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Trustees urged - do homework on student discipline

Media release

Trustees urged to do their homework on student discipline

Some school boards of trustees find themselves in the dark over who to turn to for help when dealing with student suspensions, says the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

NZSTA’s Ron Mulligan, a trusteeship advisor, is fielding an increasing number of calls from boards unsure about where to seek help for troubled students.

Mr Mulligan is talking about issues surrounding student discipline at the annual NZSTA conference at the Christchurch Convention Centre from July 18-20.

While suspension rates are dropping, Mr Mulligan says outside agencies are increasingly being called on to help students suspended for incidents surrounding drugs or violence.

“Suspensions are not straight forward these days so boards of trustees need to be on the ball and know who to turn to for help.

“Suspensions are a lot more difficult to deal with than they used to be because you’re often talking about violence and therefore anger management, drugs, dealing in drugs, smoking or selling drugs, which then involves police.”

Too often Mr Mulligan says boards will wait until suspension hearings to look into agencies which could help the student concerned.

“We are encouraging them to find out what organisations are available in their community before they end up with a child standing in front of them,” he says.

“Boards, in a lot of cases, don’t know where they can find help for the student outside the school or direct the family to take the child to an outside agency for guidance or counselling that might not be appropriate.”

Mr Mulligan gives an example of a primary school student in a small town who had an anger management problem. The child appeared before the board, which said the child could return to school after he had completed six sessions with an anger management counsellor.

However, the boy never finished his sessions – the nearest anger management counsellor was some 80km away and the parents could not afford to make the trip twice a week.

“It would have been better if the board could have referred him to someone in the community, like a social worker from the local CYFS office or a youth aid officer. But they had no idea who to turn to,” says Mr Mulligan.

“Boards need to look through their own community to find these people or organisations and compile a list for future reference. They need to be better informed when they have to consider the future education and opportunities for the child.”

If they don’t address the problem, Mr Mulligan says the same students are likely to appear in front of the board time and time again.

Mr Mulligan also urges agencies in the community to make themselves known to schools and work closely with them to help deal with not just suspensions, but behavioural problems like bullying.


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