I have long thought that there was a good case to be made for educators, probably retired educators with proven track records, who could act to mediate and assist parents and schools to resolve issues that arise. It makes for sad reading when the NZ Herald spreads a story across the front page and down a column of Page 2 about an incident when a teacher reprimanded a student for using an iPad when for some unstated reason that was inappropriate. The student responded by swearing at the teacher, the school reacted by expelling the student. The Ombudsman ruled that the school’s response exceeded the rights of the school to take the action they had.
In former years the action taken might have been considered to be custom and practice throughout the land when expulsions were de rigour reached over 4,000 a year. But that was then and now is not then!
When a student runs afoul of a school it is easy for the situation to grow in assumed substance in what is already an uneven relationship. Because, in many instances both parties are right. The school must judge whether they can run sweetly if swearing at teachers were to pass with a shrug and the answer is probably “no,” they can’t. On the other hand, parents, in my experience as a principal, will cooperate with schools if they believe that their child, of whatever age, has committed an offence and will support school response if they believe it is fair, considered, and reasonable. And especially when there has been good consultation.
That is where sage third party assistance could help to resolve incidents and issues in ways that support the school’s need for an orderly and respectful working climate and the parents / caregivers feel supported by the respect and involvement they have had in reaching a resolution of the incident. But not only an incident which has become inflamed. There are processes that add value to the role of a school as an educator. And both sides should approach these situations mindful of the fact that schools are educational institutions which act in the interests of young people and need to do what it takes to act in the interests of the students – that is what “duty of care” requires.
I have often been asked by parents who are trying to support their children when indiscretions which the parents arguing for the matter to be accepted, ignored and in which the parents are acting to constructively to seek a resolution. That is when good procedure is required – agreement on what happened, an explanation from the student, a discussion between and parents / caregivers with the Board of Trustees, then the development of an action that is explained to the student and their caregivers / parents. And above all, consistently applied. Yes, it is time consuming but done well it will help the school to achieve its enhance its role as educator.
Neutrality has a strong power to succeed where entrenched positions will fail.
Call it a “Mediation and Advisory Service!”