New Zealand Herald, December 30, 1997

Police minister favours cane as an option in our schools

Poll support for the return of corporal punishment does not surprise Jack Elder. He talks to John Manukia.

Teacher-turned-politician Jack Elder believes the cane should be a punishment option for serious misbehaviour in schools.

He was not surprised by a New Zealand Herald poll showing support for corporal punishment to be reinstated.

The Labour Government abolished corporal punishment in its last year of office in 1990.

Mr Elder, who was then a Labour MP, was one of four from the party who crosscd the floor and voted with the National MPs against the move.

The poll revealed that nearly 70 per cent of people were in favour of disobedient pupils being caned or strapped for outright ill-discipline.

Mr Elder, now the Minister of Police and a New Zealand First MP, carried out his own poll in 1995 which showed similar opinions.

"I'm more inclined to leave the decision to use the cane open to the schools and the parents of the pupils concerned," He said.

"If they want to use it, then it's up to them."

His opinion has not changed, but he was quick to add that it was his personal view, not the Government stance.

Mr Elder said Parliament's removal of one form of punishment for serious offences had forced some schools to concentrate on other punishments, including suspensions and expulsions

School principals contacted by the Herald yesterday were not in favour of corporal punishment returning to the schools.

The principal of Massey High School, Bruce Ritchie, labelled the concept a "dead duck."

Reinstating corporal punishment was a backward step in a world where people were trying to eliminate all forms of violent disciplinary action, he said.

"Bringing it back wouldn't do any more good than what's on offer at the moment in terms of punishment in schools.

"It was ineffective and unfair when it was around, because boys were allowed to be caned but girls could not be."

Mr Ritchie favours a more constructive method such the "broken window" concept used in New York schools.

"The parents are brought in at a very early stage to help the sitution," he said.

"Schools get to deal with the small things to prevent the big things developing and occurring.

"Get rid of the big problem before it actually starts.

The principal of Otahuhu College, Bill Gavin, Said: "It is more a job for the school and the parents of the concerned pupil to work together in eliminating the problems."

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