Michael Martin (pictured) has concerns about high school students loitering on a shared footpath just metres away from the daycare his son attends.
A Whangārei preschool twice went into voluntary lockdown following concerns about high school students loitering on a footpath just metres away.
The childcare centre, which the Advocate has chosen not to name, is having CCTV
cameras installed outside the centre and is planning to contact the Whangārei District Council to increase the height of the fence along a common public walkway.
Michael Martin’s 4-year-old son goes to the daycare centre and said students from Whangārei Boys’ High School hanging out outside the centre has become a problem this year.
“I feel sorry for the teachers because if you can’t stop this behaviour, imagine what it’s like in the classroom with those students. Someone had a paintball gun out there one day, and the bin (by the public walkway) was lit on fire, no one was sure who it was but I don’t think it was one of the oldies that walk past.
“I am not scared but they do present a little bit of a menace, and you get that because being social creatures, we feel the presence of other people. They can swear somewhere else, just not around my little kid.
“I’ll pick my son up at 2.20pm and I’ve seen them there. I think it’s directly related to discipline problems, not just in schools, but in society. This wouldn’t have happened to me 20 years ago because I would have been expelled from school.
“Old people use this for walking quite a bit, and we have to look after these people. It’s not good for social cohesion at all. I feel sorry for the teachers because they are trying to teach the kids,” he said.
Police are not immediately aware of reports surrounding the behaviour outside the centre.
“Police regularly have visibility outside our schools as part of keeping our community safe. We encourage members of the public to report any matters of concern by calling 111 at the time, or 105 after the fact,” a spokesperson said.
A mum who didn’t wish to be named said early childhood teachers were being forced to deal with a situation they were ill-equipped to handle.
She has 4-year-old twins at the childcare.
The teachers at the centre should not have to worry about rowdy students who should be in school during school hours, and that their behaviour made parents feel unsafe picking up their kids, the mum said.
She said having to call WBHS almost on a daily basis to move their students showing bravado was unacceptable.
Whangārei Boys’ High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith said her school strived to be a good neighbour at all times.
While the vast majority of its students were fully engaged in school life, she said on occasions there were students who were not at school and/or did not uphold the school’s values and expectations.
“When alerted to this by neighbours or community members, we take this seriously. We work through non-attendance issues and any behavioural concerns with students and whanau, and we thank our community for keeping us informed of any issues.
“We have staff who are on duty in this area however, when they are in class during the school day they are not always available to respond. We certainly encourage members of the community to call the police if there are ever any people behaving in a threatening, dangerous or illegal manner,” Gilbert-Smith said.
One of the owners of the centre said the key thing was that there was no danger to the safety of staff or children but more the inconvenience of trying to get people to move away from the centre so children weren’t exposed to their language or see them vaping.
“They are not intentionally trying to disrupt our centre they are just being teenagers in a public space, the main thing we want is that they hang out somewhere that isn’t next to a childcare centre.”
He said the centre was no different to any such childcare premises in that it followed strong rules and regulations put in place by the Ministry of Education, including policies and procedures that were constantly reviewed and practised.
“At the end of the day all we want is for these teens to understand that they are near a childcare centre and to behave appropriately when there, and if they can’t, then to move somewhere else.”
Whangārei District Council community safety officer David Palmer said the childcare centre should report incidents to the police and WBHS.
“Our teams are generally based around the city centre, although they do venture onto shared paths close to town. Usually, their presence acts as a deterrent to bad behaviour.
“The team frequently de-fuses situations when called to them, moves the young people along, and records details of the incidents,” he said.
Imran Ali is a senior reporter who does general news reporting at the Advocate after more than two decades covering courts. He also takes a keen interest in rugby.