Cyber-bullying among several Wairarapa schools is being kept in check, say principals in the region, although some are backing calls to ramp up the policing and prevention of attacks.
Justice Minister Judith Collins earlier this month urged the Law Commission to fast-track its recommendations for reducing cyber-bullying and Patrick Walsh, chief executive of the Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand, called for wider powers of search and seizure that include access to pupils' digital devices like smartphones, iPads and laptops.
Chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean also spoke out this month about cyber-bullying, youth suicide and drug abuse. He called for law changes and branded cyber-bullying as a factor in New Zealand's high rate of youth suicide.
Kuranui College principal Geoff Shepherd said the school has only dealt with occasional instances of cyber-bullying involving pupils and their inappropriate use of school-owned computer devices and netbooks, which all Year 9 and 10 pupils at the college are using.
"We certainly have protocols but we haven't had to deal with many incidences at all. It is a major issue but the cases have been isolated and we have no use or plans for any further powers as suggested by Mr Walsh."
Rathkeale College principal Willy Kersten said the school has protocols for using digital devices and all pupils sign a cyber safety policy agreement that governs their digital access, uploads and downloads.
He had not confiscated any devices used inappropriately in and around the school this year, but in previous years had impounded cellphones and accessed their content with the consent of parents.
"We've had nothing of significance to deal with this year and inappropriate use is certainly not rampant."
However, he said the college is considering the use of locally developed software to increase controls that bolster internet providers' systems.
Mr Kersten welcomed any increase in legal powers "to ensure the safety and security of students" using digital devices.
"It's becoming increasingly difficult to police devices, especially cellphones that can access the internet, and we need access to whatever legal remedy that may be needed." Lakeview School principal Ed Hodgkinson, who also heads the Masterton principals cluster for 14 district schools, said his school has robust policies surrounding pupils using digital devices at the school.
He said the school is soon to have ultra-fast broadband access and will upgrade its digital network to match the change and policies must move with advancing technologies and children "who are digital natives".
"The kids don't need our network or even a computer. All they need is a smartphone and they can say what they want to the world. We are developing a school culture based on caring and kindness and policies around digital devices need to stay relevant."
He said Masterton Primary School had vigorous policies for the use of technology although the principals cluster had not discussed the development of a standard protocol.
Makoura College principal Tom Hullena said pupil access to social network sites is banned at the school although there had been occasional issues with bullying texts and negative posts pupils at home have made to public web domains.
"There have been issues outside of school that we've had to deal with here and we have sometimes fielded complaints from students who have been bullied by text."
Mr Hullena backed calls to revise legislation around cyber-bullying and search and seizure of pupils' digital devices at the school.
"I'd support anything to help us manage those issues."