Flaxmere Teacher Guilty Of Assault


New Zealand’s schools can be violent places

People who read this blog regularly will know that one of the topics we are most concerned about is the culture of brutality in New Zealand, in all its manifest forms.

We often write about bullying, both in the workplace and at school; of child abuse, violence in the home, the street and on the sporting pitch; of racial harassment and ‘Kiwis first’ mentality.

Remember, this is the country that staged a referendum to be allowed to have the ‘right’ to smack their kids and where one child is abused to death every 23 days.

It is  ranked third worst in the world by UNICEF for child maltreatment deaths and the NZ Human Rights Commission has identified significant human rights issues in relation to violence in New Zealand Schools.

One particular case has caused us concern and we wonder how many other school children, and their teachers, are suffering in silence behind closed classroom doors.

Fortunately, in this incident  justice will be seen to be done, however it is just the tip of the iceberg. What is interesting about this one is that the violence seems to have been  ‘two way thing’, a vicious cycle that is self-perpetuating within New Zealand. Neither the families, nor the teachers, seem to have the skills to resolve it.

“A jury took nearly six hours to find a teacher guilty of assaulting children in his class.

Hastings teacher Trevor Apihai, 45, was found guilty of four charges and not guilty of six charges at the end of a four-day trial in Napier District Court yesterday.

He was accused of pinching, hitting and dragging children by their clothes and arms while teaching at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga in Flaxmere between July and November last year…

The children had admitted swearing at and disobeying the teacher. A defence witness described the pupils’ behaviour as “diabolical at times”. The law allowed a parent, or someone acting for a parent, to use reasonable force against a child to stop offensive or disruptive behaviour.

Apihai was convicted of hitting a child with a pencil case, pulling a child from her chair, holding onto a child’s wrist, and pulling a child by the wrist. He was found not guilty of pinching a child, holding a pupil by the chin, three charges of pulling a child by the clothing, and holding a child by the wrist.

The school’s board of trustees chairwoman, Huia Huata, appeared as a witness for the defence and was in court to hear the verdict.

Outside court, she said it was unclear whether the jury had not believed some of the incidents had happened, or that they had occurred but the force was reasonable in the situation.

The impact of Apihai’s trial had been difficult for the school, she said. “Our teachers have felt vulnerable, they felt unsafe to be in the classroom with children by themselves…” more

The school has, of course, swung into a damage limitation exercise – after the event– and hired a teacher aide for every classroom in the school. Just how long this arrangement will continue is anybody’s guess and we know the money will be tight. We have a feeling it will be until the fuss dies down and then the extra posts will be quietly cut, leaving the staff and children to each others’ devices once more.

If you’re intending to emigrate to New Zealand with children you may wish to look beyond those bland “great place to raise kids” and “world class education” statements and think about what you may be getting your family into.

Start by reading one of our facts and stats pages – Education and Children. Be advised, the facts are not easy to come to terms with and may challenge many of the preconceptions you have about New Zealand as a country.

If you’re still ambivalent read some of our Migrants’ Tales and What Kiwis Say About NZ, you’ll find a good many of them in the header at the top of this page.

Finally, take some time to flick through our other posts tagged “Great place to raise kids,” for example:

Teachers facing more abuse – “We’ve often written about both youth and school violence on this blog because it’s increasing in both severity and prevalence, it affects migrants with school age children and those who move to NZ to take up teaching positions. It also has a big impact on the local communities in which migrants live. 777 teachers were assaulted at work during 2008-9. 442 of them required ACC funded treatment for their injuries. Weapons are increasingly commonplace in NZ’s schools…”

Kids in New Zealand, the village lets them down – “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…”

NZ teachers need more power to protect themselves – Following yesterday’s stabbing of  Steve Hose, a 53 year old maths teacher at Te Puke High School, the Secondary Principals Association says that teachers need to have more power to protect themselves against violence in New Zealand’s classrooms. It’s a far, far cry from the safe, low-crime image that the country tries to portray abroad…”