December 19, 2014

Schools to look into undercover bully-watch

Schools to look into undercover bully-watch

Children’s aggressive behaviour will be monitored and measured in all of the nation’s 2370 schools, if a new government proposal to curb the growing incidence of bullying goes ahead.

The plan is still in the early stages, but it is understood that the Ministry of Education, police and the Children’s Commissioner will seek tenders for a system to monitor aggression and bullying in every school.

The suggestion comes after Children’s Commissioner Dr John Angus last week issued a new guide – called “Responsive Schools” – on how to combat increasing levels of physical, verbal, emotional and technological bullying. Among the recommended techniques is a system that recruits students to secretly work “undercover” in their school, alongside a teacher, to fight bullying.

The government has already started a $45 million campaign to bring schoolyard misbehaviour under control. The “Positive Behaviour for Learning Action Plan” includes parenting programmes for 12,000 parents, specific training for 5000 teachers of children aged three to eight, and long-term help programmes for 400 secondary and intermediate schools with the worst behaviour problems.

But the Sunday Star-Times has learned that another tool, to monitor violence and students’ fears in school, is being planned. Angus said the new scheme would allow teachers and parents to “understand the social climate in their school”.

Education Minister Anne Tolley confirmed work was under way on the scheme. It was being put together by the Ministry of Education, police and the Children’s Commissioner.

It is understood the new tool will work like a student survey, where pupils report regularly on how comfortable and safe they are at school. The data will be collected so that school leaders can quickly identify a deterioration in a school’s climate and spot problem areas.

Similar surveys have been carried out in the past by groups such as the New Zealand Council for Educational Research but only in a one-off, snapshot format. The new tool would eventually work in every school, all of the time.

When victims felt safe reporting incidents, and where there was systematic gathering of information on the frequency of bullying, programmes were more likely to succeed, Tolley said.

Angus’ “Responsive Schools” report lists scores of different anti-bullying programmes in use around New Zealand but warns that whichever one a school chooses, a community-wide change of culture must go along with it.

Among the anti-bullying techniques commended in the report is one where students work “undercover” to cut bullying. Three or four pupils who are neither victims nor bullies are asked to join an “undercover team” along with one or two bullies.

Teachers, the victim of the bullies, and the other team members know of its existence, but no one else does. The team comes up with a plan together to help the victim and progress is communicated to the teacher regularly – often via email.

The approach, pioneered at Auckland’s Rosehill College, is commended in the report. “The sense of intrigue makes the setting up of the undercover team into a playful approach,” it says.

Principal of Auckland’s Papatoetoe High School, Peter Gall, said the majority of schools would have some sort of anti-bullying programme in place by now. “It’s a matter of treating every situation seriously. You have to, because if you don’t it can come back to bite you.”

Some people thought bullies would grow out of it and that some children were just “life’s victims” but that was nonsense, he said. “It’s all very well until it’s your child that’s bullied – then things change quite rapidly.”

By JOHN HARTEVELT – Sunday Star Times

Read this article here:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/3570417/Schools-to-look-into-undercover-bully-watch

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Time Magazine covers the Romeike story: How German Homeschoolers Won Asylum in the U.S.

How German Homeschoolers Won Asylum in the U.S.

By Tristana Moore / Berlin Monday, Feb. 01, 2010

Uwe Romeike and his wife Hannelore work with their children at home in Morristown, Tenn.

Wade Payne / AP

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are not like other asylum seekers, people fleeing war or torture in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia. They’re music teachers from a village in southern Germany. And yet, in what appears to be the first case of its kind, the couple and their five children were granted asylum in the U.S. last week by an immigration judge who ruled that they had a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their home country for engaging in what has become a popular albeit somewhat controversial American practice — homeschooling their children.

The Romeikes, who are Evangelical Christians, took their three eldest children out of school in the town of Bissingen in 2006 because they were concerned about the impact the government-approved curriculum and the public-school environment would have on their social development. “Over the past 10 to 20 years, the curriculum in public schools in Germany has been more and more against Christian values, and my eldest children were having problems with violence, bullying and peer pressure. It’s important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught,” Uwe Romeike said in a statement provided by the couple’s attorney, Michael Donnelly of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

But here’s the problem: in Germany it’s compulsory for children to attend school, and the Romeikes soon found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Local authorities slapped the couple with a $10,000 fine, and police even took their children to school when the Romeikes refused to send them. Fearing that they could lose custody of their kids or even be put in jail, the Romeikes fled to the U.S. in 2008, looking for a community where they could educate their kids as they saw fit.

That’s exactly what they found in Morristown, Tenn., a town of about 27,000 deep in the Bible Belt. Donnelly says the Romeikes flourished in the environment, becoming “very disciplined” teachers tackling subjects like math, history and social science with the help of textbooks and other teaching materials, all in accordance with state law. The couple also joined a local group that organizes activities and field trips for homeschooled children in the area. Once they were settled in their new community, they applied for asylum in the U.S., claiming they’d be persecuted if they were sent back to Germany…

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1958059,00.html

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From HSLDA: Court Upholds State-Sponsored “Kidnapping” of Homeschooled Boy

Home School Legal Defense Association--25 Years of Serving the Homeschool Community
Quote from HSLDA article:

“We had hoped that the appeals court would return Dominic to his family. Since they are not, we believe it is critical all freedom-loving people respond to this outrageous decision.”

Court Upholds State-Sponsored “Kidnapping” of Homeschooled Boy

As most people count their blessings and prepare to enjoy Christmas with family, many others face serious struggles. Among these is the Swedish family of Annie and Christer Johansson whose only child, 7-year-old Dominic Johansson, was “kidnapped” by Swedish authorities in June of this year as the family was on a plane leaving the country for a new life and home in India. Annie Johansson is from India where her entire family lives.

Your Help Needed

Please contact Swedish officials on behalf of the Johansson family. We also ask that you keep the Johansson family in your prayers during this incredible trial they are facing.

Contact Information

The social workers
sofi.rosenqvist@gotland.se
caroline.palmqvist@gotland.se

The social workers’ supervisors
kristina.djerf@gotland.se
marika.gardell@gotland.se

National officials

Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt
Telephone: +46 8 405 10 00
Mailing Address: Rosenbad 4, SE-103 33 Stockholm

Minister Maria Larsson
Ministry for Elderly Care and Public Health, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs
Telephone +46 8 405 10 00
Fax +46 8 723 11 91
Mail Address: Fredsgatan 8; SE-103 33 Stockholm

To email the officials above visit the webpage: http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/2052

Local politicians and government leaders
Brittmarie.Fagerlund@lansstyrelsen.se
gustaf.hoffstedt@gotland.se
eva.nypelius@gotland.se
lars.thomsson@gotland.se
lena.celion@gotland.se
gotlands.kommun@gotland.se

Indian Ambassador to Sweden
ambassador@indianembassy.se

Australia Contact details:

See below

New Zealand Contact details:

See below

The Johanssons’ lives suddenly changed, and a nightmare ensued as police officers took Dominic off the plane at the orders of local social workers. They didn’t have a warrant, and they didn’t charge the Johanssons with any crime. Their reasoning? Dominic had been homeschooled, and the authorities wanted to make sure he was receiving an education.

After some testing by Swedish authorities, it was discovered that Dominic was only slightly behind in some subjects, but that he had been making academic progress. The family had been refused school materials by their local school when they had asked for them last year. As a homeschooling family, the Johanssons lean towards unschooling, profess the Christian faith, and try to live close to nature. Mr. and Mrs. Johannson had made plans to move to India to work with several orphanages to help them to live simply and economically. Although their lifestyle is out of the ordinary to Swedish officials, nothing in their approach to family life justified such a radical state intervention. In addition to living simply, the Johanssons exercised their legal rights to opt out of vaccinations for their son as well as only taking him to the doctor when he was sick, also reasons cited by the court to allow Swedish social services to retain custody of Dominic.

Swedish press has reported that senior police officials in Sweden have criticized local police and social workers for their sensational actions. Press reports also suggest that the local social services may be caught in a trap of their own making. They must continue with their course of action or otherwise admit that they have disgracefully ruined a family and traumatized a child. Some Swedish newspapers also report that the pride and stereotyping exhibited by social workers in this case imply they are out to get this family. According to letters obtained by HSLDA, the most recent decision of the local social workers is that they will not be allowing Annie and Christer to visit with Dominic until after New Year’s Day. And then they will be permitted one-hour visits every fifth week.

Mr. Johansson expressed deep concern about the state of his wife. “Annie cannot even talk right now. We are in total shock. We had hoped the court would return our son. We have been and remain willing to cooperate with social services, but they keep telling us we are not capable of caring for our son. This is not true. We have taken care of Dominic. While we may do things differently than most Swedes, we have not broken any laws and we have not harmed our son. We decided as a family that we wanted to move to India where we could be near my wife’s family. But the government has taken over my family, and now we are living in a nightmare. I fear for the life of my wife under this torture and for the well being of my son who has only been allowed to see his parents for a few hours since he was taken. The government is alienating my son from me, and I am powerless to do anything.”

The Swedish press has reported that the court admits the family has taken care of Dominic as they thought best, but insists the government’s plan is better.

In its opinion the court noted that Dominic had some untreated cavities and had not been vaccinated. The court also said that because Dominic had not been in school he had been “socially isolated.” This, the court said, demonstrated that the parents were not aware of the impact their decision to homeschool would have on Dominic’s future development and opportunities. Social workers and the court have mentioned the psychiatric condition of Mr. and Mrs. Johansson. However, Mr. Johansson vehemently denies any such mental problems.

“I have had a mental check with a psychiatrist who has given me a clean bill of health,” says Christer Johansson. “My poor wife, on the other hand, has been absolutely traumatized by this kidnapping. She is in a deep depression and has been hospitalized on several occasions. Is it any wonder? Our only child has been stolen from us and we have only been permitted to see him a few times since he was taken.”

A former Swedish social worker who spoke with HSLDA anonymously severely criticized how current social workers are treating the Johanssons.

This case is an absolute outrage,” the former social worker said. “From the taking of the child off a plane by uniformed police officers to the absurd visitation schedule and now the complete cessation of visits. The social workers in this case are letting their pride interfere with the best interests of this little boy. In Sweden the socialist mindset of the government is that it knows what’s best for kids—better than their own parents. And in the case where a family, like the Johanssons, may do things that are different, the government intervenes.”

The court opinion also noted that Dominic had not been to the normal child care facilities and to school.

The social worker continued, “What is normal? In whose opinion? Why should the government get to make this decision? The boy is being taken care of and not being harmed. The family had decided to move to India where the mother is from. What is wrong with this?”

Now that attempts to renew contact with local social workers have been rebuffed, the Johanssons are feeling especially frustrated.

“We had hoped to have a meeting with the local board to provide new information,” says Christer Johansson. “But since our hearing before an appeals judge a few weeks ago they have told us that we can no longer see our son. They have said that the visits are traumatic for him. Is it any wonder? The poor boy has been kidnapped from his parents and is being forced to live with other people. No wonder it’s hard for him after the visits with us. He wants to come home but is being held against his will and our will by the government.”.

Roger Kiska, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney based in Europe, noted that this kind of behavior was shocking but sadly not without precedent. Kiska has been following the case and has sent several letters expressing concern over the incident.

“What you have here is a socialist country trying to create a cookie cutter kid,” Kiska said. “This family is a little different from the average Swedish family. There are so few homeschoolers in the country that this, along with their issues, has caused the social services agency to take the child in order to coerce changes from the family. Unfortunately,  in Europe this kind of thing happens too often where social workers take a child and then just keep him. The parents in these cases are really powerless since the system is so one-sided.”

Michael Donnelly, director of international affairs for HSLDA, expressed indignation at the court decision.

We had hoped that the appeals court would return Dominic to his family. Since they are not, we believe it is critical all freedom-loving people respond to this outrageous decision.”

Donnelly continued, “HSLDA is gravely concerned about this case as it represents what can happen to other families who might wish to homeschool their children. Furthermore, in response to inquiries from HSLDA, Swedish authorities have cited the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to explain and defend their actions. If the U.S. were to ever ratify this treaty, then state-sponsored kidnapping could occur here. Every homeschooler would be at risk. Such treatment of families and children is inhumane and inconsistent with a reasonable understanding of basic human rights. Therefore, we are asking our members to contact Swedish officials asking them to return Dominic Johansson to his family.”

Keep an eye on the HSLDA website:

http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Sweden/200912220.asp

For those in Australia and New Zealand:

Please use the emails and website addresses for the Swedish people to email and send letters to.

We can also send emails to the Swedish  Consulates in Australia and New Zealand

Canberra

New Zealand contact details:

http://www.swedenabroad.com/Page____21473.aspx

Australia Contact details:

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Porno gang’ warning at school

Porno gang’ warning at school

By CATHERINE WOULFE – Sunday Star Times

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/2838214/Porno-gang-warning-at-school

Six teachers at an Auckland school have been caught with inappropriate emails on their school computers.

Outraged insiders have dubbed the group a “porno gang”, and say authorities are covering up a scandal.

The school is Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate (SEHC) in Otara, Manukau, a decile-one state school with a roll of 548, and about 50 staff. It is not known which teachers were involved and school commissioner Gail Thomson refused to give details about the emails, saying only that they contained images and text “inappropriate for a school”.

Five teachers were found out last year during a routine sweep of the school’s computer system. The sixth was picked up this year during an audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Thomson said five of the teachers were still working at the school, but were on final written warnings and would be fired if they reoffended. A computer sweep early this year revealed one of the teachers caught in the first check had reoffended; that person resigned and left the school that day, and Thomson said “appropriate authorities” were informed.

Without access to school records, she could not say yesterday whether a complaint was made to the watchdog body, the Teachers Council. The council’s 2009 decisions are not yet public but decisions between 2006 and 2008 show it has little sympathy for teachers looking at pornography on school or even home computers. It has stripped six teachers of their registrations in that time, forced one to work under strict conditions and given another a formal warning. The council is powerless to investigate a teacher, or ban them from the classroom, unless a complaint is made by an employer or the teacher reports a conviction.

The SEHC incidents emerged last week when the Sunday Star-Times received an anonymous letter from authors who said they could not reveal themselves for fear of dismissal. It said: “The Ministry of Education [and] Education Review Office [ERO]… are involved in a `cover-up’ which defies belief.

“There is a porno gang of five guys at SEHC who have collected, composed and distributed serious porn on their school computers. Some pupils have seen some of it and most staff are aware of it. We wrote to the commissioner three times urging appropriate action, to no avail. We then wrote to the Ministry and ERO. Still no action. Why?”

Thomson said the “cowardly” letter-writers were trying to undermine positive work at the collegiate. There was a small volume of problematic emails, and most were sent to teachers from outside the school. Some emails had been “recirculated”, but she had no evidence any pupils had seen them.

The emails she had seen were “not at the highest level of concern, but inappropriate for a school”.

The former board of trustees dealt with the first five teachers caught, after seeking advice from the secondary teachers’ union and the School Trustees Association. In January the education minister sacked that board and replaced them with Thomson, following an ERO report raising serious concerns about student safety.

Thomson handled the teacher who reoffended, and the sixth teacher who was caught during the audit this year. She said the audit revealed a “historical matter”, but that teacher’s email use had been clean for the past two years.

All staff and pupils were subject to a computer use agreement, Thomson said.

The Ministry of Education refused to comment last week. Principal Karen Douglas, and other staff at the school, were not permitted to speak to media.

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Five suspended after violent attack

More weapons used in school fights

LATEST: An Auckland secondary school today suspended five students after an attack on a pupil at another school.

The victim, a 14-year-old boy, was beaten up at Lynfield College on Monday by a group armed with a softball bat.

Lynfield College yesterday suspended one of its own students, who led the group of eight teenagers to the classroom where the incident took place.

Nearby Mt Roskill Grammar School today said five of its students had been suspended as a result of the assault.

The five would appear before the school’s board of trustees next week, principal Greg Watson said in a statement.

The board would decide whether the boys would be excluded or allowed back to school under certain conditions.

All eight in the group are also being dealt with by police, although police have said they will not face criminal charges.

Police are also investigating an incident in Porirua in which about 20 boys, believed to be from Mana College, went to Bishop Viard College and threatened students on the rugby field.

They were believed to be armed with a baseball bat.

Meanwhile, Secondary Schools Principals Association president Peter Gall said anecdotal evidence of an increase in school-related incidents involving weapons was a cause of real concern.

“It could be a baseball bat, a cricket wicket, an iron bar, a hammer, a screwdriver,” he said.

Mr Gall, principal of Papatoetoe High School in south Auckland, said people carrying such items, when questioned, would reply that they did so for their own protection.

“Well, that’s nonsense,” he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, they don’t need that sort of protection – ever.”

Mr Gall said his own school had been troubled by a youth gang that was “obviously working in a planned and co-ordinated way” in targeting students on their way home.

“They had hammers and stuff, and they were pinching cellphones off kids,” he said.

“We got some good information to the police and they made four arrests and that cleaned that up pretty quickly, but the fact that it happened is a real concern.”

He said the issue was a difficult one for schools to address and they had to be “incredibly security conscious”.

Staff had to be active while on duty and management relied on students to pass on any information about unusual activity.

- NZPA

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