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Schools Suspensions Report

A total of 3,968 students were suspended from school between April 1 and June 30. That's an average of nearly 80 suspensions for each of the 50 schooldays in the term.

Ministry of Education figures show that during the same quarter last year, 3,552 students were suspended.

A Ministry statement issued today says the increase in students suspended shows how necessary it was to give schools a better way of dealing with student behavioural problems.

The period covered by the school suspensions report released today is the last which operated under the old system. Amended legislation covering suspensions came into effect on July the 12th.

Ministry Acting Operations Support Manager Helen Sturm describes the latest set of figures as very disappointing.

"About the only good thing is that fewer students were suspended for smoking," she said."

Other categories of suspensions which show a total number and/or small percentage decrease for the second quarter 1999 when compared to the same period in 1998 are, alcolhol, physical assault on staff, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct as well as theft. "It is to be hoped that the new rules and procedures for school principals to follow in suspending students will see the trends reflected in this report reversed," said Ms Sturm. "The system gives schools greater flexibility to respond to cases, depending on how serious it is.

"The new rules see that individual cases are dealt with in accordance with the principles of natural justice. It is now a requirement that all reasonable steps must be taken to give all students good guidance and counselling and to minimise disruption to their attendance at school."

Schools now have the option of standing down a student. That can happen to a student more than once in a year, but for no more than five school days in a term, or for more than ten days in a year. This allows schools to provide a warning of the need for behavioural change without going as far as suspension.

When a student is suspended, it requires the formal removal of a student from school until the board of trustees decides the outcome. Boards are now able to impose reasonable conditions when they lift or extend a suspension and the intention of the conditions must aim to make it easier for the student to return to school.

The greatest number of suspensions between April and June in the second quarter were for continual disobedience. These accounted for 865 suspensions or 21.8% of the total. Physical assaults on other students accounted for 801 or just over 20% of all suspensions.

Drugs/including substance abuse, at 792 or just under 20% of the total, remained the third highest category.

While total suspensions were up, there were several categories where numbers were down. Of these, suspensions for smoking were down the most, from 137 in the second quarter last year to 94 in the second quarter of 1999.

The number of male students suspended was again significantly disproportionate. The gender split in the latest report is 74 males suspended to every 26 females.

Helen Sturm said the Ministry would monitor closely subsequent suspensions data to determine any changing patterns which might be attributed to the amended legislation amendment or to the new rules which now applied for the management of suspensions.

A number of other initiatives were being implemented to support and manage student behaviour and student achievement.

"The legislation on its own cannot be expected to achieve the improvements we are looking for," she said. "Things such as Alternative Education initiatives; establishing Behaviour Education Support Teams; centres to provide extra support for students with severe or inappropriate behaviour patterns; Resource Teachers Learning and Behaviour; Social Workers in Schools; Eliminating Violence Programmes and Drug Education Programmes are among the programmes aimed to address these issues."

ENDS

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