8 Sep 2015

Police handcuffed primary school boy

10:11 am on 8 September 2015

The case of a violent primary school boy who had to be handcuffed has highlighted what some say is increasing violence in primary schools and has sparked a call for teachers to be trained in safe ways to restrain out of control pupils.

Handcuffs

Photo: 123RF

Details have just emerged about the incident at an unnamed school that ended with police officers having to restrain the boy .

Two officers called to the school in May 2014 found the boy on top of a 2.5m high filing cabinet, with a kitchen knife, scissors and metal bars all within reach, and was throwing items at staff.

Superintendent Chris Scahill, police national operations and response manager, said one officer used an arm restraint to get the boy down.

"The young person continued to struggle. At that point a decision was made to place that young person in handcuffs to enable getting them into the back of a vehicle."

Mr Scahill said it was rare for police to use such force against a child, but they had to prevent him hurting himself and others.

He said the school appeared to have tried everything to de-escalate the situation, including putting the boy in isolation in another room, before police arrived.

"Upon police arrival, there were school staff and a parent present. They were having no success whatsoever. In fact by this stage, the [boy] had climbed up on top of the filing cabinet and had smashed a window. So police were in a position where they knew they had to act reasonably quickly."

Principals Federation president Denise Torrey said it was highly unusual for the police to have to step in in such a way, especially at a primary school.

"In an extreme case like this where the child is at risk to himself and others the use of the police is definitely justified," said Ms Torrey. "Teachers aren't trained to deal with highly violent children."

She presumes the police decision to use handcuffs was a last resort.

Paul Kennedy, former president of the Special Education Principals Association, said teachers in general were facing violence in the classroom and in the playground a lot more often than ever in the past.

He estimated less than 5 percent of schools in New Zealand had a staff member trained in safe restraint which, he said, put both teachers and students at risk.