Corpun file 23252
Bay of Plenty Times, New Zealand, 4 April 2011
Schools fall to anarchy without tough discipline
Guest editorial by Bob Grant
Tauranga's Bob Grant is a retired school principal. Photo / Supplied.
Bullying. We have to restore tough school discipline before we
can defeat it. As New Zealand schools become ever more
disruptive, the problem of bullying is growing worse. Vicious
behaviour towards other pupils is now all too common; not only
sustained verbal abuse but even serious physical assaults.
In England, as reported in London's Daily Express, on November
14, 2005, so deep is the crisis that classrooms are now occupied
by an epidemic of bullying and a substantial increase in unruly
Permanent expulsions have sky-rocketed and most of them are for
violence and threats against teachers and pupils.
Are we in New Zealand heading down the same track? Teachers have
already acknowledged the worrying scale of bullying in our
schools. Suspensions and expulsions have reached record levels
and schools are now awash with "bullying policies" and
"action plans" and calls for "zero
But this frenzy of concern has failed to address the central
reason for the explosion in bullying, and this is the utter
collapse of any structure of discipline in schools.
Over recent years there has been a disturbing reluctance to
impose order on difficult pupils and to deal robustly with their
In a civilised setting the vulnerable are protected, but in a
climate of no real discipline the bully is allowed to flourish.
Children need a strong morale, frameworks and rigorous guidance
but, tragically, through the withdrawal of formal discipline, we
are creating our own problems.
All forms of meaningful punishment from the strap to the cane to
detention have been outlawed, with the result that difficult
pupils have nothing to fear when they behave badly.
Almost the only sanctions left are suspension and expulsion, but
for those who despise school such methods are appealing rather
Political correctness is threatening the fabric of New Zealand
society. The concept of children's rights has weakened the
attempt to impose discipline. Fear of the bully is not just a
problem for school students - it now runs right through our
cowardly approach to youth justice.
Click to enlarge
This eagerness to appease youthful violence has been assisted by
social trends such as outlawing any form of smacking of children
in the home as a corrective method. There is a failure to
recognise the difference between a corrective smack and child
Another trend is the collapse of the traditional family and the
rise of single parenthood, which has left many youngsters,
especially boys, without role models or masculine discipline.
I would like to relate an experience I had as the principal of a
large intermediate school of about 850 pupils. We always ran a
tight ship and had little in the way of wayward behaviour, until
a boy arrived at our school who was a junior leader in a local
gang. He was a big, strapping lad of 13. By boasting, bullying
and coercion he established a group of followers in the school
and he became aggressive and extremely rude to teachers, and his
language to them was absolutely disgusting.
He was like a pied piper with his group of followers, which was
growing by the day. Many teachers were frightened of him and
school discipline and tone was taking a nosedive. It was a
serious situation. I could have expelled him but that would only
pass the problem on to someone else.
We decided to call in all the "childcare" agencies to
help. We had the youth aid police officer, the special education
specialist, the educational psychologist and the social welfare
officers, and we ended up having a family conference with a judge
and all agencies concerned.
To cut a long story short, nothing worked and we were becoming
desperate. Finally at a meeting of male staff we decided that the
next time he played up I, as principal, would give him a good
strapping. I visited his father and told him of our decision.
The next morning as the students were lining up to go into
assembly he put on a big act and was extremely rude to the
teacher in charge. I came up behind him and grabbed him by the
collar of his shirt and the seat of his pants and
"wheel-barrowed" him through the adjoining door into my
office before he really realised what was happening.
When he saw what was going to happen he went as white as a sheet
and started to scream. Although the students couldn't see into my
office they could hear the screams and, as one teacher reported,
a deathly hush came over the school.
I gave him a strapping, put him in my car and took him home to
his father. I thought we would never see him again but, lo and
behold, he turned up at school the next morning and we never had
another peep of trouble out of him.
You can call it respect or fear or whatever, but the fact remains
that punishment worked when everything else failed.
I can hear the do-gooders saying I should be charged with assault
and that I would probably like corporal punishment back in our
schools. Yes, I would, but under strict conditions. I would be
against every teacher having the right to use corporal punishment
- rather I would like to see one mature teacher in every school
responsible for administering any punishment and then only after
a thorough investigation. I don't believe it would be used often,
as corporal punishment has strong powers as a deterrent in a
If we follow what is happening in Britain, it won't be long
before there is complete anarchy in some of our schools.
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