About 25 boys have been videotaped in a caning experiment at Rongotai College to see why experienced teachers often "miss the target" and leave boys with embarrassing marks on their lower buttocks.
The experiment was undertaken with the boys' consent, by the principal, Mr Noel Mackay, over a three-week period with boys who were due to be caned for offences.
The matter of the experiment was raised at a board meeting last week by a member Mr Ross Martin.
An unconfirmed minute from the meeting showed that the board had no prior knowledge of the videotaping, and asked that the practice be discontinued and the tapes erased.
The board chairman, Mr Arnold Wilson, confirmed today that Mr Mackay had offered his resignation, to be effective from January 31 next year, or at a date suitable for the board.
The board has still to decide whether to accept it.
Principals wishing to resign earlier than the required six months' notice period have to seek the authority of the director-general of education.
Mr Wilson said he would like to see Mr Mackay remain as principal. He was 65 and had given 18 years' service to Rongotai.
Speaking highly of Mr Mackay's contribution to Rongotai, Mr Wilson said that videotaping often went on at Rongotai for a number of things and the principal did not necessarily consult the board.
Several parents phoned the "Post" to complain about the experiment, which they called a violation of their sons' rights. They did not approach the principal.
Mr Mackay was willing today to disclose the purpose of the videotaping.
He said his resignation was in no way connected with the experiment.
"From time to time teachers have missed the target, and boys have been left with embarrassing marks below the level of a bathing suit," he said.
"What concerned me was how a sportsman, a teacher who was normally accurate, could miss often to a considerable extent."
Mr Mackay said this had never been looked at before, but now that 20th-century methods, such as videotaping, made an examination possible, he had decided to try to find out the reasons.
By playing the videotape back in slow motion he could follow the movement of the cane.
He pointed to his experience as an aeronautics engineer and said he was accustomed to experiments of wind-tunnel movement and natural forces.
"The film showed that if the cane was too flexible, or used with too much vigour, it tended to flutter up and down -- and that's when a miss occurred," said Mr Mackay.
"As you realise, I don't normally miss, so I had to do 20 or 30 different boys to see what the difference was between the canes."
Asked why he did not consult the board before conducting the experiment, Mr Mackay said because he, as principal, was responsible for the boys' health and welfare.
He said the experiment had now been stopped.
Evening Post, Wellington, October 16, 1981 Video-caning head lashed, defended
Statements of both support and criticism for the Rongotai College principal, Mr Noel Mackay, reached the "Post" today, following yesterday's disclosure of a videotaped caning experiment.
Mr Mackay videotaped boys being caned, because he was concerned that teachers were often missing the target and leaving boys with embarrassing marks.
The experiment was conducted for his own research purposes, by him, in private, and with the boys' consent. The boys were due to be caned for offences.
Mr Mackay has offered his resignation to the board, but stressed that it was nothing to do with the experiment.
Mrs Joan L Hobman, president of the Rongotai Ladies Auxiliary which represents mothers or guardians of boys at the school, today defended Mr Mackay.
She reported that her phone was "running hot" last night with parents' calls for support for the principal.
The ladies auxiliary was strongly in support of Mr Mackay and "aware of his great strength in the college."
"Look out, anyone who has anything to say against him," she said.
Discipline was fairly given and parents were well aware of the measures taken.
Also coming to the principal's defence was the Rongotai Parents' Association.
"The parents offer their full confidence in the way he is running the school," said the president, Mrs Paddianne Neely.
She would not comment on the videotaping matter.
Several parents, who did not wish to be named, today condemned Mr Mackay's action.
"Mr Mackay's explanation of the videotaping must surely be meant to be funny. It certainly doesn't sound plausible as none of the sportsmasters who 'miss the target' have been videotaped caning the boys," said one.
Another parent doubted that the "health and welfare" of the Rongotai boys would have benefited from the experiment, and said many parents would not have agreed to their boys being used as guinea pigs.
Meanwhile, the Campaign Against Violence in Education (Cave) - a 500-strong collective of parents and teachers, will call a special meeting in Auckland this weekend to consider the Rongotai experiment.
A Cave spokesman, Mr Ian Mitchell, from Auckland's Hillary College, today expressed shock at the experiment's disclosure.
Mr Mitchell said the Rongotai case confirmed their fears of the sort of abuse they had suspected went on in schools.
"I find it rather creepy. The act of beating a young person is nasty in itself - photographing that nastiness is almost obscene," said Mr Mitchell.
Mr Mitchell thought the Rongotai case would provide further evidence for Cave's campaign for the abolition of corporal punishment.
The Education Department today had nothing to say about the Rongotai experiment, believing the matter was strictly between the board and the principal.
This was in line with the department's lack of any policy on corporal punishment. It follows the administration and employment regulations governing schools which say that principals are responsible for discipline, subject to the directive of their board.
The Post Primary Teachers' Association has a policy of active discouragement of corporal punishment through the introduction of alternative forms of punishment.
Evening Post, Wellington, October 19, 1981 Parent praises petition wipers
A Rongotai College parent, Mr Peter Street, today commended the "guts" of the few boys who declined to sign a petition of support for their principal, Mr Noel Mackay.
Mr Street, whose own sixth-former was among them, had nothing but praise for Rongotai's academic achievements, but expressed concern about the videotaped caning experiment.
The boys' petition followed disclosures last week about the experiment conducted by the principal, Mr Noel Mackay, arising from his concern that experienced teachers were often missing the target and leaving boys with embarrassing marks on their buttocks.
Mr Mackay said the film showed the movement of the cane. If too flexible, or used with too much vigour, it tended to flutter and so a miss occurred.
He recalled his experience as an aeronautics engineer and said he was accustomed to experiments of wind tunnel movements and natural forces.
"Are landing wheels on Rongotai buttocks a necessary contribution in the search for an anti-flutter cane?" Mr Street asked.
As far as the college board is concerned, the issue was closed with its directive that the videotaping cease.
The board is to meet next month to consider a separate matter: whether to accept Mr Mackay's offer of resignation.
However, Mr Street does not consider the matter closed and said today that he would pursue it, until he received satisfactory answers on whom the research was intended for.
There have been suggestions that the tapes were destined for an American research project. Mr Mackay has rejected that, and said the tapes were for his own purposes only.
Mr Street said the parents' approach to the "Post" last week highlighted a serious lack of communication between the parents and the school authorities.
The board chairman, Mr A Wilson, had claimed that one parent only had approached him about the videotaped canings. "That several rang up the 'Post' is surely an indictment of the Rongotai set-up," Mr Street said.
In his view this showed that the parents had more confidence in the "Post" representing their concerns than the board chairman, the principal, the Ladies Auxiliary and the Parents' Association.
Video caning explanation appals: parent goes to board
By education reporter Lindsay Hayes
THE Rongotai College board will hold a special meeting tomorrow, with the principal excluded, to discuss a parent's complaint against him, following his videotaped caning experiment.
The complaint is conveyed in a letter to the board secretary, Mr A J C Edwards, from the father of a sixth-former, Mr Peter Street.
In his letter, Mr Street said that he had approached the board chairman, Mr Alan Wilson and several board members late in August to express his concern about information from his son about videotaped canings at the school.
"I had placed my faith in the board to sort this out without the necessity for me to take further action," he wrote in his letter.
Mr Street said he was appalled to read in the newspaper last Thursday that the videotaping was to study the aerodynamic characteristics of the cane in flight, which was a completely different reason from the one given to him earlier.
The earlier answer cited by Mr Street, from Mr Wilson, was that the experiment was in connection with a research project being conducted in conjunction with researchers in America.
Mr Mackay has rejected this possibility and said that he had erased the tapes.
Mr Edwards who, together with board members, tried to gain the board chairman's approval for a special meeting after the experiment was disclosed in the "Post" last week, today said the original meeting date, requested but declined at the time, was now reinstated.
The meeting will take place in committee at the Wellington Secondary Schools Council office in Manners St at 5.30.
Mr Edwards said the only item on the agenda was the parent's complaint concerning the videotaped experiment.
He said the principal, Mr Noel Mackay, was excluded from the meeting under section 198(2) of the Education Act 1964, which made provision for the exclusion of a principal at a meeting in which a formal complaint against that principal was considered.
Mr Edwards said a board's use of this provision was very rare. He did not think it had ever been used by the Rongotai board.
Asked why he changed his mind and agreed to the special meeting, the chairman, Mr Wilson, said it was because the board had received a formal complaint.
Mr Wilson considered the videotaping a "small matter" which the media had blown up.
The board had already dealt with the matter and considered it closed.
Mr Wilson took issue with the "Post" headline on a Rongotai story yesterday and "the report that things were 'chaotic'."
"There is still discipline at the college," said Mr Wilson.
Meanwhile, Mr Ross Martin, one of four board members who have been trying to force a board meeting, today confirmed that his sons David and Graeme would remain away from school until "the dust settled."
His fourth-form son, David, is said to have been attacked by a fellow pupil at the school on Monday and his elder son, Graeme, to have been threatened with violence.
The incidents followed the issue by senior boys of lapel stickers in support of the principal. Mr Mackay has since instructed that all stickers be removed.
The boys' readiness to take matters into their own hands has concerned parents.
There are also strong indications of a split among Rongotai teachers, as well as board members.
Evening Post, Wellington, October 28, 1981 Most schools use cane on an infrequent basis
By education reporter Lindsay Hayes
MOST STATE secondary schools in the Wellington area use corporal punishment "infrequently" but not always as a last resort.
Those using it favour the cane to the strap, apart from Heretaunga College and Wellington College, the latter using both.
In most cases only male teachers are permitted to administer this type of punishment and to boys only.
These facts were shown in a "Post" survey of 18 Wellington and Hutt Valley secondary schools.
All principals with the exception of Mr E Flaws, of Tawa College, readily responded to the survey. Several sought clearance from their board on their answers to "Post" questions. Two schools did not reply by press time.
The only schools not using the cane are Onslow College and Aotea College, both co-educational, and the two single-sex girls' schools, Wellington East Girls' College and Wellington Girls' College.
They have employed alternative disciplinary measures such as detentions and counselling networks, with a preventative early detection emphasis.
Those using corporal punishment are: Heretaunga College, Upper Hutt College, Wainuiomata College, Parkway College, Taita College, Naenae College, Hutt Valley Memorial Technical College, Hutt Valley High School, Newlands College, Porirua College, Mana College, Wellington College, Wellington High School, and Rongotai College.
Two common aspects emerged (in most cases) -- the stated "infrequent" use and the principals' unwillingness to define infrequent in terms of numbers.
With few exceptions, the corporal punishment was witnessed and recorded in accordance with Education Department recommendations.
The Secondary School Boards' Association national secretary, Mr Jerry Barnard, confirmed that there was no legal requirement for this, but said the recommendations were there as a safeguard in case of legal action.
Citing the reference department's manual to the Crimes Act 1961, Mr Barnard also exploded the misconception that it was illegal to cane girls.
Some boards have stated in their regulations -- sometimes in a by-law -- that corporal punishment must not be administered to girls.
Asked for the association's view on corporal punishment, Mr Barnard said members were split on the issue. The SCBA had no overall policy.
Personally, Mr Barnard was "not happy" about corporal punishment, but thought it might be necessary in schools "in some areas". He did not define the areas.
One of the most response to the "Post" survey was Taita College principal, Mr I P Wah, who said the cane was largely confined to the "hoodlum element," for offences of intimidation and violence.
He said 10 boys had been caned this year and, referring to his punishment register, said three were for assault and the others for vandalism-type offences.
The cane was only used as a last resort. The register was kept by the deputy principal which automatically imposed an administrative control over its use.
Only male teachers were authorised to use the cane. Asked why women were not, Mr Wah said because of sexual connotations.
Asked why women could not cane girls, for instance, Mr Wah said because the practice of caning girls was totally unacceptable. "Not just physiologically, but morally and ethically," he said.
The "Post" raised the possibility of discrimination, having been told by one principal that girls often fared worse in the punishment stakes because they were not caned.
Mr Wah did not think the practice of only caning boys was discriminatory, because corporal punishment was "all but phased out."
The Hutt Valley Memorial Technical College principal, Mr F J K Knowles, said "reaon" was the operative word at the school.
If a child was reasonable, it was possible to use other measures, such as appealing to reason, dean's reports and so on.
"The cane is used as a last resort and sparingly," said Mr Knowles.
He would [not?] like to see corporal punishment abolished. It often had a "salutary" effect on the bully.
The Naenae College principal, Mr Bruce Murray, said he could count of half a hand the number of boys he had caned this year.
He said any staff member was authorised to use the cane, but the school had a number of regulations governing how and when it was to be used.
He did not wish to disclose these. .....
The last boy he caned had been in a running battle with a senior teacher for most of the year. Despite opportunities to behave, he had not come around to allowing the teacher to teach and the rest of the class to learn.
As a result of the punishment, his behaviour had been transformed and he had become a "totally co-operative young gentleman".
He stressed that most pupils would have every opportunity to toe the line before the cane was administered as a punishment.
The Wainuiomata College principal, Mr T W Langley, said boys were caned no more than once or twice a year. He preferred to use every other method of discipline first.
The cane should never be used alongside emotion and never straight away, he said.
Also using the cane infrequently is Mana College, Porirua, but unlike some of the other schools, not as the ultimate punishment.
The principal, Mr D Day, said senior staff were authorised to use the cane. It was used probably up to twice a term and not related to the seriousness of the misdemeanour. ......
Evening Post, Wellington, November 13, 1981 Caning head Mackay cleared, and will stay on
'Black Friday whitewash,' alleges complaining parent
The Rongotai College principal, Mr Noel Mackay, has been given a clean slate by the board committee inquiring into his videotaped caning experiment.
At a meeting last night, the Rongotai board, which authorised the inquiry, accepted the committee's finding that Mr Mackay had acted within his authority.
In accordance with the committee recommendation, the board decided that no changes were required in the administration and control of corporal punishment at the school and therefore no further action was required.
Mr Peter Street, the parent whose complaint to the board resulted in the inquiry, today said his questions had not been answered.
"I thought I might get a whitewash on Black Friday," said Mr Street. (Today is Friday, November 13).
Mr Street had asked the board why there were inconsistencies in the answers given to him earlier from Mr Mackay and the board chairman, Mr Alan Wilson, concerning the reasons for the experiment. Mr Street also asked the board, as the body responsible for the school, to reassess its own responsibility in the matter.
Mr Wilson this morning said there were no plans at this stage to release the full committee report.
The board last night expressed its continued confidence in Mr Mackay as head, and in a separate recommendation, decided to reject his resignation, which Mr Mackay had stressed was not related to the experiment.
When the meeting ended at 12.30am -- five hours after it began -- Mr Mackay received a round of applause from parents who had waited outside for the board's verdict. .....
Evening Post, Wellington, November 16, 1981 Videotape reports head for compost
The Rongotai College board subcommittee's reports on the videotaped caning experiment are to meet a similar fate as the tapes themselves. They are to be destroyed.
The board secretary, Mr A J C Edwards, today confirmed that the board chairman, Mr Alan Wilson, had instructed members to return their copies so they could be destroyed.
Mr Edwards said as board secretary he would keep one on file. It would be improper not to do so.
He said he had not yet had a chance ot destroy the others and indicated that they would be shredded as garden compost.
Nothing is known of the answers given to the subcommittee by boys who took part in the caning experiment. The inquiry team interviewed the boys last month.
Two board members today confirmed that the original directive for all board members to remain silent on the matter still stood.