Minister of Education, Sports and Culture Loau Keneti Sio has issued a stern warning to teachers regarding the proposed bill that will allow the use of reasonable force in schools.
“There is a fine line between reasonable force and assault,” he said, while making it clear that it is not corporal punishment.
His comments come after concerns were raised relating to a policy to allow the use of reasonable force by a secondary school teacher on a child, in a reasonable circumstance.
“However this does not mean the teacher can assault the student. This proposed measure is for the teacher’s protection and MESC does not tolerate assaulting of students. The law is clear under the Crimes Act that assault is assault,” said Loau.
He made it clear there are logical reasons for the move by the M.E.S.C. to propose such laws.
“We are amending section 23 to allow the use of reasonable force by a secondary school teacher on a child, if the force is used in a reasonable circumstance (including but not limited to preventing or minimizing harm to the child and so forth).
He gave the assurance that teachers have been warned that there is a big difference between assault and necessary force.
“I understand there are mixed concerns raised in regards to teachers using ‘reasonable force’ on students and I also understand the term ‘reasonable’ should be specified under the law. However, when looking at the measure and levelling to what has occurred recently, the term ‘reasonable’ is sufficient. Recently a teacher was criminally charged for assaulting a student, under the Crimes Act. The case had since been dismissed by the court, given that the force was necessary. The teacher tried to break up a fight, but the students turned around and assaulted the teacher and in self defence, the teacher in turn was criminally charged. Again this proposed measure is for the protection of the teachers, but they have been warned there is a fine line between assault and necessary force under certain circumstances.”
In February this year Senior Sergeant Samia Iosua Samia cautioned teachers saying ‘assault is assault’ and there is no other way to look at it.
“The police do not tolerate nor condone this type of behavior against our children,” he said when addressing principals and teachers at a conference.
“This practice is prohibited under the Crimes Act. Although this was the general practice in the past where teachers hit students, this is now disallowed under the law. Under the Crimes Act assault it is defined as touching, raping, hitting, collaring, slapping, pushing, throwing an object and kicking.”
The policeman said teachers should find other methods of disciplining students and have special skills such as ‘patience and love’ for students.