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School CP - March 1998

Corpun file 6802

Waikato Times, 19 March 1998

School rejects punishment plea

By Keri Welham

A bid to bring back corporal punishment in a Hamilton primary school was rejected at a meeting of staff and parents last night.

Aberdeen Primary School's board of trustees chairman Sean O'Reilly said the board could not consider the return of corporal punishment unless legislation was changed. Corporal punishment is outlawed under the Education Amendment Act 1990.

Mr O'Reilly called the notion of corporal punishment "abhorrent and medieval".

He said the board also rejected the plea for harsher punishments. The bid was made by a school parent. Mr O'Reilly said trustees agreed the new board could discuss tightening discipline.

Caning proponent Rod Bowman raised the issue at the board's meeting -- the last before next month's board of trustees elections. Apart from eight board members, it only attracted Mr Bowman, three of his supporters and two opponents.

Mr O'Reilly did not chair last night's meeting because he wanted to speak as a parent.

Caning Aberdeen students would happen "over my dead body", Mr O'Reilly said today.

Mr Bowman, supported by Bob and Judith Wright, told the board Aberdeen's discipline system was too lenient and children were making a mockery of it. Acting chairman Graeme Opie reminded Mr Bowman he had to speak in general terms and any criticism of Aberdeen's system had to be in writing before it would be discussed.

Mr Bowman said: "I'm talking about fear and it's not out of place in schools. We learn through fear and it teaches us to watch out."

The board heard the pro-corporal punishment views but did not make a resolution because Mr Bowman had not put a proposal in writing.

Parent of four Aberdeen pupils, Collin Donker, defended the school's discipline system.

He said Aberdeen's management was doing a good job of teaching its 540 students.

Principal Henk Popping said while three students were on detention last week, 537 other children were well behaved. He did not believe the school had a discipline problem.

Mr Popping addressed the issue in a newsletter this week after a flood of calls from parents concerned the school may bring back the cane.

"The unfortunate use of our school as a backdrop to a parent's personal promotion of a debate on corporal punishment has stimulated these concerns," the newsletter said.

"The staff of Aberdeen School are unanimous that corporal punishment is not the answer to behaviour management."

The charge for a return to physical discipline gathered momentum this week with the announcement a Hamilton-produced video promoting safe smacking will go on sale next month.

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