Otago Daily Times
April 17, 2001

'Teacher touching' issues explored


Wellington: Public anxiety about sexual abuse has changed the relationship between children and teachers in New Zealand, a new book says.

Touchy Subject: Teachers Touching Children is a collection of opinions from educationalists from
New Zealand, Samoa, Australia, Britain and the United States.

The book's publishers,
University of Otago Press, said the book asked questions such as whether New Zealand had gone overboard with the "hands-off" approach to touching students, and whether men were being put off teaching.

Two contributors, Sarah-Eve Farquahar and Richard Johnson, believed the current concern about child sexual abuse in schools had seen men avoiding working in early childhood education out of fear. They said male and female teachers were frustrated at being seen as potentially dangerous to children.

The book aimed to "contribute to a more critical, complex and careful debate about the significance of child safety policies" in
New Zealand schools and early childhood centres. It included a chapter by Lynley Hood, the author of a book on the Peter Ellis case. Her chapter suggested that the Christchurch Civic Childcare Centre case, in which Ellis was convicted of abusing children in his care, arose out of a convergence of three big movements in the 1980s - radical feminism, religious conservatism and the child protection movement.

Other chapters deal with changing views on school discipline, and attitudes in Maori and Samoan communities towards child-rearing.

The book's editor is Alison Jones.

She gathered most of the chapters from a symposium at the
University of Auckland where she is associate professor at the school of education