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‘Use of Force’ against children is removed from upcoming law: Green Party

stressed little boy with backpack

New Zealand’s Green Party have secured legislative amendments in a bill expected to pass third reading this week, to ensure better rules for school teachers and staff, so they can de-escalate children with diverse needs and cognitive differences, such as autism, rather than using unnecessary and often traumatising force.

“This amendment to the Education and Training Bill has ensured that children, particularly with cognitive diversity, are less likely to experience unnecessary and harmful physical force being used against them,” Green Party Education and Disability spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said today.

“This means kids that are struggling at school because of disability or cognitive differences that affect their behaviour are less likely to experience unnecessary force, which could escalate into violence.

“The bill now requires guidelines to be developed in consultation with affected whānau and teachers, to ensure the wellbeing of these kids. This includes new guidelines on de-escalation of potentially harmful situations without force, and teachers only using restraint when there is imminent risk of harm.

“Teachers want to do the right thing and today we are giving them the tools to do so. These changes ensure better rules and de-escalation training so that kids are properly supported during challenging times.

“I am thrilled to have worked with the parents of children who are cognitively diverse, disabled New Zealanders, and our government partners to get these changes over the line.”

The main changes achieved through amendment to the bill include:

  • Reverting the terminology that was in the bill from “physical force” to “physical restraint” (as exists in the current Education Act 1989).
  • The formulation reverting from permissive (“may … only if …”) to restrictive (“must not … unless …”).
  • Use of restraint only being used where there is imminent harm.
  • Authorised teachers and staff receiving de-escalation training.
  • Increased scope, so guidelines in s. 97 will now cover behaviour management.

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