Schools Act needs to be tough­ened up

The Compass - - OPINION -

It is dis­turb­ing. Last week at Crescent Col­le­giate in Blake­town, a 13-year-old stu­dent was ganged up on by her peers.

Ac­cord­ing to re­ports, she was knocked to the ground and re­peat­edly kicked and punched by two or three other girls while a crowd of students watched — some of them record­ing the mo­ments on their cell­phones and later post­ing the video to Face­book.

The young girl is bruised and sore, and while her phys­i­cal in­juries will heal, she may never re­cover from the emo­tional trauma. Imag­ine be­ing sub­jected to that sort of gang-style abuse? Only for the in­ter­ven­tion of a neigh­bour, this child might have suf­fered ir­repara­ble phys­i­cal harm. Blows to the head could have led the con­cus­sion, or worse.

What hap­pened in Blake­town is hard to un­der­stand. What would pro­voke a hand­ful of teenagers to take abuse to that ex­treme?

Sadly, this is not the only case of ex­treme bul­ly­ing that has oc­curred in the prov­ince in re­cent weeks. In Cor­ner Brook, one stu­dent hit an­other one in the head with a brick. As a so­ci­ety, it’s time to say, “Enough is enough.” It ap­pears we have moved to the point where the next gen­er­a­tion has no re­gard or re­spect for the emo­tional or phys­i­cal well-be­ing of their peers. And, per­haps, so­ci­ety as a whole is re­spon­si­ble for that. We have moved from a “spare the rod, spoil the child” men­tal­ity, to one in which the pro­tec­tion of the rights of the in­di­vid­ual su­per­sede com­mon sense.

At the school level, for in­stance, over the years, we have wa­tered down the author­ity of teach­ers and school ad­min­is­tra­tors to the point where most of them are pow­er­less when it comes to tak­ing tough mea­sures to dis­ci­pline un­ruly students The most they can do is or­der sus­pen­sion from school for a day or so. Guess what? That’s not ex­actly pu­n­ish­ment for students who con­stantly break the rules. In fact, in many cases, it may ex­actly the end game they were hop­ing for.

We need a com­plete re-as­sess­ment of the way we deal with students in the school sys­tem.

Ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Clyde Jack­man says he was hor­ri­fied by what hap­pened in Blake­town. We be­lieve he is sin­cere in his re­ac­tion. So what do we do from here? Firstly, we sug­gest the girls who were in­volved in the at­tack on their peer at Blake­town need to be pros­e­cuted to the full ex­tent of the law.

Even if the school has lim­ited op­tions un­der the Schools Act, the Cana­dian crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem has clear reper­cus­sions for those who com­mit as­sault.

While that sys­tem should take care of any­one deemed guilty in the Blake­town in­ci­dent, we have to con­sider, as a so­ci­ety, a re­view of the Schools Act.

The aim should be pro­vid­ing de­ter­rents to en­sure in­ci­dents like this do not hap­pen; and if they do, the students who per­pe­trate such crimes are se­verely pun­ished.

While, we hope, the ma­jor­ity of young peo­ple know the im­por­tance of re­spect­ing each other and other peo­ple’s prop­erty, the sever­ity of what hap­pened in Blake­town shows us that, ob­vi­ously, there is an el­e­ment among our cur­rent youth that that does not worry about reper­cus­sions, be­cause they seem to think there are none.

We need to send the mes­sage, and quickly, whether that be through a re­vamp­ing of the Schools Act or other means, that there will be pu­n­ish­ment, it will be se­vere, and those who cause phys­i­cal harm will pay the price.

While the in­ci­dent at Blake­town is some­thing that never should have hap­pened in the first place, at the very least it has prompted dis­cus­sion and made us re­al­ize that the cur­rent means of crime and pu­n­ish­ment in our school sys­tem needs chang­ing.

It’s time to start the dis­cus­sion. — Bar­bara Dean-Simmons is an as­so­ciate manag­ing ed­i­tor with TC

Me­dia, and ed­i­tor of The Packet in Clarenville.

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