By: Simon Collins

Bob McCoskrie says restraint rules and the anti-smacking law have given children the message that adults can’t touch them. Photo / File

New rules that have required schools to report on more than 1000 incidents of physically restraining children since last August are undermining adult authority, the Family First lobby group says.

The Ministry of Education has told the group under the Official Information Act that schools reported 1010 incidents in the first six months after the new restraint rules came into force on August 15.

Principals’ Federation vice-president Dr Cherie Taylor-Patel said each incident “can take up to nine hours to complete interviews, records and online reporting requirements”.

“At present, every behaviour incident has the potential to be elevated beyond what is fair and reasonable because there is a ‘one size fits all’ process,” she said.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie said the rules had “expelled common sense” from the classroom.

“Combined with the ‘chilling’ effect of the anti-smacking law, this is all having the adverse effect of parents and teachers becoming too afraid to administer any physical control or restraint of children,” he said.

“Children have received the message that adults cannot touch them or even tell them what to do. This seriously undermines the authority of parents, teachers, and even the police themselves – hence the increasing violence and disrespect towards parents, teachers and police.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has said “the balance is not quite right” in the new rules. He has asked the Education Council to “lead a discussion with the profession” about them.

Education Council general manager Pauline Barnes said the council planned to send out a podcast discussion on the rules in the next few weeks – the first of a series of podcasts seeking teacher input on a range of issues such as digital technology.

“Restraint is an important issue, and teachers tell us they are looking for clearer guidance on how to manage situations that may result in restraint,” she said.

Principals’ Federation president Whetu Cormick has said the current rules encouraged teachers to let children “trash classrooms”.

“[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,” he said.

The law, changed after Herald reports on students being held in seclusion in some schools, says teachers must not physically restrain a student unless “the safety of the student or of any other person is at serious and imminent risk”.

Official guidelines urge teachers to use “de-escalation” techniques such as: “Remove the audience – ask other students to take their work and move away.”

“If escalation occurs, move further away,” the guidelines say.

Statistics obtained by the Herald for the first three months to November 22 showed that two-thirds of the restraints were applied to students with “individual behaviour plans” – many with conditions such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), fetal alcohol syndrome or parents who were “P” addicts.

Just over half (57 per cent) of the restraints were applied by staff who had been trained in safe behaviour management.

The latest data up to February 15 show that the 1010 restraints were applied to 599 students. Most children restrained were boys (85 per cent) and in primary and intermediate schools aged 5 to 12 (87 per cent).

Both Māori and Pākehā children were over-represented in restraint incidents up to November: 60 per cent of those restrained were European and 41 per cent were Māori (including some with both or multiple ethnicities), compared with 50 per cent European and 25 per cent Māori among all students aged 5 to 12.

Pasifika and Asian students were under-represented, with only 9 per cent and 4 per cent of restraint incidents.

Source: NZ Herald

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