and boards of trustees every time a student is physically restrained.

Figures provided to the Weekend Herald under the Official Information Act show more than 700 restraint incidents have been reported and those overwhelmingly relate to younger children – just 12 per cent involved a student aged 13 or older.

A teacher can restrain a student if he or she reasonably believes there is a serious and imminent risk to the safety of the student or others, such as when fights occur or if a student has a weapon or is throwing furniture close to other students.

Guidelines have been issued to schools and training is being rolled out, but Cormick said some teachers were taking a “hands off” approach.

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