Editorial: School's authority undermined

OPINION: 

The foundations of the school disciplinary system were shaken last year when the parents of Lucan Battison went to the High Court to challenge his suspension from a college in Hastings because his hair was too long.

Justice David Collins ruled against the school authorities: the seriousness was not great enough to warrant suspension, he ruled, and the decision to send the boy home was unlawful.

School trustees worried then that the case would encourage other students and their parents to take schools to court. School boards would have to review and tighten rules and regulations and principals would be uneasy about making tough decisions.

The entitlement of schools to punish misbehaving students was further crimped this week. Jack Bell, 16, and Jordan Kennedy, 17, from St Bede's College in Christchurch were given formal warnings by police and the Aviation Security Service after they breached security at Auckland Airport when they jumped on a baggage carousel last Friday and were carried into a restricted baggage area. The college ruled they should be dropped from the Maadi Cup rowing team and sent home for breaching the code of conduct.

Their parents took the matter to the High Court and were granted a temporary injunction. This allowed their sons to stay and compete in the regatta, even though they and the boys had signed a code of conduct which warns any serious breach of school or societal laws would result in offenders being sent home.

Whether or not the school's response is upheld in subsequent proceedings, by then the regatta will be over and the punishment made meaningless.

The college rector's authority hence has been undermined. Moreover, money intended to provide educational resources is being channelled into legal fees.

Above all, the lesson that actions have consequences is being perverted.

Misbehaviour, it transpires, has one consequence for most students but another for students with families willing to pay for legal combat.

 - Taranaki Daily News

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