6 Jun 2013

Ministry won't force school to re-enrol boy

10:10 pm on 6 June 2013

The Ministry of Education now says it will not force a school to re-enrol a boy it excluded after he struck a teacher last year.

Paeroa Central School in north Waikato says it had been warned that its board of trustees could be dismissed if it refused to accept the 11-year-old. But principal Janet Jones and the board say they cannot provide a safe environment for other students or teachers if he is allowed back.

Ms Jones said the boy was with the school for four days and during that time assaulted a teacher, and threatened and spat at younger children.

She told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme on Thursday it is not right to put him back into the classroom of the teacher he assaulted. "He's a child who does not fit into mainstream school."

The ministry is sending special education group manager Brian Coffey to the town on Friday to discuss its plan for the boy to attend the Thames Valley Alternative Education Centre, where he will get specialist support that will also be available to him at home.

It then wanted him to slowly return to Paeroa Central School and said support from a new intensive wraparound service will help ensure that is successful.

But Paeroa Central School said it does not want the boy back, even though it has been told by the ministry its board could be replaced by a commissioner.

Late on Thursday afternoon, the ministry announced that it wouldn't force the school to take him. It said it would listen to the school's concerns and whatever plan is finally agreed for the boy needs buy-in from all concerned.

Paeroa Central board of trustees chair Cindy Mathieson said the school would wait and see what it the ministry has to say at Friday's meeting, but under no circumstances would it re-enrol the boy. She told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme the ministry would have to sack her, as she won't resign over the issue.

Ms Mathieson said the boy should be put in alternative education and a review undertaken in 12 months to look at integrating him into college.

The School Trustees Association supports Paeroa Central's stand, saying it has every right to exclude the boy to protect other pupils and his teachers.

Association president Lorraine Kerr said schools are between a rock and a hard place in dealing with violent pupils. Though they have a legal obligation to provide every student with quality education, she said they are also legally obliged to provide a safe physical and emotional environment for every student and teacher.

Steve Briscoe's two daughters go to the school and he says he can't blame the principal for the stance she has taken. Mr Briscoe said if the boy returns, he will pull his girls out. "You've got a resentful child with a history of violence, who doesn't have any hesitation about using violence, coming into a place where he's already been excluded from - it's just a recipe for disaster."

Family favours another school

The boy's uncle says sending him back to Paeroa Central would be setting him up to fail again and put other pupils at risk.

The man said he has known his nephew only since he came back to Paeroa and into his care, but he has attended 14 schools to date.

He said the boy is years behind in his education and behaves badly, partly because he can't understand how to do what his classmates are doing. The behaviour has included hitting, kicking, spitting, punching and threatening to stab other children.

The uncle said the family wants the boy to go to the local alternative school where he would receive the help and attention he needs.