Today’s Western Leader is carrying a story about Northern Irishman Roy Lilley, principal of Bruce McLaren Intermediate who was attacked by a hammer weilding youth whilst he was at work on Waitangi Day.
Mr Lilley confronted the aggressive youth whom he found ransacking the school office but managed to talk him down, despite the youth attempting to hit him with the hammer. He told the Leader
“When I looked into the office there was a young man standing there,” he says. “He was a bit taller than me – about 1.7 metres. He had a blue bandanna covering his face and a multi-coloured towel over his head.”
Mr Lilley tried to talk the youth into giving himself up but the man attempted to escape.
“We ended up having a bit of a wrestling match in the corridor,” he says.
“I got him to calm down and got him back in the office,” Mr Lilley says. “But then he came at me with a claw hammer.”
Note the comment about the blue bandana? these are traditionally worn by Black Power Gang members, although the gang connection isn’t made in this report.
Fortunately Mr Lilley was able to use the skills he acquired in Northern Ireland to talk-down the intruder
Mr Lilley says he has faced more serious threats before. He grew up in Northern Ireland and ran a youth centre in a tough neighbourhood there.
“I’ve talked down guys with guns in Belfast,” he says.
Mr Lilley has been school principal for less than a year but did he ever think he’d have to use those skills in New Zealand?
Mr Lilley took over as the principal at Bruce McLaren Intermediate in April last year and says this attack is the last thing he needs. “I’m trying to build the public’s confidence in the school.” read the full report here
In August the Herald ran a feature on Mr Lilley: “Principal finds strict line with pupils pays” saying he was cracking down on schoolbased bullying and verbal abuse. His “hardline” policy had resulted in eight pupils being stood down for a week for “behavioural issues.”
His strict, no nonsense approach was gaining approval but he acknowledged that his first term as principal was a “honeymoon period” and that students were “testing the waters” to see what they could get away with.
It looks like the honeymoon period is well and truly over. No doubt Mr Lilley will be wondering if the attacker was a pupil at the school and if he’s planning a second attempt. Lois Dear wasn’t as fortunate as he, she was battered to death in her Tokoroa classroom in 2006
Violent Crime in New Zealand’s Schools
Was the incident at Bruce McLaren Intermediate just a one-off or is there a problem with violent crime in New Zealand’s schools? Here’s some information that may surprise you.
In March 2010 we wrote about the Dom Post using the Official Information Act to obtain data on the number of school staff that received ACC funded treatment following an attack at school and put that together with Ministry of Education figures for 2008, to reveal that at least 777 teachers were assaulted whilst at work during 2008/9 (that’s without the figures for non-treatment assaults in 2009):
“Hundreds of teachers have received ACC-funded treatment after being assaulted at school.
Principals are shocked by the figure and are demanding immediate action to make schools safer.Some school staff now fear breaking up fights in case pupils have weapons, and others refuse to do lunchtime duty alone.
A teacher injured during a school attack says that staff will always be at risk from “nutters”.
Figures issued to The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act show that 442 teachers needed ACC-funded treatment after assaults at school during 2008 and 2009, costing about $413,000.
Latest Education Ministry figures show there were a further 335 pupil assaults on teachers in 2008 that did not require ACC-funded treatment.
The most expensive individual claim was for a 2008 assault, worth about $124,000. ACC refused to provide details about the incident.
The two largest assault claims last year were about $40,000 and $45,000.
A secondary school teacher seriously injured in a classroom attack last year fears he will never make a full recovery. He has spinal injuries, suffers constant pain and tires easily.”
We suspect that this teacher may be the one who was stabbed in the back whilst teaching at Avondale College in March 2009 (see link)
“I am able to work only part-time hours because of the injury I sustained to my spinal cord. I have a pronounced limp in the leg that was paralysed and my neurosurgeon cannot say for sure that I will ever make a full recovery. Some situations still trigger flashbacks of the incident.“As an avid sportsman, my lifestyle has had to undergo many changes which I am having trouble accepting.
“I think anyone in a job that fronts the public is at risk from the nutters that exist in our society, people who lack awareness of the damage they can inflict or lack conscience.”
The report’s figures don’t go back far enough to include Lois Dear who was battered to death and sexually assaulted in her classroom in 2006 (link)
The Post Primary Teachers Association, a union representing about 18,000 teachers and principals, says that unless classrooms are made safer, teachers will leave the profession.“It is a serious issue and I can’t see the problem going away, but there are no easy answers,” spokeswoman Jill Gray said.
Solutions are rarely easy but that doesn’t mean they can’t, or shouldn’t, be tackled.
“Some teachers were too scared to do lunchtime duty alone and had resorted to supervising in pairs.“I find it very sad that it has come to this, but hopefully these figures really highlight the issue and get some action started…”
How long has this been a problem for? Search for our posts under the tag School Violence.
A golden opportunity to so something about bad behaviour in schools was passed up on at the Behaviour Summit in March 2009.
“At the end of the summit a number of priorities for action were agreed on:
- Ownership of the issue and improve collaboration between families, communities, government agencies and schools.
- Early intervention – working with children in the early stages of life and in the first stages of things going wrong in their lives.
- Initial teacher education and sustained teacher professional development to provide the skills required to manage extreme behaviour.
- Stronger emphasis on getting it right for Maori students.
- More support for successful evidence based programmes such as Incredible Years.
- Share the evidence about what works.
The following September the Minister of Education – Ann Tolley announced that the Taumata’s cross-sector planning group had handed her a draft Behaviour and Learning Action plan and that she was discussing it with them. She said “The potential impact is great – for kids, families, teachers and our communities. The Plan is based on better use of current funding and re-aligns current funding and services to evidence of what works.”
As far as we are aware the plan didn’t get any further than the discussion stage.
Meanwhile acts of school violence have been continuing, including two school invasions in one week - the ultimate disruptive classroom behaviour. What a pity that the issue of bullying – both in schools and in the wider community – seemed to have been dismissed during the summit. A golden opportunity has slipped away and the issue seems to be destined to be skirted around ad nauseam.”
Who’d be a teacher in NZ?
For more about violence in New Zealand’s schools read posts tagged School Violence
There has been another incident involving a knife at a school in Hamilton, this time two students at Fairfield College were mugged by group of 4 other teen students, assaulted with an umbrella and threatened with a knife.
Hamilton Police will be working with schools and the Ministry of Education to work out ways of minimising the risks in City schools following an incident at a college this morning. City Deployment Manager, Inspector Karen Henrikson, said officers were called to Bankwood Rd, outside Fairfield College shortly before 10am.
“It appears two boys, who are students at the school, were confronted by a group of four other students, all boys aged 14-15-years old. “Members of the group demanded cigarettes from the victims and when they said they didn’t have any they were punched the pair, assaulted with an umbrella and threatened with a knife by members of that group.”
Ms Henrikson said the victims were taken to the school nurse’s office while the offenders fled on foot to nearby Donny Park. “Responding located the offenders in the park who fled through bushes and a nearby gully that a stream flows through.
“The four offenders were caught and arrested by the City’s Tactical Response Unit and two 14-year-olds appeared in the Hamilton District Court today in relation to the incident.” A third youth was referred to Youth Aid follow up action while the fourth boy was interviewed and released without further action.
“With this incident following on from a similar incident at another school last month Police will be working closely with Ministry of Education officials and school principals to identify ways to reduce the risk of any reoccurance.” source
Last month a knife was allegedly brandished at the college when a 26 year old armed man went to the school after his younger brother came home and told him he’d been threatened.
Previously at the same school, two sisters were arrested after they allegedly attacked a Year 13 girl at the school last year. Other students chased the 17-year-old girl’s boyfriend with sticks as he came to her aid (source)
Other schools in the town have also had their share of violent and armed teens. A 15-year-old girl from Hamilton Girls’ High School was charged with assault and threatening to kill when she walked into a class room armed with a knife last month.
It’s not just Hamilton though that is having problems with kitted-out school kids looking for trouble. Teacher Steve Hose was stabbed in the back and shoulder multiple times by a student at Te Puke High School, Bay of Plenty, also in May. Sadly, May was a bad month for school violence in New Zealand.
777 teachers were assaulted at work in New Zealand during 2008-2009. There were 1167 incidents of violence, including 51 grievous assaults last year across all educational institutions, including 14 of stabbing and cutting with a weapon (Statistics NZ) the rising violence is causing great concern among the teaching profession,
A little time ago Ross Brown, principal of Napier Boy’s High School said something that holds true for many schools and their communities in New Zealand. It related to a group of teens that were caught smoking cannabis at the school, but we think it applies to many of the problems youth are faced with in modern day New Zealand:
“schools are the litmus test for the community and unfortunately, we inherit its problems including incidents such as these, “It takes a village to raise a child and unfortunately in this case the village has let them down.”
But why is this happening? A total breakdown in family life and support at home for young people, generations of parents with no parenting skills to pass on, poverty, widespread drug and alcohol abuse, a culture of brutality and mental health issues are all factors. For more read blogs: