Belfast Teacher Encounters Troubles In NZ

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.

Lost Opportunity

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

3 thoughts on “Belfast Teacher Encounters Troubles In NZ

  1. I am the Roy Lilley in your article. The first thing is to correct your report. You start off calling me by the correct name and then I surprisingly become Mr McLaren, who was actually a New Zealander who became a racing legend. As far as the story goes, please do not take the negative view. I have spent the last 22 years here in New Zealand teaching first in a High School and now in an Intermediate and this is the first bit of trouble I have ever had. At all times I have found students (past and present), parents and the community to be very respectful and supportive of teachers. So don’t brand all of New Zealand or my area as being dangerous and violent when it is only the action of one moron. I reckeon in my time here I have been involved with over ten thousand pupils and their families and one glitch is a very very small percentage.

  2. There certainly seems to be a circle of aberrant behaviour going on in New Zealand’s schools, which incidentally have some of the worst bullying statistics in the world. For more about bullying in NZ’s schools read

    NZ Scores Second Worst in the World For Bullying in Schools

    “School Bullying Reflects `Culture Of Brutality’”

    Readers wanting to know more the background to Chung’s story may wish to read our blog “Racial sensitivity may have caused classroom stabbing” and then read “Korean Student, Tae Won Chung, Sentenced To Prison For Classroom Stabbing” During the trial the defence tried to use the partial defence of provocation to explain why Chung took the action he did.

  3. “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)”

    While the student stabbing the teacher is inexcusable, it helps to know the other side of the story, as an excerpt from the New Zealand Herald shows:

    Student ‘taunted’ into teacher attack
    By Andrew Koubaridis
    4:00 AM Friday Sep 25, 2009
    Tae Won Chung. Photo / Greg Bowker

    South Korean student Tae Won Chung stabbed his teacher in the back after being goaded about his fear of North Korea and returning home to military training, a court heard yesterday.

    Avondale College teacher David Warren woke Chung as he dozed in his Japanese class on March 2, warning him “you’ll be dead” if he slept while the North Korean army attacked.

    Chung took a knife to school the next day, and stabbed Mr Warren in the back.

    Mr Warren earlier spoke to him about South Korea’s compulsory military training and how Chung would be conscripted into the army when he returned home.

    I think part of the reason teachers get assaulted is because they become the new generation of bullies as they have authority over the future of others (and many exercise their authority heedless of the consequences towards others’ mental well-being).
    The fact that teachers’ own literacy and numeracy is now being questioned may also be part of the issue.
    It’s said that bullies like to find places where they do not need to be accountable, the teaching profession along with policing (Louise Nicholas’ case) seems to attract a disproportionate amount of those people.

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