Posts Tagged ‘education’

TEDxChristchurch: Curiouser and Curiouser

Posted in Life, New Zealand, Technology on October 19th, 2013 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Hi. I was at TEDxChristchurch today. If you couldn’t make it, The Press was live streaming the day on their website, and videos will be up on TEDxChristchurch’s website soon. Coming to TEDx each year is like watching a child grow up because the quality of the event gets better every year – like design of the slides introducing speakers, audience participation methods, and the name tag/programme.

TEDx Christchurch 2013 lanyards USB music

Here’s why you need to watch the videos of the talks when they go online… (And also because I’ve missed bits, I’ve misinterpreted and I’ve probably misquoted a little.)

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TEDxEQChCh 2012

Posted in New Zealand on September 1st, 2012 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

 

TEDxEQChCh 2012 volunteers

 

TEDxEQChCh was streaming live all day here.

Exploration

Rakihia Tau – Mihi

Highly Flammable – Performers

Highly Flammable

Roger Sutton – Opening remarks

Tom Hooper - CEO, Canterbury Development Corporation

The Kiwi mantra of ‘give it a go’ is far more valuable than we give it credit. Christchurch might not be attractive to the risk-adverse at the moment, but that’s alright. The job right now is to attract and retain young people, and make sure that talented young people are going to want to come here.

Vibeke Linde-Strandby – Architect

“Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes and even strategy.” – Tim Brown

Arlanda Stad is a business park concept with a soul.

“This is the first time I’ve tried to explain architectural concepts without slides.”

 John Hunter – Recorded TED talk

Watch the talk here.

John Hunter puts all the problems of the world on a 4′x5′ plywood board — and lets his 4th-graders solve them. At TED2011, he explains how his World Peace Game engages schoolkids, and why the complex lessons it teaches — spontaneous, and always surprising — go further than classroom lectures can.

John was put in charge of a gifted education programme. His first question was “What do I do?” the response was “What do you want to do?”.

The answer was the World Peace Game that features the UN, arms dealers, saboteurs and weather goddesses.

John admits to his students “I don’t know the answers.”

The documentary film John talks about is showing at the Hollywood Cinema in Christchurch, details will be up on the TEDxEQChCh website.

Jamie Fitzgerald – Adventurer, presenter on First Crossings

“For 42 hours we did not move anywhere.”

“So we haven’t moved anywhere and we’re winning the race.”

Sometimes when you think you’re making the least progress you’re actually making the most.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” - Cheshire Cat, Alice in Wonderland

Experiential learning.

They asked what are the insights from other people’s success that we can apply tomorrow?

Celebrating milestones

We only ever focussed on that next milestone and we celebrated it.

“Why do I push my boundaries? If I let an opportunity pass I might be letting myself down.”

Ryan Reynolds - Chief Evangelist, Life In Vacant Spaces

We live in a culture of permits.

Anything a bit out of the ordinary is forbidden unless we get special permission.

We internalize this and close ourselves off.

There is a brief time in adolescence where we act as if anything is allowed unless strictly specified as forbidden.

Approach any rule asking what does it allow?

The Book Exchange Fridge Gapfiller project: people asked “Who’s going to be locking the fridge every night?”

A permanent solution might have been too daunting.

If people will not try things without permission, you have to make it easy to get a permit, Life in Vacant Spaces deals with barriers.

It’s easy to try something when it’s temporary.

What if you could try out an idea for free for 30 days?

Festival of Transitional Architecture.

“We’re totally unresourced and in over our heads, but everyone should get in over their heads right now.”

The caption of one of the projects featured in Ryan’s slides: “Needs funding – let’s talk :)”

The opposite of a permit is an invitation.

We want to foster a creative culture of creators and doers.

Inspiration

Kiel Johnson – Artist

A good idea only comes when working on a bad idea.

Lots of slides with awesome projects Kiel has worked on.

Made a printing press: “I am the press, I have the power.”

Made a survival vest for an emergency “I’m living in Los Angeles so when we fall into the ocean…”

“Get started on whatever you do… and good things will happen.”

“I do outreach… which is basically making more people like me.”

Two words: robot party.

Jane Henley – CEO, World Building Council

Green in a generation.

What we’ve created now is a set of disconnects and it’s difficult to realize visions in this environment.

“I wonder how long their drive to work is everyday.” Jane on a photo of a suburban cul-de-sac.

Market uptake is increasing in speed with each new technology.

We use labels to understand the plethora of information available to us. Performance ratings – energy, water, fuel efficiency ratings on appliances and vehicles.

Growing vegetables, community involvement, walking, closeness to family – valuable things from the past that need to be brought back.

Consumption to co-sumption

Good ideas: walking school bus, AirBNB – renting a room in your house out, carpooling (10 weddings have happened because of connections made through carpooling.com).

Community collaboration
Say a neighbourhood wants green energy – these community collaborators think up a solution.

We can look at Skype and the NZ Insulation Programme and see values becoming easier to achieve and becoming more important – connecting with friends overseas, having a warm home…

“When I was at school working together was called cheating.”

Twitter @worldgbc.

Donald Sadoway – Recorded TED talk

Watch the talk here.

What’s the key to using alternative energy, like solar and wind? Storage — so we can have power on tap even when the sun’s not out and the wind’s not blowing. In this accessible, inspiring talk, Donald Sadoway takes to the blackboard to show us the future of large-scale batteries that store renewable energy. As he says: “We need to think about the problem differently. We need to think big. We need to think cheap.”

Making a liquid battery to solve the strain on power sources.

“If you want to make something dirt cheap, make it out of dirt.”

“One of the greatest benefits of being a professor? Coloured chalk.”

“David’s young, smart, and wants a PhD.”

Abbas Nazari – Student, Former Afghan Refugee

Don’t think I could do his talk justice. Watch the video when it’s posted.

Wil McLellan – Founder, EPIC

Disruptive collaboration, the journey of getting EPIC built.

“Not feeling super positive.” – Wil on the day after the earthquake.

“We we got no money, we got no land, we got no property development experience.” But that didn’t hold them back.

“You’re pretty good at art… cough Lord Of The Rings” Wil to one of the most creative businesses in New Zealand, WETA.

Challenge convention, think outside the box.

Activation

Jed, Hera with Happiness Stan – Music

Jade Temepara – Founder, Hand Over A Hundy

Think about food differently.

Food has changed through generations ending up with things with no nutritional value.

A few days after the February quake there was no food in a supermarket near Jade and there wasn’t going to be for a week. “What am I going to do to make sure I have enough to sustain my own family” if food wasn’t available anywhere for a period of time?

Start a food revolution.

Hand Over A Hundy gifts $100 to families to start a vegetable garden.

Handing down skills and knowledge through generations – most of the mentors assigned to families are older people.

Do you have your own food system? Are you passing down valuable skills to your kids?
Are you teaching your children where real food comes from?

Pam Warhurst – Recorded TED talk

Watch the talk here.

What should a community do with its unused land? Plant food, of course. With energy and humor, Pam Warhurst tells at the TEDSalon the story of how she and a growing team of volunteers came together to turn plots of unused land into communal vegetable gardens, and to change the narrative of food in their community.

Propaganda gardening.

“We did not write a report, we did not ask for permission.”

Food is a common language.

“And we’ve done it all without a flipping strategy document.”

“I’ve seen the power of small actions and it’s awesome.”

“And for some reason I can’t comprehend it’s surrounded by prickly plants.”

“And there’s some people who don’t know what a vegetable looks like if it’s not in plastic with a label.”

“If you eat, you’re in.”

Ernesto Sirolli – Founder, Sirolli Institute

“We paid them to come… and sometimes they showed up.”

“Instead of asking ‘why aren’t you growing anything?’ we just said ‘thank God we’re here’.”

“If people don’t want to be helped, leave them alone.” It’s about respect.

“Let me tell you a secret. There is a problem with community meetings. Entrepreneurs don’t come.”

“How do you do that?” “I do something very, very difficult. I shut up.”

Entrepreneurs want confidentiality, dedication and for you to realize that a successful business needs:

A fantastic product, marketing and financial management.

None of the successful companies started with one. Study Richard Branson’s book – the first two pages. He doesn’t mention I. He says We 32 times.

George Parker – Actor

George talked about a performance he was involved in about the Canterbury earthquakes.

“We were used to working in unconventional spaces.”

Joshua Iosefo – Poet

An amazing live performance on invisible borders and being brown.

Aspiration

Ian Taylor – Managing Director, Animation Research Ltd

Ian wowed everyone with his animations.

“While everything was turning to crap here, people of that calibre were thinking about you.” Ian on getting help from big companies for his earthquake auction.

“Don’t see why not” attitude gets his staff around the world.

“Something special happened in Christchurch, grasp it.”

Sam Johnson – Founder, Student Volunteer Army

When we’re young we’re taught to value money, time, skills. Contribution is more important.

“Do you have any skills?” – A business to Sam after he asked how he could help after the earthquake.

“Why humans exist is to interact with each other.”

“In real life, strategy is actually very straightforward. Pick a general direction and implement like hell.”*

The Concert

The only way to get there is by doing four hours of volunteer work.

Bryan Stevenson – Recorded TED Talk

Watch the talk here.

In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

“There is power in identity.”

1/3 young black men in USA are in jail, prison, on probation or parole.

34% of black male population in Alabama have lost the right to vote permanently.

Rich and guilty are treated better than poor and innocent.

The death penalty question is really: “do we deserve to kill?”

1/9 on death row are innocent. In aviation we would never let an airline fly if one plane out of nine went down.

11 times more likely to get the death penalty if the victim is white opposed to black.

22 times more likely to get the death penalty if the defendant is black opposed to white.

Germany would never institute the death penalty – it would be impossible with their history to endorse the systematic killing of its citizens. But in the USA it’s fine to kill more black people than white on death row.

“That’s going to make you tired, tired, tired… that’s why you gotta be brave, brave, brave.” To Bryan on his justice initiatives.

The opposite of poverty is justice.

Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.

Alexandros Washburn – Urban Designer

“When you meet one kiwi, you meet 100.”

On seeing one of the towers on fire on 9/11: “And we were interested in this from a technical standpoint as architects because no one had died in a high-rise building that had sprinklers.” He thought that the plane close by was some sort of firefighting plane. It wasn’t.

9/11 was the first day of school for a lot of students (something I’d never heard before).

So many similarities to Christchurch: cellphones and most landlines weren’t working immediately afterwards, portable toilets, military stationed around the city, a no go zone, a mayoral election.

Improve the quality of public life by improving the quality of public space.

Urban planning

The smallest units matter.

If it’s worth remembering, it’s worth drawing.

How do you judge an effective public space? By the perspective of a pedestrian.

Alexandros drew an awesome diagram of a street with dimensions.

When you’re walking down the street, something should catch your attention every 10m.

Sewer catch basins can’t be moved when placed – it’s too expensive.

The fire department want specific things in specific places.

The Highline

“We had to think clearly, when there was high emotion.” After 9/11.

You have to hope for something greater tomorrow and you have to accept the fear that generates.

My hope for Christchurch video

Created by Becca MacGeorge.

Time’s up.

Fin.

Great day. Watch the talks when they get posted on the interwebs.

OIA Adventures: School Formals, Same-Sex Dates, And After Parties – The Meat

Posted in Law, New Zealand on February 29th, 2012 by Matt Taylor – 16 Comments

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

School ball

Last year I sent an Official Information Act request to all the state and integrated secondary schools in New Zealand that have year 12/13 students with a couple of questions about their school balls/formals. Many schools didn’t reply at all, and the Office of the Ombudsman is involved with those requests. Many schools didn’t have much experience with the OIA. And there’s a few things I could have done better.

Here’s what I said:

If you hold a school ball or formal could you please answer the following questions? Do you have a policy on same-sex dates? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy?

In the past, has the school banned same-sex dates from attending the school ball or formal? If so, could you please provide details?

Do you have a policy on parties before/after the school ball or formal? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy? [note that if schools interpreted this as a written policy, many will have responded with no policy when they do indeed have common practices and procedures]

And here’s the meat of the replies.

Same-sex dates

Darfield High is perhaps one of the more honest schools, and might not deserve to be in the same category as the other schools listed below. They admit that in the past same-sex partners weren’t permitted at their balls. This would have happened at other schools too.

Greymouth High School elect a king and queen. This probably happens at other schools too. Is it an inclusive practice?

‘Case by case basis’ is mentioned a lot in these replies. This doesn’t apply to opposite-sex dates that want to attend to the ball. Is it fair to subject same-sex dates to an additional process, just because of their sex?

Rejecting friends and mates of the same-sex as partners also came up. Are friends and mates of the opposite sex declined as dates? Is having to be gay, or having to prove that you’re gay, by signing something, or whatever, to take a same-sex date to a ball/formal acceptable?

Inviting sports teams to the formal/ball also came up as an excuse to treat same-sex couples differently. I wonder if the members of a mixed sports team attending the formal/ball would, as one schools says, “make a mockery out of the occasion”. I wonder how many times a same-sex sports team has attended the event at these schools. If it has happened, I wonder if they are being slightly over-dramatic regarding the negative effect it caused.

Christchurch Adventist School is the only school, out of those that actually replied, that flat-out says same-sex dates wouldn’t be permitted.

Campion College says they “generally [do not permit same-sex dates] due to a previous issue with vandalism”. I wonder if effectively banning same-sex dates is the best solution for this situation. I wonder how vandalism of a significant nature can occur during a supervised event.

Here’s what St Patrick’s College Wellington (the one that was in the news last year) said:

“Do you have a policy on same-sex dates?
No we do not.

Has the school banned same-sex dates in the past?
No as this has never arisen before.

Do you have a policy on parties before/after the school ball or formal?  No we do not.”

Wellington Girls College

  • “No we don’t have a policy on same sex dates. If girls are in a same sex relationship they can bring their partner but we deal with this on a case by case basis. No we haven’t banned a same sex partner – we have said no to a friend from another school who just wants to come along to go to the ball though.”
  • “No we don’t have a policy on parties before/after ball. We simply say to parents and girls we don’t support after ball parties and if we hear of them we tell the Police. Pre ball parties  – we ask parents to be vigilant.”

Sancta Maria College

  • “We do not have a policy on same sex dates although outside ‘partners’ cannot be “mates” of the same sex” “The students understand that all we are trying to avoid is a group of boys for example arranging to bring their Rugby Club team to the Ball by having them as ‘partners’. This is not the purpose of the Ball.”
  • “We do not have a policy but the school strongly discourages pre-ball and post-ball parties where alcohol is served.”

Darfield High School

  • No policy, same-sex dates not recently banned: “I have been at the school for 2 and a half years. I have been told that some years prior to this there was some issue with same sex dates.”
  • No policy on functions

St Thomas of Canterbury College

  • “Our students seem to have a wide circle of female friends  and there has been no demand or requests from our students beyond that to date. If a student wanted to bring a same sex relationship partner we would be happy to accommodate that on a case by case basis.” No response to my request to elaborate.
  • “Our school ball is a community model ie the majority of parents and staff attend so the function is 50% student 50% adult. In terms of pre ball and post ball functions we work together with our students and discuss the pros and cons of these and inherent problems as well as safe measures if hosting in the home. As our function starts quite early at 6.30pm, involves a dinner and ball and finishes at 1am, our students have chosen in recent years not to have formally arranged after parties at booked venues.”

Christchurch Adventist School

  • As a Christian Adventist school (“Special Character – and biblical same-sex dating is not accepted as part of the faith community”). Also as we have students from Years 0-13 and hence we don’t encourage any relationships of any kind. We are a small area school so monitoring and dealing with the issues are manageable.
  • No policy on functions

Campion College

  • “The College does not have a written policy on same sex partners but generally does not permit it due to a previous issue with vandalism created when a group of students brought their ‘mates’ from another school. We reserve the right to decline any partners from outside the College attending.” Me: “So that’s more to stop troublemakers who are coming as friends, not dates?” “That’s correct.”
  • Ball finishes at 1am to try to discourage after parties

Kavanagh College

  • No policy – “I would however draw the line at say, for example, half the 1st XI soccer boys (or netball girls or whomever) want to take the other half just to make a mockery out of the occasion.”
  • “Like most schools we would prefer they did not occur. The main issue for the Board and management of the college is safety. In the past we have written/communicated to parents and students giving them firm advice and guidelines about safety and the legal ramifications of under-age drinking, or running large scale pre or post events etc.  To date we have been fortunate that any events of this type, if they have occurred, have been well organised and managed by a wide group of parents.”

St Bede’s College

  • “I wouldn’t have a problem with it. However, it would have to be a senior management decision if the issue came up. As it hasn’t to date no policy has been made.”
  • No policy on functions

Tauranga Boys’ College

  • “We do not have a specific policy on same sex dates attending but treat each case as an individual situation. Last year we had two males from the college attend the ball together. I’m unaware of their sexual preferences as it wasn’t an issue in the decision being made.” “If the situation arises we will talk it through with those involved and then make a decision.”
  • “We discourage pre-balls and after-balls and reserve the right to cancel the ball if we are are aware of a gathering being planned involving significant numbers. We appeal to our parents to use their judgement and manage the situation sensibly. I have refered to this in my latest newsletter which will be available on our website in a couple of days. We start the ball at 6.30 with a formal meal for yr 13 students only and try to make the ball itself the main event of the evening for our students.”

School attitudes towards balls/formals

  • Martin Isberg from Wainuiomata High School points out that in every letter about their formal/ball they have sent out over the past few years, “press coverage after a couple of incidents in Auckland” has been included.
  • Breath testing and bag searching came up a bit, which is concerning from a civil rights standpoint.
  • In similar Big Brother fashion, Craighead Diocesan School requests a list of all the students attending before ball events.
  • Other schools mentioned making students not want to leave the event, or making it finish late so students wouldn’t have after parties.
  • Some schools have dinners and other events instead of balls/formals.
  • Thames High School notes that parents in conjunction with a student committee and community health providers have previously organised a controlled after ball with limits on alcohol, security, food, non-alcoholic drinks and transport being provided and attendance limited. But now it’s frowned upon by the police, and I assume the students run their own, less well supervised after parties.

General replies, with policies or comments

Albany Senior High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “If our Principal hears anything about an after ball party then the ball will be cancelled”

Alfriston College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “If your child does intend to attend any Pre-Ball function we ask that you ensure that no alcohol is consumed. The Police have made it quite clear that they will close down any organised After-Ball event.”
  • Attached – pdf

Aparima College

  • No policy on same-sex dates, “all applications for [outside] dates to our ball are treated equally”, application to bring date from outside school involves references from their school or employer/other non-related reputable adult
  • No involvement with functions, allows SADD (students against drunk driving) representatives to liaise with senior students to discuss safe options, responsible parents organize after ball (including buses, supervision and bouncers), local police make an appearance, never had any problems

Aranui High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “We take every step to ensure that intoxicated students are removed by security guards before entry to the venue of the formal.”

Aurora College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions – small school, no problems in past with after functions

Awatapu College

  • No written policy on same-sex dates,  “students are free to bring a partner of their choice”
  • No written policy on functions, reserves the right to reject partners based on behavioral history. “Students under the influence of drugs or alcohol will not be admitted to the ball and parents will be contacted to come and collect them.  We have tight security and supervision, which includes a search prior to entry, in addition to the filter of the principal’s reception line.” “If we hear of any large scale organised parties, we inform the police.”

Bayfield High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions, “but we do have policies around alcohol and the school. You have not requested those.” Not encouraged, not banned, schools name cannot be used. Must arrive at formal sober. Before ball parties have never been an issue.

Cashmere High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “We ask for information about them but send a letter to all parents explaining that we are not involved in these in any way.”

Central Hawkes Bay College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Urge students to be sensible, generally have good co-operation from students and wider community

Coastal Taranaki School

  • No policy on same-sex couples
  • “Parties (if involving [drugs and alcohol]) are not sanctioned by the Board”

Craighead Diocesan School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Letter to students/parents ask them to let the school know if they’re planning on holding a before formal event. Asks for list of students attending. Recommends limits on alcohol. Parents and students sign form stating that there will be no after formal functions.
  • Attached – copied from email – pdf

Cullinane College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “If we become aware of any mass gatherings we contact the Police”

Edgewater College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “They all know that if they turn up intoxicated they will be refused entry. We employ security to assist and bags are checked prior to entry. If alcohol was found they would be sent home. Years ago students did run an organised after ball that went off without problems. The following year it fell through and didn’t happen and since that time there has never been an organised after ball in the sense of organised venue, alcohol via the entry ticket, security guards organised or parent organised.”

Epsom Girls’ Grammar School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Police talk to students about legal issues around pre and after ball parties. Forward information to families from the police and council regarding these events.

Fairfield College

  • No policies
  • Attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Freyberg High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “An arranged after ball function would put the ball at risk of being cancelled”

Greymouth High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “Can breath test on entry”
  • Attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Hamilton Boys’ High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “The School follows a practice of discussing each year with senior students whether or not a school ball will be held and, if so, what arrangements or conditions will apply, including such topics as who will be invited and any associated events”

Hamilton Girls’ High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Can breath test on entry

Hurunui College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “We often have breath testing before entry. We are not obliged to hold a ball and the health and safety of our students is paramount.  We do not want to have students in car smashjes or suffereing alcohol poisoning after a school organised event.”

Hutt Valley High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • All students breath tested and bags checked, no level of alcohol is permitted, parents asked not to hold pre-ball events
  • Require 85% attendance to attend the ball, students may not leave until 30 minutes before the ball ends

John Paul II High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • May be breath tested
  • Attached – pdf, attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Kamo High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates, “the rules of justice and equity apply to everyone”
  • No policy on functions, no events sanctioned by school

Kelston Girls’ College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions
  • Expectations covered by letter sent to parents

Lincoln High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions
  • One approved alcohol-free after ball is organized by youth workers

Macleans College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • We have made a ruling that if there is a post-ball party planned the ball will be cancelled.

Mana College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • EXpect students to arrive and leave sober

Maniototo Area School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Any after party is not a school function.

Manurewa High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Search students on entry to ball venue “as required by the venue” and have breath testing there to be used if necessary. School Police Constable attends and the Police are notified of the event

Matamata College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Tickets not allowed to be sold at school, reserve the right to breath test at the ball

Middleton Grange School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Letter to parents/students suggests alcohol not be available at post-formal functions, along with other recommendations around supervision. – Pupils are not to be involved in pre-functions where alcohol is available. The school requests that parents provide vigilant oversight in this important matter and be consistent with this policy. Pupils will not be permitted entry if they do not abide by this request.
  • Attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Nelson College For Girls

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • We do however ask that pre ball parties are alcohol free.  This year we intend to breath test as students arrive. We expect that there will not be any after parties.  The school does not associate itself with any such event and would contemplate cancelling the formal if any were organised.

New Plymouth Girls’ High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “Small family gatherings in private homes with family and friends are permitted. Large pre-after ball events are not permitted. Our stance mirrors that of the police that is outlined in the letter they sent to schools. Gatherings planned in secret, sale of tickets, provision of alcohol to minors, buses to and from venues are deemed to be illegal gatherings.The police will be notified if any events of this nature come to our notice. We test any attendee at the ball that we suspect to be under the influence.”

Newlands College

  • No policy on same-sex dates, “queer students obviously have the same rights as any other students”. “We have peviously had students bring same-sex partners to the ball without any issue being made.”
  • No policy on functions

Opotiki College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Breath test all ball goers at door so there can be no drinking at pre-balls. Post-ball gatherings are registered with local police so they can keep an eye on.

Otaki College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions
  • Attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Otumoetai College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • All students breath tested on entry, if a student fails the test they can get picked up by their parents or wait in a secure area and get retested after an hour, after a second failure parents are contacted and disciplinary action occurs the next school day, Police are called if it is an outside partner

Papatoetoe High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “We provide local authorities with any information they request with regard to the timing of our ball, etc.”

Piopio College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “The Ball is being held on the assurance of the Student Council that no ‘after-ball’ function will take place.”

Queens High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions
  • Attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Raglan Area School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “Students have not these last two years organised formal parties either before or after and I have a request to extend the hours of the ball as they are not planning any other event this year either”

Rangiora High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Know they take place, give guidelines to parents, students not admitted entry if they are “tanked up”

Rangitoto College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • After balls effectively banned. “The College is organising the ball on condition that it is not followed by any large scale ‘After Ball’ function.  Should the College be informed of such an event then the Ball will be cancelled. If the event occurs subsequent to the Ball then school management would have to consider very carefully whether they would be prepared to run any school balls in the future.
  • Any student who is involved in the organisation of such an large scale after ball function will be considered by the school management to have undertaken an act of Gross Misconduct as defined by Section 14 (1) (a) of the Education Act and will have to face a Board disciplinary hearing.
  • We are happy with the idea of small functions after the Ball in private homes where parents take responsibility for supervising the safety of students.  If you are planning to have a group to your house after the Ball and would like to check whether it fits our criteria, please don’t hesitate to ring”

Rathkeale College

  • Runs ball with St Matthew’s Collegiate (Masterton)
  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions
  • “While some student leavers’ may gather pre-ball, this is not an issue as from about 4.00pm students are gathered at our schools for photographs etc and the ball commences at 6.00pm. After the ball most students and their parents stay in accommodation provided at the venue.  There is overwhelming parental control at the ball and after the ball.  It is a function that is not officially a school function.  It is organised by parents for their Year 13 sons and daughters who have actually left school, but the two principals have the say on how it managed.  The arrangement works very well for our schools.”

Reefton Area School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • We actively discourage pre-ball post-ball parties and promote that position widely in the community. It doesn’t stop it happening mainly because parents arrange them.

Reporoa College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy – “we do however have a practice of breathalysing upon entry to the ball”
  • Attached – pdf

Sacred Heart Girls’ College (N Plymouth)

  • No policy – “Cannot comment on past as i haven’t been here long enough”
  • “I issue a statement in a letter to ball going students that we will not tolerate after ball parties. If I hear of one I reserve the right to cancel the ball.”

Selwyn College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy – supports parents concern re pre/post ball functions, reminds them that serving liquor to minors at any function would breach licensing arrangements and that functions should be supervised and have food available; don’t condone after ball functions either

Shirley Boys’ High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Visually check for influence of alcohol/drugs, no authority to ban after ball parties

Southland Boys’ High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • The students, parents and police hold an after ball function.  This is not a school event as such, but is managed by parents and the police with the support and co-operation of the school.  It is the only after ball event that is sanctioned by the school.  As part of the work we do with police and health workers, after ball activities and acceptable behaviours are negotiated with the students.  We have not had any issues with students, parents, police with regard to this

St Hildas Collegiate

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “SADD Committee organise a post formal function – it is not a school event and is run by SADD representatives and parents.  This event has been very successful and extremely well supervised.”

St John’s College (Hastings)

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “We do not allow after ball parties. Our statement to parents is that if we find out a large after ball party is being organised we will cancel the ball.”

St Mary’s College (Ponsonby)

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “We write in the letter to parents and students that the school does not approve of any pre-ball and after-ball parties.  Parents and students are required to sign the return slip in the letter to say they understand these are the conditions for the students to attend the ball.”

St Peter’s College (Palmerston North)

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Senior charity evening instead of ball – “pre and after-functions are NOT acceptable”
  • Attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Taita College

  • No policy on same-sex dates – in a typical year all date applications are approved
  • No policy on functions – no involvement
  • “Given the recent event we are in the process of preparing information for a policy which will be in place for any ball held from 2012.”

Takapuna Grammar School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • Actively discourage the holding of after-balls

Tauranga Girls’ College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “We have a contract signed by those attending that they will obey the TGC code of conduct while at the ball and that they will not organise or attend post ball events of the paid tickets / alcohol supplied / secret venue type.”

Tawa College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “A breathalyser will be present and students may be randomly tested to check that the specified boundaries with regard to alcohol have been respected.” “The Formal is the main event of the evening. We do not want to hear of large parties occurring either before the Formal, or after the Formal is over. Such parties, in our experience, bring trouble of one sort or another, reflect very badly on the school, and can cause considerable grief to parents if they get out of hand.”
  • Attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Te Awamutu College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions
  • Attached – pdf

Thames High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “We have told students of our intention to breath-test all students, with any students who return a positive test being denied entry to the Ball. We also intend to randomly test students during the course of the evening to guard against students ‘smuggling’ alcohol into the function. – there has been a Safe After-Ball Party. This has been organised by a student committee supported by parents and community health providers. This function was organised following Alcoholic Liquor Advisory Council (ALAC) guidelines, and included strict limits on the type and quantity of alcohol that students could take into the function, a high level of security being provided, entry restricted to students who had attended the Ball, food and non-alcoholic drinks being provided, and transport provided to and from the venue (so that no students were driving). Over the past two years the context for such functions has changed. Police no longer support this concept, particularly because it is now considered to breach the law in relation to students under the legal age being supplied with alcohol, and a place to consume alcohol.”
  • Attached – exported to pdf from .doc

Waiheke High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions. “Each year the local police are present at the start of the Ball and also pop in during the event.”

Wainuiomata High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “If we become aware of any large-scale organised function on the night, we will pass that information on to the Police.”

Waitaki Girls’ High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy on functions. “I am aware that there is an after formal function which parents and the police organise completely independent of this school.”

Wanganui Girls’ College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “Our ball is run as a private event off school site by senior students and their parents and what they choose to do before or after the ball we consider their business. We advise parents and students that they should be cautious of arranging such events, but in the end, it is their business.”

Wellington East Girls’ College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “Students often attend pre ball functions at the homes of parents. The functions are alcohol  free events.”

Western Springs College

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • “If we receive information about the organisation of an after-ball event involving the illegal supply of alcohol, we will pass this on to the NZ Police. Students have been advised not to organise large scale pre- or after-ball events and not to sell tickets for such events which offer the bearer the illegal supply of alcohol.”

Westlake Girls’ High School

  • No policy on same-sex dates
  • No policy – “although we would be very happy if they did not occur”

Replied, with no policies on same-sex dates or functions

  • Akaroa Area School
  • Aotea College
  • Aquinas College
  • Ashburton College
  • Auckland Grammar
  • Avonside Girls’ High School
  • Blue Mountain College
  • Botany Downs Secondary College
  • Cambridge High School
  • Cheviot Area School
  • Christchurch Boys’ High School
  • Columba College
  • Coromandel Area School
  • Cromwell College
  • Dannevirke High School
  • East Otago High School
  • Edgecumbe College
  • Garin College
  • Glendowie College
  • Glenfield College
  • Gore High School
  • Hagley Community College
  • Hamilton’s Fraser High School
  • Hato Petera College
  • Hawera High School
  • Hillmorton High School
  • Inglewood High School
  • James Hargest College
  • John McGlashan College
  • John Paul College
  • Kaikohe Christian School
  • Kaikorai Valley College
  • Kaitaia Abundant Life School
  • Kapiti College
  • Kelston Boys’ High School
  • Kingsway School
  • Lindisfarne College
  • Liston College
  • Logan Park High School
  • Long Bay College
  • Lynfield College
  • Manawatu College
  • Mangere College
  • Massey High School
  • McAuley High School
  • Mercury Bay Area School
  • Michael Park School
  • Mt Maunganui College
  • Mt Roskill Grammar
  • Naenae College
  • Nayland College
  • Nelson College
  • Nga Tawa Diocesan School
  • Northland College
  • One Tree Hill College
  • Onehunga High School
  • Onslow College
  • Opononi Area School
  • Orewa College
  • Otahuhu College
  • Otamatea High School
  • Otorohanga College
  • Pakuranga College
  • Palmerston North Boys’ High School
  • Palmerston North Girls’ High School
  • Papakura High School
  • Paraparaumu College
  • Putaruru College
  • Queen Elizabeth College
  • Riccarton High School
  • Rodney College
  • Rongotai College
  • Rotorua Boys’ High School
  • Rotorua Lakes High School
  • Roxburgh Area School
  • Rutherford College
  • Sacred Heart Girls’ College (Ham)
  • South Westland Area School
  • St John’s College (Hillcrest)
  • St Mary’s College (Wellington)
  • St Oran’s College
  • St Patrick’s College (Kilbirnie)
  • Stratford High School
  • Taieri College
  • Taihape Area School
  • Tamatea High School
  • Tararua College
  • Tauraroa Area School
  • Te Kuiti High School
  • Te Kura Maori o Porirua
  • Te Kura Taumata o Panguru
  • Te Puke High School
  • Te Wharekura o Arowhenua
  • TKKM o Te Koutu
  • Tokoroa High School
  • Tongariro School
  • Upper Hutt College
  • Waiopehu College
  • Wairoa College
  • Waitara High School
  • Wanganui City College
  • Wanganui High School
  • Wellington High School & Com Ed Centre
  • Wesley College
  • Westland High School
  • Whangaparaoa College
  • Woodford House

Replied, don’t have a ball/formal

  • Christian Renewal School
  • Collingwood Area School
  • Excellere College
  • Francis Douglas Memorial College
  • Hastings Christian School
  • Hauraki Plains College
  • Hillview Christian School
  • Hukarere College
  • Karamea Area School
  • Kokohuia School
  • Lake Taupo Christian School
  • Lawrence Area School
  • Longburn Adventist College – “ceased holding formals”
  • Mana Tamariki
  • Manaia School (Thames)
  • Mangakahia Area School
  • Marist College
  • Murchison Area School
  • Patea Area School
  • Ponatahi Christian School
  • Rai Valley Area School
  • St Joseph’s Maori Girls’ College
  • Tai Wananga
  • Taikura Rudolf Steiner School
  • Te Aute College
  • Te Karaka Area School
  • Te Kura Mana Maori o Whangaparaoa
  • Te Waha O Rerekohu Area School
  • Te Wharekura o Manurewa
  • Te Wharekura o Te Kaokaoroa o Patetere
  • TKKM o Hoani Waititi
  • TKKM o Kaikohe
  • TKKM o Nga Mokopuna
  • TKKM o Ngati Kahungunu Ki Heretaunga
  • TKKM o Ruamata
  • TKKM o Tamaki Nui A Rua
  • TKKM o Te Kura Kokiri
  • TKKM o Te Raki Paewhenua
  • TKKM o Te Whanau Tahi
  • TKKM o Tupoho
  • TKKM o Wairarapa
  • TKKM o Waitaha
  • Totara College of Accelerated Learning
  • Trident High School
  • Twizel Area School
  • Waimea College
  • Wellington College
  • Whangaroa College
  • Zayed College for Girls

Image credit: stu_spivack

OIA Adventures: Learn From My Mistakes

Posted in Law, New Zealand on February 25th, 2012 by Matt Taylor – 1 Comment

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Information

I wouldn’t have picked this post to cause so much drama. But it did.

 

Here’s a couple of tweets I liked:

“Why don’t you research something that is educationally significant” – Like OIA compliance at schools, Ms Kelly? matthewtaylor.co.nz/2012/02/12/oia…

— David Ritchie (@dritchie) February 13, 2012

@timoslimo @MattTaylor Love the way schools insist on knowing who are you and who do you represent. #panicpants

— Bill Blackstone (@SirWB) February 13, 2012

And this post from drone on supplying ‘who are you?’ information:

‘[in response to another post] This, and your other suggestions, are undermining the spirit and intent of the OIA. It is not up to the schools to decide whether they should hand over information based on any criteria of use or who is requesting it.

It’s not about being polite, it’s ensuring that the “norm” does not become something where those providing information under OIA have more wriggle room out of providing it than the law provides.’

Official Information Act guidance for schools

If anyone is curious, this is the only guidance schools have over Official Information Act requests, from the New Zealand School Trustees Association:

Official Information Act (OIA) Requests: From time to time boards bear the brunt of broad requests or fishing type expeditions. A recent case in point is a request in the past couple of weeks from the Leader of the Oppositions office to principals for information relating to national standards.  We have had calls from boards and principals about the time and effort these sorts of things create. A reminder of the process when dealing with an OIA request (see very helpful guidelines from the Ombudsmen).

  • you should ensure that the board are aware of any information that is intended to be released from any member of staff
  • you have up to 20 days to respond to the request (in certain cases you can defer for administrative reasons – but this is limited)
  • If the request relates to “work in progress” you may not be able to provide a definitive answer to what is requested and you should identify that is the case.
  • you should ensure that what information the board supplies does not compromised the privacy of any individual(s)
  • you are not required to write an extensive response – often a yes/no, numbers or simply a copy of the material will do
  • sometimes it is not possible to establish the exact information eg if you are asked how much training has been undertaken specifically for one purpose it may be difficult to separate this out from the normal PD undertaken in the school.  There is no requirement to establish new separate databases for such things, particularly where this would require additional administrative costs.’

The 20 day bullet point is interesting because the OIA states: “as soon as reasonably practicable, and in any case not later than 20 working days”.

In fact, in 2008 the Office of the Ombudsman released this statement (via), titled ‘Some public servants play games with OIA requests’:

‘Beverley Wakem says the Office has observed an increasing tendency by a few government departments and Ministerial offices to ignore the provisions of the Official Information Act over the timing of responses to requesters.

“While in some cases this was clearly a misunderstanding of their obligations, there is also a regrettable tendency to game the system and delay responses until the complainants’ interest in the matter had passed,” she says.’ [emphasis mine]

Learn from my mistakes

Wording of the emails

1) When sending a request to multiple recipients, test it with a few first. Then make appropriate changes. Including ‘procedures and practices’ in my request might have been a good idea. However most schools got the idea that by policies, I also meant procedures and practices.

The follow-up email

2) Ask for the recipient to tell you when they have received your request. That opens the door for you to send a nice email a few days later to make sure they got your first email if they haven’t replied.

Some schools appreciated the half way follow-up reminder. Others didn’t. Probably because of the Ombudsman line.

3) Let them know that you know the time limit. “I look forward to your response within 20 working days.” Or you can calculate the day.

Helpful links

Image credit: Heath Brandon

OIA Adventures: NZ School Formals and Homophobia

Posted in Law, New Zealand on February 12th, 2012 by Matt Taylor – 90 Comments

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Just to clarify, there are other responses, they’re just not included in this post. These are the ones that I thought were interesting, for one reason or another, and are more based around transparency and the Official Information Act process than same-sex dates and after parties.

 

Does anyone remember St Patrick’s College in Wellington? Last year in June a story broke about how a male student, who happened to be gay, wasn’t allowed to bring a male friend (and ex-student) to his school ball/formal. The school said it was a management issue if they allowed ex-students or boys from other schools to attend school events.

Gay pride Tel-Aviv

Official Information Act

Idiot/Savant suggested sending an Official Information Act request to each state and integrated secondary school (private/independent schools aren’t covered under the OIA) asking whether they had a policy on same-sex dates would reveal how widespread this was.

I think I was either sick, or school was closed because of some natural event one day, so that’s what I did. I also included a question about events before and after the ball/formal.

I used the TKI schools database and Google Docs, and sent the request to schools that have year 12/13 students to the email address listed as their contact address.

The OIA technically applies to Board of Trustees, but as principals should be on the BOT, and know about what I was asking, I didn’t mind them replying.

Here’s the email:

Subject: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal

Dear Sir/Madam at [school],

If you hold a school ball or formal could you please answer the following questions? Do you have a policy on same-sex dates? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy?

In the past, has the school banned same-sex dates from attending the school ball or formal? If so, could you please provide details?

Do you have a policy on parties before/after the school ball or formal? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy?

This email address is listed as the contact address for this school. If this email has found you in error, please let me know. http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/o/official-information-your-right-to-know/publication/.

Thank you in advance.

Yours faithfully

Matt Taylor

I sent a reminder email to schools that hadn’t replied around the middle of the 20 day response period. Some people didn’t like the part about complaining to the Ombudsmen (which you’ll see below).

Subject: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal Follow-up

Dear Sir/Madam at [school],

I sent you an Official Information Act request on June 15th regarding school balls/formals. Under the Official Information Act, requests must be answered within 20 working days. I have not received a response from you to date. If I don’t receive a reply within 20 working days I can complain to the Ombudsmen. The Ministry of Justice explains the Official Information Act here: http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/global-publications/o/official-information-your-right-to-know/publication/. For your reference my request is below.

If you hold a school ball or formal could you please answer the following questions?

Do you have a policy on same-sex dates? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy? In the past, has the school banned same-sex dates from attending the school ball or formal? If so, could you please provide details?

Do you have a policy on parties before/after the school ball or formal? If so, could you please email me a copy of that policy?

Thank you in advance.

Yours faithfully

Matt Taylor

Over the next few weeks I’ll post some lessons learned and the responses I received back from the schools. Many of the requests/schools are before the Ombudsmen (like Idiot/Savant predicted, schools have minimal experience with the OIA [see below]). I’ll post the result of those when I get them.

John Holley from Liston College: “Firstly an apology on the delay beyond the 20 days for you OIA request. This is the first formal OIA request the school has had to deal with in a long time (if ever) so the staff were unsure how to deal with it.” [response to questions was below this]

Below are some interesting responses from some schools.

Spam

Some schools reported not receiving my original email. This might have been because of spam filters. Organizations need to occasionally flick through their spam folders for non-spam content.

Who are you??///???@@@!

Some schools were angry that I didn’t say who I was working for (no one), and exactly why I wanted the information (for the internets). They’re accountable to the people, and their policies and decisions should be transparent. Their response shouldn’t change depending on who is asking for the information and what they want it for (and the OIA doesn’t require people to disclose reasons for requesting information).

In most cases I replied back saying that it was for a blog post, that they weren’t the only school I was asking and that I don’t work for the media. I don’t think it was inappropriate to hold back information (basically hold the data hostage) before I responded to their questions, or complied with some extra request (like sending them a letter, sending them ID, phoning them etc.), which some schools did. I think this could be interpreted as their fear of the media. Some schools asked for more information about me and responded to the questions in the same email, which was fine.

Some of the schools below did eventually respond to the questions.

Steve Saville from Alfriston College: “Could you please identify yourself/organisation and explain why you are gathering information.”

Penny Mossman from Amuri Area School: “I/we have not received any previous email from your organisation. I do not like the threatening tone of your email [the second one, with the bit about the Ombudsman) and I will not respond to requests from any organisation that has not made itself personally known to us or one that we have no idea who they are.”

Tanya Phillips from Aranui High School: “Can you supply some information for us on this please;

What organisation do you represent?
What is this information being used for?
Where will this information be published?

As soon as we get that information, I will be more than happy to answer your questions.”

‘Admin’ from Baradene College: “Please send your formal request to our Board Chair:  Mr Edmund Lawler, Chairman of the Baradene Board of Trustees, c/o Baradene College, Private Bag 28906, Remuera, Auckland, 1541.  This will need to be on an official letterhead making your request explicit.”

Mason Stretch from Cromwell College: “Please provide our Board with some background to your request.”

Allan Vester from Edgewater College: “I am not sure about the Official Information Act request? Is this actually an official request or was the header there to get my attention.

I would be happy to answer your questions if I had some understanding of why you want the information?

Just one point on policies. There seems to be some idea that schools have policies for everything “Policy on Student parking” Policy on Towing Away Student Cars” etc.

The actual policies that schools must have as prescribed by the Education Act is actually quite small eg a Policy on Protected Disclosure is a requirement.

I think what you will find is that when people talk about policies they are actually talking about the commonly accepted procedures that the school applies in certain situations? [This is a very good point, I should have probably included procedures and practices in the wording of the emails]

If it is the school ball you are interested in then we will have procedures/ rules about which students or other persons are able to attend the ball, the time they must be at the Ball by, the standard of behaviour required etc but there is no policy on those.”

Murray Burton from Elim Christian College: “In accordance with section 9 (2) (k) of the Official information Act, we respectfully decline your request due to the following.

We at this stage have no information regarding the following:

Who is asking for the information, who they represent, their background etc…
For what purpose is this information requested
What part of society is represented
On what basis do you think your request is covered by the Act

Due to all these unknowns we regretfully feel that your request is of a nature that was not intended as part of the Purpose of this Act. “”

My reply:

“Thanks for your reply. I’ve identified myself as Matt Taylor and I’m not representing an organization.

The Official Information Act doesn’t require me to provide background or extra details on why I’m requesting the information.

I’m not sure what you mean by the society question.

The Official Information Act actually applies to your Board of Trustees, so if you’re not comfortable answering the questions please forward this request to your board’s chair.”

Murray: “As a full member of the Board of Trustees I am happy and authorized to work with you concerning your requests.

I would still like to know the following:

Please outline specifically why you wish to receive this information?
What will it be used for?”

My reply: “The Official Information Act doesn’t require me to provide background or extra details on why I’m requesting the information.”

Murray: “Please do not think that we are being uncooperative. We realise we need to comply with the law but we are also wise and discerning concerning our school and the release of information hence email process we are following with you is exactly on that basis.

I am more than happy to release your requested information when I am in receipt of your answers to the following questions

Please outline specifically why you wish to receive this information?
What will it be used for?”

[I didn't provide the requested information and the request is currently before the Ombudsman.]

Donna Thian from Ellesmere College: “Before I pass this on for reply please identify who you are and why this is being asked of us.”

Jude Conway from Gisborne Girls’ High School: “I acknowledge receipt of your email requesting clarification of Gisborne Girls’ High School’s policy and procedure in respect of same-sex dates at school formals and parties associated with school formals. School management would be agreeable to answer your enquiries, however we ask if you would first advise the reason for your enquiry and the purpose for which you require the information.”

Roger File from Golden Bay High School: “I would be more than happy to provide that information, without an OIA request, but would like to know what you intend doing with it?”

Sandy Begg from Green Bay High School: “If you wish to have a conversation with me, please contact me on 817 8173 ex 216. I have no idea who your organisation is or who you are.”

Graham Robinson from Hamilton Boys’ High School: “Who do you represent and what is your interest? Are you a former student?” [I thought the former student question was interesting.]

Bruce Hart from Heretaunga College: “Our process around the ball is not a secret and I am quite happy to supply you the information you need.  I didn’t respond as I thought your approach lacked common courtesy. All you need do is introduce yourself properly and ask for the information and I would be more than happy to oblige.”

Ron Ballantyne from Hurunui College: [after asking for a copy of the original email] “It might also be nice to know who you are and why you want this information??”

Rosey Mabin from Inglewood High School: “Thank you for both your emails. I do not provide information to people I don’t know. Neither of your emails tells me who you are and for what purpose you require the information. Perhaps you might be courteous to provide that detail.”

My response: “This is for a personal blog post.”

Rosey: “1.      Perhaps I could use the same Act to get you to disclose more information about yourself? You seem particularly cagey in being transparent about your request, yet expect that in return from the respondents.
2.      It is polite to give some background information when requesting information from strangers. You might like to consider doing so in future.
3.      The job of principals is to lead teaching and learning in their schools. Responding to your sort of request is not an effective use of our time.” [response to questions was below this]

Nadia Rose from James Hargest College: “Please send your request to the school in a hard copy with a physical address and we will respond in hard copy to your physical address.”

My response: “Under the Official Information Act, requests aren’t required to be in written/hard copy form. Is there any particular reason why you’d like the request as a hard copy?”

Nadia: [response to questions]

Harold Leask from John Paul II High School: “I do not share such information with unidentified personal. You have provided no information about yourself or your organisation but I’m happy to discuss this issue with the ombudsman.”

Katherine-Mary Molloy from Kaikorai Valley College: “Who are you and under what authority do you ask for this information.”

Debby Peebles from Kaitaia Abundant Life School: “My Principal would like you to send you  request in writing, on letterhead, with the official organisation that you  belong too.”

Tracy O’Brien from Kavanagh College:  “As a matter of policy  the College does not respond to this type of official request via email.  If you could please land mail your request to The Board Chair, Kavanagh College, 340 Rattray St, PO Box 737, Dunedin 9054 this matter will be responded to as soon as possible.  As a matter of courtesy the Board would expect you to identify yourself or the organisation you represent and your interest in this matter.  As N.Z school policies are a matter of public record I do not expect any difficulty in this information being released to you as soon as practicable.”

Kaye Saywell from Makoura College: “The Principal has requested that you please advise who you are and why you want this information.

How did you send your original request – was it by email or post?  I receive the emails addressed to the College office and open the mail addressed to the Principal and have no record of receiving your original request.”

Dee Whitby from Michael Park School: “We are surprised at the tone of your communication and respectfully point out that your initial request does not request the information as per the Official Information Act [the OIA was mentioned in the subject line, and requests for information should be considered under the OIA whether it is mentioned or not. Regardless, the email should have been replied to mentioning the OIA or not] and it is not yet 20 working days. We frequently receive requests for information and given the busy environment of school life we endeavour to respond as soon as we are able.   We also appreciate receiving more information from the sender.” [response to questions was below this]

John Russell from Naenae College: “Please identify yourself and your purposes”

Barbara Hewitt from Napier Girls’ High School: “Our Principal has requested me to find out who the information is for.”

Jenny Ellis from New Plymouth Girls’ High School: “I am happy to consider responding to your request on receipt of a letter from you that provides details of your business, where you can be contacted and how you intend using the information provided. Our school address is: Private Bag 2049, New Plymouth”

Carolyn Matthews from Otahuhu College: “Your enquiry needs to be in writing and addressed to the Principal.  Please allow 20 working days for a response.”

Grant from Paeroa College: “Who are you and why do you want this information?”

Marie Gordon from Palmerston North Girls’ High School: “I am sorry but I have no idea who you are or who you represent.  Any request for information such as this can be done so in writing with suitable identification.” [Does she want a scan of my driver licence? I'm not sure.]

My response: “[what the information is for]

The Official Information Act doesn’t require requests to be in writing, so this email request should be fine. Additionally, there is no requirement for identification to be provided with requests.”

Marie: “I am well aware of the OIA….thank you. I am not in the habit of responding to random e-mails….however, as the answers are quite simple…” [response to questions was below this]

David Matthews from Papakura High School: “I am not willing to provide you with the information you have requested without some more information from you. Who are you? What will the information be used for?”

Vaughan Couillault from Papatoetoe High School: “Feel free to give me a call.”

Wayne Wright from Reefton Area School: “Put the request in writing, sign it and post it. We do not deal with official information through electronic networks. Our physical address is 10 Victory Street Reefton 7830”

My response: “Under the Official Information Act, requests aren’t required to be in written/hard copy form. The information requested shouldn’t contain any sensitive information that could be compromised by being sent over email.”

[what the information is for]

Wayne: [response to questions] ‘I don’t know why you choose to use the “Official Information Act” line. I know some schools are pretty guarded about their activities, however in our case we are very busy people trying to make good things happen for our students. If something is not going to directly affect our kids, we don’t usually do it. As for having things in writing. Your electronic signature doesn’t cut the mustard for us [I didn't send in a physical signature, so I guess it did], that’s our choice and that is highly appropriate for our setting.’

David Ormandy from Rodney College: “I am more than happy to answer your questions but could you please give me some information about yourself and the purpose of your request.”

Jai Kreyl from Rotorua Girls’ High School: “It is not clear from your email who you represent.  Please provide more information before I forward your e-mail.”

Helen Fouhy from Sacred Heart College (Napier): “Before I answer any questions I would like to know who a little about you including who you represent, what invested interest you have and what will happen to any information you gather.

Answering emails from an unexplained source is not usually something I would do.”

And Shona Warrington from Sacred Heart College (Napier): “If you would like to pursue this any further, please phone Helen Fouhy to make an appointment to see her to discuss this further.”

Rose Sawaya from Sacred Heart Girls’ College (N Plymouth): “I was not impressed by the follow up version with the threat of the Ombudsman.  Nowhere in your correspondence have you explained who you are or what you want the information for.  If you are going to impose threats of this nature you should at least explain yourself.”

‘Southland Girls High School’ from Southland Girls’ High School: “With regard to your request below, we would politely point out that threats are not ever appreciated [underlining theirs], certainly when a courteous reminder would more than likely extract the same information.”

and

Deb Hay from Southland Girls High School: “The principal would like to know the reason for your request, and in what capacity you are asking?”

Mandy Page from St Catherines College (Kilbirnie): “Could you please send a paper copy of your request to

Jane Holloway
Principal
St Catherine’s College
POBox 14076
Kilbirnie
Wellington

Please enclose an address for reply mail”

My response: “Under the Official Information Act, requests aren’t required to be in written/hard copy form. Is there any particular reason why you’d like me to mail the request?

Mandy: “Yes I would like it in writing please, just to make it a formal request. That way we have your signature on the letter in case the BOT want to see any correspondence”

My response: “The Act accepts emailed requests as valid formal requests.”

Mandy: “Yes and it also states that requests are best made in writing and I am requesting this by written letter rather than email. Thank you.

  • Requests are best made in writing, but you can ask for the information in person or by telephone too; and
  • Keep a note of when, how and who you made your request to (and keep a copy of any requests made in writing).”

[The Department of Justice, where the above was quoted from, says requests are best made in writing likely so the information being requested is clear, not because they want people to cut down trees and sign in pen.]

Neal Swindells from St John’s College (Hastings): “I am not prepared to give out information unless I know who I am giving it to. I require a hard copy letter on the letterhead of the organisation who is asking for this information.”

Erik Pedersen (via Val) from St Matthew’s Collegiate (Masterton): “Suggest you ring. 06 370 1731
I will respond”

Philip Keenan from Stratford High School: “I have acouple of queries:
Why do you want this information and who are you?”

Gina Mason from Taihape Area School: “Could you please let me know who you are, who you are working for and the purpose for your questions.”

Hayley Hodson from Tamatea High School: “I sent you a reply the same day that I received your information request [I never received it, quote below suggests it might not have been sent to me] and asked that you please explain where you are from (what company/business) and for what purpose you are gathering this information.”

From: Nicola Ngarewa [principal]
Sent: Tuesday, 28 June 2011 3:02 p.m.
To: Hayley Hodson
Subject: RE: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal Follow-up

Kia ora ra,

 

I was unsure as the purpose and intent of this email and mistakingly deleted it.

Answers as requested below

Alan Jay Mokoro Gillett from Te Wharekura o Te Rau Aroha: “I am a little reluctant to respond to this email – I am not too sure who you are?  Are you from the Ministry of Education?  I am ready to send this information to the Hamilton branch to follow up. You do not have any contact details – and this could be a hoax email.  So I would prefer that you send me an explanation of who you are, and a phone number, so that I can discuss this issue with you, cordially.”

Hinematua Gillett [same person?]: “Thank you for sending me details regarding your process, but I am not sure whether you are an appropriate person for me to communicate with.  My school is a Kura Aho Matua Wharekura, why should I provide you with information regarding our policies?  I have not been instructed by the Council to do this.  Please explain why I should provide you with these details, otherwise I will not be able to.”

‘Office’ from TKKM o Ngati Kahungunu Ki Heretaunga: “KO WAI KOE ???” [Another school replied to the whole request in Māori, which wasn't helpful.]

Chris England from Tongariro School: “However so I can provide you with information that more fully answers your needs, could you please give me a little bit of background as to why you require the information, and how it is to be used?”

Kristine Mclachlan from Waimate High School: “Before I answer any questions on behalf of my school I would like you to know that we have not recieved any Official Information Request. We do not respond to threats made and I would like more information about why these questions are being asked. Who are you representing and what do you need the information for?”

Alison Gernhoefer from Westlake Girls’ High School: “I have no difficulty with the information that you require, but I would like to know your credentials and what organisation you represent please.”

Debra Ronke from Woodford House: “We did not reply to your email as you did not introduce yourself or indicate in any way why you wanted the information.  I assumed that the email was spam and deleted it.  I certainly do not reply to random emails without more information. We would be happy to assist you with your information; however, it would be appropriate if you could explain who you are and what organisation you are from.  You are welcome to call me on the number listed below”

Gatekeepers

Correspondence between administration staff and senior management was occasionally forwarded on to me with replies. This correspondence often showed a lack of understanding around the Official Information Act. Here’s an example from Aurora College:

From: Annette Little
Sent: Thursday, 16 June 2011 12:41 p.m.
To: Robyn Hickman
Subject: FW: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal

 

Not sure about this one Robyn – delete if you want to.

Annette

Costs

St Patrick’s College (Silverstream), [correction: not the St Patrick's that started this], was the only school that requested costs to process the request. Because of the simple nature of the request, no other school asking for costs and their unwillingness to break down the costs for me it seems like they are trying to be difficult and hope that I will lose interest in the request, instead of asking for money because processing the request will cost them money.

Chrissy Fage from St Patrick’s College (Silverstream): “Their is an administration charge of $25 for the secreterial work required in answering this request. On receipt of this cheque, made payable to St Patrick’s College Board of Trustees we will respond to your request.”

Some schools liked making stuff up about the OIA

Denis Slowley from Bayfield High School: “Please note all Official Information Act Requests must be in writing [email is fine] quoting the date of the Act [the Act doesn't need to be mentioned at all], the purpose of your request [reasons aren't required] and the specific policies by name [questions are fine]. Such requests cannot be in the form of a fishing question as this one is [see below]” [response to questions was below this]

The Ombudsman explains “fishing expeditions” (pdf) (mirror):

“The fact that a request is for a large amount of information does not of itself mean that the request lacks due particularity. The term “fishing expedition” appears to have received general recognition in the vocabulary of those concerned with making decisions on requests for information. It should be clearly understood that this term is not recognised in the Act as a withholding reason. If the information requested meets the test of due particularity it cannot be refused simply on the basis that it is considered to be a fishing expedition. The request must be given proper consideration under the Act.”

Tim O’Connor from Palmerston North Boys’ High School: “If you want information from anyone I suggest you write specific requests rather than generic ones that are sent out randomly hoping for responses.  You are welcome to complain the Ombudsman and I welcome a response as there are protocols around OIA requests [send in a question?] and you didn’t meet them in your initial e mail.  I can’t say I find your approach amiable or holding any pertinance.” [response to questions was below this]

Copyright

David Olivier from St Peter’s College (Palmerston North): “A Reminder about the Procedure remaining the intellectual property of the College and not for reproduction for purposes other than laid out under the Official Information Act.”

This is an interesting statement.

Considering anyone could request the same document from St Peter’s College, I’m going to link to it here (pdf).

Who are you working for??//@@

Terehia Channings from Turakina Māori Girls’ College: “Firstly, please be informed that we have never at any time received an e-mail from you regarding school balls/formals etc…If you insist that you have, then please forward a copy of that e-mail that you sent. All e-mail that are sent to the office e-mail address are received by my PA and she does not recall receiving any such material. Upon receipt of a copy of your e-mail supposedly sent on the 15th June, I will then respond to your Official Information Act Request.”

From: TMGC Office [mailto:office [at] tmgc.school.nz]
Sent: Tuesday, 28 June 2011 4:31 p.m.
To: Terehia
Subject: FW: Official Information Act Request – School Ball/Formal Follow-up

 

This is the first time I have seen this email??

My response: “Thanks for your reply. The message was possibly intercepted by a spam filter on your end. I could send you a screenshot of the mail merge screen where it says that it sent okay, but that could of course be forged, you seem suspicious of whether I sent the original email. It seems a moot point to debate whether you received the email or not.”

Terehia: “Of course I am going to challenge your e-mail to us as a school due to the fact that you state that you have not received a response from us from your first e-mail, which we did not receive. Secondly, you point out that you can complain to the Ombudsmen if I don’t reply within twenty working days to this e-mail. Please refrain from insinuating that we do not fulfil our legal obligations as a school or myself, as a Principal. I do not appreciate such a demand [replying to three questions!!] being placed on us as school when we did not receive your e-mail on the 15th June. As you know, emails sent can be tracked. We have not found anything that has come from you on the 15th June. Your response to my e-mail would have been acceptable had you just concluded by ending your comments with the mail merge screen declaring that the message was sent. To continue by accusing me of being suspicious [the word supposedly was mentioned] and making the comment of a “moot point to debate” I find offensive. Please send me details of your Manager or Manageress as I would like to take this further. We will respond to the Official Information Act Request at our earliest convenience. I am aware of the timeframe.”

My response: “This is for a personal blog post, I’m not working under a manager.”

Terehia: “Please explain then why we are obligated as a school to complete the survey for a personal blog post. Please forward the documentation that clearly states our obligation as a school.”

My response: “Because of the Official Information Act.”

Terehia: “Please send me the contact details of another person, preferably in a Management position, that I can speak to with regards to your e-mails and the Official Information Act. I just find your approach and manner somewhat rude and disrespectful. I do not believe that you will be the only person collating this information from schools in the country and surely there is a person, a committee or a cluster that you are responsible to.”

My response: “Please forward my request to your Board of Trustee’s chair as the Act applies to the Board.”

Terehia: “That’s fine, I can do that however; I would still like to speak to someone that also collates this information from schools. A person in Management will be great.”

My response: “It really is just me.”

Terehia: “There is no-one that you are responsible to?”

My response: “No”

Terehia: “Indeed!”

I get banned from emailing a school

Jenny Gellen from Waitara High School: “In future, please don’t conact me regarding such matters”

I replied with “Sorry?”, but never got a response from Jenny.

Being difficult/a dick

Rob Sturch from Hastings Boys’ High school: [I thought this deserved a screenshot]

Hastings Boys' High School OIA reply

Alan Liddle from Te Puke High School: “Thank you for your enquiry.  Our policies are available to the public on our website www.tepuke.school.nz” [response to same-sex question below]

My response: “Thanks for your reply. What is your policy on after/before ball parties?”

Alan: “As mentioned in my previous email our policies are on our website.  Help yourself.”

My response: “I searched the site for ball policy, with no results.”

Alan: “Well done and therefore your conclusion will be…

Sent from my iPhone”

Do not question Wellington High School!!@@

Dominic Killalea from Wellington High School: “I have been forwarded your email requesting information from us. I find your tone aggressive and rude. I’m not sure if that’s how you want to appear. By my reckoning, this is the 9th working day since your request.” [response to questions was below this] and

Two days later, Prue Kelly from Wellington High School: “[response to questions]

Why don’t you research something that is educationally significant”

My response: ‘The Human Rights Commission receives “a number of complaints every year about pupils not being allowed to bring same-sex partners to school balls.”

You might not think something that is effectively homophobia is a very important issue, but I do.’

Prue: “If you knew anything about us you would know that we began the schools out programme”

One day later, Cathy Drummond forwarded Prue’s response to me again.

WORD YOUR QUESTION BETTER!!@@

Rod Harris from Christian Renewal School: “The reason why I did not respond is that we do not have a school ball.

Your request is that If  [bolding, italicizing, underlining his] you hold a school ball or formal, could you please answer the following questions? The implication is clear that I only needed to respond if we held a school ball. [The question was worded poorly, but I think most organizations reply to emails to confirm they received them, unless they're purposely ignoring them.]

To have an expectation for me to respond (as the threat of complaint to the ombudsman) makes the assumption that we do hold a ball. Because as a teaching Principal, I have little time for administration, and having the proliferation of e-mails that come into my e-mail from all different types of sources, I do not respond to e-mails unless I have to.

Next time could you please ensure that you phrase your question accurately to solicit the response that you require.”

Tina Johnson from Murchinson Area School: “We don’t hold a school ball – might of course be why we didn’t answer your questions?”

Earthquake guilt trip

Jan Croft or Sue Hume from Avonside Girls’ High: [I'm assuming Sue Hume is the principal who wrote it and Jan forwarded it on] “I would like you to understand that we are rather busy just now.

We are living in the midst of earthquakes. Our school is badly damaged.

Our girls travel across the city to learn at another school.

We are working really hard to re-establish our school in our community for next year. There are many, many difficulties and challenges.

School formals and after parties are not what is at the forefront of our minds.

From my understanding, there are a number of working days left for me to respond to your request.

A more conciliatory and appreciative tone might be more likely to elicit the response that you seek.”

[response to questions was below]

 

More soon.

Image credit: Niv Singer

The War On Youth: Drug Dogs At School

Posted in Law, New Zealand on December 18th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

I wrote about the Ministry of Education’s search and seizure guide for schools a couple of months ago, but I missed this article that contains some really disturbing comments from those involved in education. Basically, the police used to assist schools with draconian drug dog and weapon searches of entire schools, but have stopped after their lawyers realized that they’re probably not legal.

Training anti-narcotics dog

The rights of a few

“Education Minister Anne Tolley said a law change might be needed, because it was wrong for the rights of one or two pupils to take precedence over the rights of the whole school community.” [emphasis mine]

Because, you know, it’s only the students with drugs and knives that are being protected by making sure searches are reasonable! As Michael Bott points out later in the article, you’re violating the rights of every student when you conduct unreasonable searches en masse.

“Every step has to be taken to prevent [exposure to drugs and weapons].”

An extremely single-minded approach. When do strip searches become a reasonable step?

Exempting teachers from the law

“Crown Law is also investigating possible law changes to protect teachers from being charged with assault or false imprisonment”.

The police being the only sensible people in the room

“They will still help schools with searches but only when there is evidence of pupils carrying weapons or illicit drugs.”

“Screw reasonable suspicion and screw the police lawyers”

“Secondary Principals Association president Patrick Walsh – principal of John Paul College in Rotorua – said … it was unfortunate that police would now offer searches only if there was “reasonable suspicion that drugs are being peddled at the school”. The searches should continue until their legality was tested in court or ministry lawyers ruled they were unlawful, he said.” [emphasis mine]

What is this I don’t even.

Second-class citizens

“‘No other New Zealand citizens are subject to the same intrusive search criteria,’ lawyer Michael Bott said.”

Random drug searches of innocent pupils “were ‘deemed OK by virtue of their age and the fact that they’re compelled to attend the school’”.

 

Hekia Parata is the new Minister of Education, so hopefully she isn’t as ridiculous as Anne Tolley. Though, Anne Tolley becomes the Minister for Police and Corrections, so good luck with that everyone.

Image credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Lawlor http://www.flickr.com/photos/anhonorablegerman/5722364868/

The Ant and the Grasshopper, Act II (ft. the Wasp)

Posted in New Zealand on November 24th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

This is stupid, slightly racist and reads as “welfare recipients are lazy”, but I’ll play along.

Old Version

The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks the ant is a fool and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed.

The grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

Ants eating grasshopper

Modern Version

The ant works hard in the withering heat and the rain all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper admires the ant’s work ethic and would like to be like a hard-working ant, but unemployment is at 6.6% and at least three out of 50 people, including himself, can’t find jobs. If unemployment gets below 5%, the wasps who own the factories start to panic. If the wasps had to compete for employees, instead of the employees competing for jobs, the wasps would have to either raise their prices or keep less of the profits they earn from the labor.

There are more ants than grasshoppers, and ants are usually better qualified, because their parents got them access to better schools and healthcare. Some ants went to private schools and when they got sick outside of business hours, there was no hesitation in taking them to an after-hours surgery. Because their parents valued their education, they were encouraged to work hard at school and many ended up going to university. Because the ants have better qualifications, the grasshoppers are the last to get hired and the first to be fired.

Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

One News, 3 News, PRIME News, and Campbell Live show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

The country is stunned by the sharp contrast!

How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Sue Bradford appears on Campbell Live with the grasshopper–and everybody cries. The Green Party stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the group singing, “We Shall Overcome”. The Green Party leader Metiria Turei condemns the ant and blames John Key, Rob Muldoon, Roger Douglas, capitalism and global warming for the grasshopper’s plight.

Many people on radio, TV, in newspapers and on the internet complain that grasshoppers are lazy and should just get jobs. Michael Laws says something about sterilizing all of them so they can’t have kids. He also says something about taking a shotgun to Sue Bradford and members of the Green Party.

John Minto exclaims in an interview with TV News that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and both call for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his fair share.

John further explains that the wasps are avoiding taxes by moving their money offshore, exploiting tax loopholes, and ensuring that the bureaucrats appointed to regulate their industries are their friends. He claims that last year the government found $1.7 billion to bail out the well-off shareholders of South Canterbury Finance, but didn’t want to spend $500 million to pay the minimum wage to caregivers staying the night looking after disabled people. He says that a social safety net pays dividends in the form of lower law enforcement and penal system expenses. He is immediately attacked as engaging in “class warfare”.

Finally, to gain votes to win the election, the government drafts the “Economic Equity and Anti-Ant Act”, retroactive to the beginning of the summer. The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.

Eventually, the grasshopper does in fact manage to find a job, working in the same factory as the ant now does. In fact, the factory started to hire lots of grasshoppers, since they would work more cheaply than the ants, the low wage still being a huge improvement over the welfare cheque that had previously enabled his “carefree” life.

This had unexpected consequences for the ant. One day, the factory foreman came up to him. “I’m sorry, Mr. Ant,” he said, trying to avoid eye contact. “I’m going to have to let you go.” Not long after losing his job, the ant became ill, he’d contracted cancer through exposure at his job. Because of deregulation and tort reform, the ant had no legal recourse.

Unfortunately, his health insurance had lapsed after he lost his job. While on a waiting list, he was last seen hanging out in an alley, filthy and wearing a “will work for food” sign.

This was eventually the fate of the grasshopper as well. One day the wasp who owned the factory decided that he could make even more money by closing the factory and opening a new one overseas, in a developing country, where the grasshoppers will work for even less money and the government environmental and safety regulations are even less “burdensome”. And the wasp lived happily ever after.

The moral of this story? Not everything is as simple as it seems. Also, that analogies with ants and grasshoppers end up being a bit batshit.

Brought to you with the help of Bushknew.

Also, vote smarter this election.

Image credit: Jun-Dai Bates-Kobashigawa

I don’t consent to this search, Mrs Tolley

Posted in Law, New Zealand, Technology on September 3rd, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 3 Comments

The Ministry of Education has released guidelines regarding schools searching students and confiscating their property. The Education Act doesn’t specifically give schools the power to search and the issue hasn’t come before a New Zealand court before, so the guidelines really are just that. It’s possible though that courts would say that searching is an implied power under the general umbrella of a board having “complete discretion to control the management of the school as it thinks fit.”

On the other hand, it could be argued that as significant privacy issues are involved and that the power of search is not specifically given to schools that such searches are not lawful.

The protection from unreasonable search and seizure comes from the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act:

“Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure, whether of the person, property, or correspondence or otherwise.”

Risk to safety

Backpack contentsThese three words form the basis of the guidelines. The item being searched for must pose a risk to safety.

“Risk to safety means that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that students or staff are at risk of harm from an item that poses an immediate or direct threat to physical or emotional safety.”

I interpret an item posing an immediate or direct threat as one when the student possessing it has an intention to use it right now. In the examples attached to the guidelines, staff involved consider “whether there is an imminent risk to the physical or emotional safety of students or staff …”

I struggle to think of an example where a dangerous item is all at once: not visible (because if it was visible, no search would need to take place), is about to be used, and where it would be a good idea to start trying to search the student rather than try to deescalate the situation so the item isn’t pulled out.

A common sense approach!

So basically, instead of taking the student away from others and getting the police involved to begin with, school staff should involve themselves with dangerous or illegal items, potentially escalating a volatile situation. And of course, the student that won’t willingly hand over an item they’re suspected to have will obviously be happy to comply with an intrusive and legally questionable search.

Violate rights, tell parents later

“Except in exceptional circumstances you should inform parents or caregivers after a search has been conducted (if you have not already contacted them).”

No. Parents should be contacted first, always.

Diaries, mobile phones, and laptops

The guidelines mention searching correspondence under the definition of a search. They state that this would include “written and electronic material (e.g. in a diary, on a mobile phone or on a laptop).” None are mentioned again in the guidelines, except for a laptop in a weak example (see below).

This gives the impression that a diary, mobile phone or laptop could theoretically be searched in accordance with the “imminent risk of physical or emotional harm” criteria. Cue alarm bells. How that criteria could be construed as applying to electronic devices and diaries potentially containing very private material is beyond me.

Lukewarm examples

There is no strong scenario provided with the guidelines where a search should actually be conducted.

Scenario 1: Pornography on a laptop. Example correctly concludes that a laptop isn’t a threat if it’s not turned on and so shouldn’t be searched.

Scenario 2: Students caught smoking marijuana say they were sold it by another student. No search because police have to be called because of the illegal items potentially involved.

Scenario 3: Students are lighting deodorant on fire. Friends of a student hand over their lighters. Student is suspected to still have a lighter. Example says that there is an imminent risk to the physical or emotional safety of students or staff in this situation because “a student could easily be burnt if the activity continues.” Imminent risk, really?

Concludes that “as the risk is significant it is likely that the search should – if it safe to do so – be conducted.” I say education would be better than a search. There’s nothing stopping the student from bringing another lighter the next day after he’s searched. Searching isn’t going to magically solve the underlying problem.

Scenario 4: Hearsay that a student is going to “get” another student and more hearsay about a “knife.” Student seems upset and angry, doesn’t stop when teacher asks him/her to. Example correctly concludes that searching straight away when a situation isn’t calm isn’t a good idea. Example says if staff conclude there’s an immediate risk to call the police. Tick.

Or if the situation isn’t considered an emergency: the student has calmed down, staff don’t feel threatened, they only think a small pocket knife is involved, staff can “proceed to consider … if a search is appropriate in the circumstances.” Except they can’t have it both ways. If the student is calm and wouldn’t use a knife if he/she had one (no imminent threat) then a search isn’t necessary. If the student would use a knife if he/she had one, then the police should be called.

Unnecessary and a breach of BORA

Vanushi Walters, YouthLaw solicitor speaks the truth. If the situation is serious enough for a search, it’s serious enough for the police.

“Search and seizure powers in schools are unnecessary and a breach of the Bill of Rights Act. She said the most appropriate course of action is for principals and teachers to call the police.”

Let’s make the guidelines law

But wait, there’s more.

“The Ministry was also looking in to possible legislative changes to give schools more support in what was ‘a complex legal area,’ she said.”

Give school staff equivalent or greater powers than the police have so they can search students? Okay!

You want to violate my privacy? You’ll have to put up a fight, I don’t consent to this search.

Image credit: Hello Turkey Toe

The Case of the Compulsory iPad

Posted in New Zealand, Technology on July 20th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 3 Comments

Decile-nine Orewa College has told parents the iPad 2 will be a compulsory stationery item for all year nine pupils next year.—Stuff

Except that’s not what they said. The letter (pdf) they sent out to parents says a one to one computing device will be required. They list the examples of laptops, netbooks, tablets or iPads.

The decision has been criticized because the college recommends the iPad over the other options and it costs a fair amount of money. The reasons for (pdf) favoring one device—the iPad are clear: teachers and students can support each other easily if they are all familiar with the device, the applications available are vast and battery life is long.

$799?!

One Laptop Per Child BhutanThe lowest priced netbook I could quickly find was one from Dick Smith at $375. Will a student be disadvantaged if they get a cheaper device instead, like a netbook?  I doubt it.

The content from most if not all educational applications in the Apple Application Store will be available somewhere on the Internet. Students will probably end up teaching the teacher how to use his or her iPad. Those without iPads be fine working out their device themselves and Googling solutions to issues as they come up—actually relevant problem solving? Devices with keyboards are arguably easier to type on compared to a device that only offers a touch screen. Issues with battery life won’t be a huge issue—I envision power boards to be plentiful.

iPad 3

How parents deal with updates to the iPad will be interesting to watch, but any update won’t damage the existing features of the iPad 2: strong battery life, large selection of applications and Wi-Fi access.

Usefulness

It has to be said that an iPad isn’t like other stationery. I don’t regularly pull out my compulsory $100 graphics calculator for fun-times around the dinner table. iPads are different. Sharing skills will be tested as everyone in the family wants to use it.

Controversy

What I find interesting is that the first letter is dated June 24th and discussion with parents was going on for 4+ weeks before then. The media are only reporting on this now. It seems like none of the parents involved have had a huge issue with it—no one went to the media straight away.

Orewa College is a decile-nine school, the second highest decile available to schools. It means students generally come from a high socio-economic background. The vast majority of parents won’t have a problem finding the money for a one to one device, and the school has provided options to spread the cost out—“We have enclosed information on purchasing options from Cyclone Computers, that are approximately $10 per week.”

There’s still time for parents to choose for their year eight students to attend a different high school. But it’s a slippery slope when that is the proposed solution to potential issues with a child’s local school and is reminiscent of Brown v. Board.

Congratulations Orewa College for moving forward. Let’s hope that future schools won’t have to go through this when they choose to make one to one devices compulsory.

Image credit: Laihiuyeung Ryanne