Teachers get powers to use reasonable force on kids

A Bill giving secondary school teachers the power to use “reasonable force” on students was passed into law recently despite public opposition. 

The Education Amendment Bill 2019 was passed in the last Parliament session last month. 

The Bill amended section 23 of the Education Act to allow the use of force by a secondary school teacher on a child, if the force is used in reasonable circumstances, including but not limited to preventing or minimising harm to the child. 

Minister of Education Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti, said training workshops will be conducted to ensure teachers are well versed with the law and how it is implemented in schools. 

“As stated before – this law aims to protect the students and the teachers – also the educators understand that there is a fine line between reasonable force and assault." 

“They will be prosecuted to the extent of the law if they are in violation, and we will not allow any teacher who will utilize this tool to their personal advantage as we will not have it." 

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“The teachers have been warned there are limitations and it is reasonable force and not corporal punishment,” he said.  

The new law also bans the teacher from using an object to any secondary school teacher when imposing force on a child as this is an offense under the Crimes Act 2013. It also amended the compulsory school age from 4-16. The school compulsory age was previously 5-16. 

Furthermore, the new law prohibits the use of alcohol, narcotics and tobacco for teachers and studying during school hours or any school organized activity. 

The Office of the Ombudsman appealed to the Parliament last year to defer putting the bill to the vote until the Parliament and the Government have had the full opportunity to consider the Inquiry Report and its recommendations, which will be launched early next month. The Ombudsman made their submission to the Parliamentary Social Committee, in its capacity as the country’s national human rights institution. 

Ombudsman Maiava Iulai Toma stressed to the Members of Parliament that the ultimate responsibility to protect the children fell on the State. 

“However, it is also everyone’s responsibility and obligation to ensure that our children are protected from any form of violence. There has been an increasing number of teachers being brought before the courts because of assault,” he said.

Last year when the amendments were proposed, the Samoa Victim Support Group opposed the bill, saying it will expose children to violence from teachers. 

Supreme Court Justice Vui Clarence Nelson also described the Government’s decision to allow teachers to use “reasonable force” in schools as a step backward for Samoa.

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