Fraser students protest principal's speech
About 100 Fraser High School students left school at 10am on Monday in protest over their principal’s speech on Thursday, but not all backed the action.
Since Principal Virginia Crawford’s speech to junior students at an assembly, the school has been divided, student Cody Barron, 16, said on Monday.
The school had been tagged, property has been destroyed and a fire alarm had been kicked off the wall by angry students. Others had cried after the assembly, he said.
Teachers were aware of the protest, he said, although most hadn’t commented on the issue.
In a written statement released on Monday afternoon, Board of Trustees chair Jeff Green said that the student led protest lasted for second period, returning to class for the third - or not quite an hour.
"We consider the school to be operating as usual," Green said. "We would ask that you are sensitive about continued reporting on this matter as we are mindful that this is a busy and important time of the year for our students."
One student at the protest wore a singlet with “F... you Ms Crawford” scrawled on the front with a ballpoint pen. But not all students were upset by their principal’s comments.
Lauese Faaosofia, 17, stood by Crawford’s tough stance.
“Why are you here? What are you protesting?” he asked those milling around on the pavement outside the school.
The mass wag was only making the school look worse, he said.
Some of the students didn't stick around for the protest and were spotted at the nearby dairy having a smoke.
"These kids don't even know what they're here for."
Lauese, who had a free period, stayed outside telling the students to pack it in.
"I understand why people are angry, but if you are going within the message, she's just trying to get us not to wag."
And her previous attempts to keep students in school hadn't worked, he said.
But Kyle Callaghan, 16, said the principal's rape and suicide comments were disrespectful.
"That's the worst of it, I reckon," Kyle said. "And just the fact that instead of encouraging kids to come to school, she was kind of bullying the students, calling them losers for wagging."
He hoped the protest would prove that not all those skipping class would end up a tragic statistic.
"I would like an apology from the principal."
A 17-year-old student said a lot of the students came from rough backgrounds and the principal's words had been a slap in the face.
Her words had badly affected them, he said.
In her speech, filmed by students and widely shared on social media, Crawford said those constantly skipping school are at risk of becoming a bleak statistic.
Crawford told her students they were more likely to get raped, go to prison or commit suicide if they consistently wag school.
"Every student who walks out of the gate to truant is already a statistic of the worst kind," Crawford said in the speech. "[They are] highly likely to go to prison, to commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their lives, have a major health problem or problems, die at an early age, have an addiction - drugs, gambling, alcohol or smoking."
Crawford went on to say that some of those at Fraser, a decile 4 school, were proving the research to be true.
She told students that when she sees them skipping class, she thinks, "that's another group of students without a future".
"That's another loser. That's another wannabe who will go crying to their parents with some lame, sad story. That's another student who is desperate for friendship. That's another person we've lost."
On Friday, the Ministry of Education received two formal complaints about the speech, which was uploaded to YouTube. Both complaints would be referred to the Board of Trustees.
But the Board of Trustees applauded Crawford's comments, saying the school had received a "great deal of positive feedback on the speech".
Crawford was strong enough to have "challenging conversations" with students, Green said in a written statement.
"We consider that even if just one student reconsiders the path they are taking and takes steps in a more positive direction after this speech then that could have huge impact on their future lives and those of their family and friends and the wider community."
Crawford declined to comment.