I am so grateful for the VIP in NZ facebook group for keeping everyone informed regarding parliament and time frames for parliamentary submissions. They are also great at encouraging people to write to their MPs.

If you are interested in submitting your own letter, here is my draft based on their recent sample letter.

Letter to MPs regarding proposed changes to the law around phsyical restraing in education

28 June 2020

Tēnā koutou

Thank you for your collective work and efforts around  the Education and Training Bill and your ongoing commitment to making Aotearoa New Zealand's education system equitable, effective, inspiring, and positive for all. 

I am particularly concerned about Sections 95-97 of the Education and Training Bill, which relate to school staff using physical force on children.

Enabling school staff to use of physical force on children is contrary to how we as a society have been moving to protect children from violence. We know that restraint is already disproportionately used on Māori and disabled children, and what had been proposed opened the door to further harming this vulnerable group. 

Schools and kura should never be a place of trauma or violence for students nor teaching staff.    

The proposed law is concerning as written.  I understand a change to these sections will be put forward as a supplementary order paper.

Please consider maintaining the status quo in this SOP - by replacing the existing text in sections 95-97 with the text that is sections 139AC to 139AE in the Education Act.

This may not be the long term solution, but any rushed changes at this stage are likely to make the situation worse, not better, and invalidate the much needed guidelines on physical restraint that provide protection to children.

A long-term solution is needed - an appropriate approach from here would be to ask the Minister of Education and the Minster of Justice to convene a cross sector group to co-design a solution that works for all. 

This group should as a minimum involve representatives of parents/whānau/carers, teachers, the disability community, Māori and children and young people. Professionals with specialised knowledge and insights regarding why behaviour can sometimes escalate in schools need to be including speech-language therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, advisors for the deaf, etc. 

For example, as a speech-language therapist I know of how important the concept of communication accessibility is to meeting our legal and moral obligations when it comes to education, particularly for students with speech-language-communication disorders, hearing loss, visual impairments, and other learning support needs.

If we empower our young people to reach their communication potential (and that all educators have the skills and support they need to teach and communicate with students with communication difficulties), the need for physical restraint could be dramatically reduced and in many cases completely avoided.

This would require that universal provision of augmentative communication supports, assistive technology, pre-service training, ongoing professional development, and access to speech - language therapy support in sufficient dosage be available in all schools.

For more detail, I direct you to the NZSTA submission regarding this bill.

Ngā mihi nui,

Shannon Hennig, PhD, CCC-SLP, MNZSTA
Speech-language Therapist
Neurodiversity and Autism Consultant

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