School sanctions should be proportionate

to harm done

OPINION: The recently publicised case of the Auckland student excluded from school for swearing at a teacher in 2019 attracted some public backlash, much of it focusing on the need for kids to respect rules.

The Chief Ombudsman overruled the school board, claiming it was incorrect to deem the student’s behaviour as “gross misconduct” warranting permanent expulsion. In this case, the student had told a teacher to “f... off” and “don’t touch my s..t”, when the teacher attempted to confiscate his learning tablet.

Schools have the ability to make local rules, but the statutory threshold of gross misconduct warranting suspension or expulsion is not automatically triggered by a breach of school rules. Significant discretion is attributed to school boards to consider whether a particular incident is part of a pattern of disobedience, sets a harmful or dangerous example to other students, or places the student or others at risk of serious harm, such as to be considered gross misconduct.

Anyone who works with (or who has) kids understands that most of them actually appreciate boundaries, and that, like adults, they like to know that rules provide sufficient certainty as to what is allowed and what is not, that they are applied consistently so that like cases are treated alike, and that extenuating circumstances are taken into account when considering rule breaches.

Link to article: School sanctions should be proportionate to harm done | Stuff.co.nz


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