A spike in violence in Northland schools has principals fearing for the safety of their staff and pupils.
They say students as young as five are biting, hitting and swearing at teachers and their repeated calls to the Government for help are falling on deaf ears.
In the first month of the school year, Whangārei Intermediate suspended 25 students and expelled or excluded two, one of them, an 11-year-old boy who kicked and punched his female teacher.
“The student basically just physically harmed this teacher. She was shocked, we were all shocked, but it must have got to the point where the child couldn't do anything else but to just lash out,” Whangārei Intermediate School principal Haley Reid said.
“This is my 13th year at the school and granted it has grown in size but we’ve never experienced such abuse and violence as we have this year.”
Principals say the behaviour is becoming more common in Northland schools.
“I've got a handful of five year-olds who have got an oral language age of two-and-a-half, two-and-a-half years-old. They are kicking, they are spitting, they are biting,” Leanne Otene, principal of Manaia View School.
“I consoled a teacher the other day, you know, she sent me an email: 'I've been bitten today, Leanne'. What do I say to a teacher that says she's been bitten? Other than, you know, I am sorry that has happened to you.”
There's violence outside the school gates too. Eleven-year-old Aurora was walking home when she was attacked by a high school student.
“She grabbed my bag, she grabbed my hair, then threw me to the ground, then started stomping on my head and when everyone was coming she just walked away,” Aurora said.
Whangārei police are investigating that incident and say they're increasing their presence in the community after school hours to prevent further incidents.
They're also meeting with school leaders soon to gain a better understanding of the issues.