Teachers can use force on kids – cop


Teachers can use force on kids – cop

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Saturday, 06 September 2008

Teachers should not be afraid to “man-handle” violent children if they pose immediate risks, even if it means leaving bruising, the top youth aid cop says.

Serious sexual offenders as young as 12, who would be labelled paedophiles if they were adults, are preying on young victims, Inspector Chris Graveson says.

Many have themselves been victims of sexual abuse, and youth violence has become significantly worse in the past five years.

But many teachers are too cautious about using force in classrooms to protect children, despite being entitled to under the Crimes Act, he says.

Though forcible restraint might leave bruising on a child – and women bruise more easily than men – it can be necessary if the child poses immediate danger.

“If force is going to have to be used then that’s an actual risk of what can happen.

“You hear people saying, ‘you can’t touch children. You can’t do this, you can’t do that’. [But] if a child’s being attacked, you’re duty-bound to intervene.”

The children’s commissioner’s office rejected Mr Graveson’s comments. It was never appropriate to use enough force to cause bruising, office general manager Gordon McFadyen said.

“This office would be very surprised if it was official police policy to encourage teachers to use a level of force that would leave bruises on primary school children.”

Mr Graveson made the comments to primary school teachers in Wellington yesterday during an Educational Institute seminar on disruptive pupils.

The union, which represents 49,000 members, is due to unveil new guidelines this month for dealing with disruptive or violent children.

Nearly 7000 pupils were stood down or suspended for assaults last year.

Mr Graveson said young people often grabbed things as weapons during standoffs.

“They can cause serious harm to another child with one strike. They’re serious assaults we’re talking about.”

He said the word “force” was police jargon for any physical contact or touching. It should only be used as a last resort and in the best interests of the child.

Educational Institute president Frances Nelson agreed.

“Most teachers will say there are times when they knew they actually had to restrain a child – otherwise that child or other children, or other adults, would get hurt.”


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