What does this teach?

March 24, 2015

“What would have happened if you told your parents you’d been punished for something you’d done at school?”

The question came from a teacher and my reply was simple – I wouldn’t have told them because I’d have got no sympathy and might have invited further punishment.

Had I felt I’d been unfairly dealt to and my parents agreed with me, the best I could have expected from them was acceptance that it was unfortunate but they would still have supported the school.

The teacher sighed and said if only they still had that level of support from parents. Instead, they got parents swearing black was white and their little angels could do no wrong.

That conversation was more than a decade ago and the teacher wasn’t then having to deal with legal action.

The St Bede’s College rowers axed from their Maadi Cup rowing team for breaching airport security say they took court action due to concerns over the school’s decision-making process and have questioned whether the punishment was fair.  . .

Teen rowers Jack Bell and Jordan Kennedy were removed from the school’s Maadi Cup rowing team after being given formal warnings by police and the Aviation Security Service for jumping on a baggage conveyor at Auckland Airport on Friday.

The pupils, who had just arrived on a domestic flight from Christchurch, rode the carousel through rubber curtains and into a restricted baggage area, the Civil Aviation Authority said.

The school ruled the pupils should be sent home. However, their parents, Shane Kennedy and Antony Bell, were granted a High Court injunction allowing their sons to stay and compete in the Maadi Cup.

A statement, released by the boys and their families on Monday afternoon, said the court action was never intended to justify their actions or to suggest the school was not entitled to take disciplinary action.

“The only reason for the court action was due to concerns over the school’s decision-making process and over whether or not the decision as made was proportionate to the misbehaviour. The court action was certainly not taken lightly,” the statement said.

“They accept that what they did was stupid. No harm was meant and it was intended as nothing more than a prank.

“All parties are aware that following a full and fair investigation about the incident that there may well be disciplinary consequences.” . . .

Rector Justin Boyle says this sets a dangerous precedent:

St Bede’s rector Justin Boyle said the action could be seen as undermining the school’s authority.

“What it’s doing there is is taking away the ability of the school to manage their children and any educational activity outside the classroom.”

Mr Boyle said the school’s board was meeting today to consider what actions it would take.

St Bede’s lawyer Andrew McCormick said it was important the school got a decision on whether it was right to discipline the pupils.

He said the substantive hearing could not be held until the regatta is over, so the penalty becomes moot.

But he said there were broader implications as to whether schools and principals can exercise their discretion and discipline students. . .

The Principals’ Federation says this is a worrying trend.

Principals’ Federation president Denise Torrey says it sends the wrong message to students.

“The boys didn’t learn that there are consequences to your actions and that the whole reason we have rules or a code of conduct is to outline expected behaviour.”

Ms Torrey says parents taking action in the courts is a worrying trend. . . .

No-one is arguing about what the boys did nor whether it was wrong to do it.

The court action was questioning the school’s process.

And what does that teach children?

That if they do something stupid, breach the school’s code of conduct they can get a court to stop the school imposing the logical consequences of that, not because the boys were wronged but because the school might have got the process wrong.

Once more it appears that the right process is more important than what’s right and wrong.


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