New Zealand children must be safe at school: without exception

New Zealand children must be safe at school: without exception

November 29, 2016

The Human Rights Commission says Government must ensure New Zealand children’s rights, safety and wellbeing are protected when they are at school: without exception.

Claims of serious abuse suffered by children at the Sara Cohen Special needs school in Dunedin are currently being investigated by the Ministry of Education, NZ Police and an independent investigator.

“We are extremely concerned at the latest allegations. Children with disabilities are some of our most vulnerable youngsters and yet we are hearing claims of abuse and seclusion that have no place in our civilised society.”

“All New Zealand children deserve to be safe and protected when they are at school: without exception,” said Disability Rights Commissioner Paul Gibson.

“Abuse has no place in any New Zealand school.  Students with special needs who are unable to communicate what has happened to their caregivers are particularly vulnerable and need our protection.”

Mr Gibson said the commission welcomed the Police investigation into this incident as all abuse claims needed to be treated seriously and the appropriate legal steps taken.

“If these claims are substantiated then this school’s culture has failed the very youngsters that it is charged with protecting and nurturing. We are awaiting with interest this schools next ERO report and have been assured that ERO officials are working to ensure review processes are monitoring the rights and wellbeing of disabled children," said Mr Gibson. 

"We welcome the proposed law change to ban seclusion in New Zealand schools."

Mr Gibson confirmed the Commission has welcomed  recent opportunity to work with the Ministry of Education, families and disabled people as well as education sector stakeholders to help make New Zealand’s education system more inclusive for students living with disabilities.

Human Rights Commission

The Commission works for a free, fair, safe and just New Zealand, where diversity is valued and human dignity and rights are respected.