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Schools 'a law unto themselves'

15 October, 2004

Schools 'a law unto themselves' - review tribunal needed

Reports that schools are 'illegally' suspending and expelling students - while their parents are denied the ability to challenge those decisions - highlights the urgent need for an independent review tribunal, Green MP Metiria Turei said today.

Metiria, the Green Party's Education spokesperson, said Youth Law Senior Solicitor Clair Trainor's warning that some schools were 'breaking the law', as reported in today's Dominion Post, when they disciplined students underscored the absence of any avenue for students and their families to challenge decisions.

"Schools are not meeting their legal requirements when meting out extraordinary punishment to children who break school rules," said Metiria, who has a Private Members' Bill calling for an independent review body.

"Is it not hypocritical for schools to be saying 'you can't break our rules, but we can break the law'?" she asked.

"Schools are a law unto themselves when it comes to disciplining students. I've had reports of students being manipulated into signing confessions, which are then used as evidence for expulsion, without their parent's knowledge.

"There is no help or protection for students and their families to challenge a school's decision that could have life-long consequences.

"There are huge inconsistencies in the way schools mete out punishment to students. Often it simply comes down to a clash of personalities or archaic attitudes.

"An independent discipline review tribunal would at least help ensure that pupils who are expelled or excluded have the right to continue their education. It would provide clear and consistent guidelines for boards, teachers, parents and students.

"Other industries, sectors and organisations have independent review processes enshrined in law. It's disgraceful that the Ministry of Education has resisted efforts to offer those same protections in the education system.

"When I called for the independent review tribunal last year, Education Minister Trevor Mallard dismissed it as 'nuts'. Sorry Trevor, but letting schools operate their own banana dictatorships and simply cast off their problems is just plain stupid," said Metiria.

ENDS

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