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Monday, November 11, 2013

Roast Busters and the Place of Educators...

Since the news of the Roast Busters broke over a week ago, some people are asking about the part that Education and a School might play in a situation like this.

Earlier this week I heard the Secondary Principals Association President on Breakfast TV basically say it was something a school could do little about, particularly because it was after hours, in the weekend, where the school had no jurisdiction over what young people got up to.  Then, later in the week, I heard questions being asked about whether this needed to be addressed via government policy.

As a result, I've been thinking about this.  How can one not, its not only all over the media, but its being talked about by everyone.  I have blogged about it before the-despicable disgusting dregs of humanity, so I won't go over the same ground, but as an educator, I have been wondering about what I might do if this crossed my path.

I am confident any Principal who has had any of these children in their schools - victims or perpetrators, would have had a rough week.  Particularly if staff had known about it but not passed the concerns on to management.  I expect they will be feeling a similar pressure, much as the police have,  around not being seen to be doing something about it at the time.

I am not in the Secondary sector - so I am not completely sure what resources they have at their disposal, but I do know they have counsellors and some form of sexual education programme - and that would be a good start.  I also know there are great resources that schools can tap into - so I am confident that doing something was never going to be that hard.

So, what would I have investigated, had it crossed my desk.

Establish the Mandate:  Job One. 

I acknowledge that schools do not have jurisdiction over what happens in the weekend - but, if you hear about an incident that is going to have a negative impact on a student, then that is a means for intervention.  Right there you have the mandate to investigate further, and if the incident that occurred in the weekend results in further bullying and humiliation on school grounds - then the professionally and morally expedient thing to do is to investigate and sort it out.

The fact students were posting negative things on Facebook, and harassing students via social media, automatically is worthy of some kind of intervention.  Not only does it bring harm to students - and schools are tasked with protecting the social and emotional well being of students, but it also brings the school into disrepute.  There is a mandate.

What these boys did was appalling - and to plaster it all over social media was further humiliation and degradation for the victims.  This will have had a terrible impact on those students.  I consider this as one of the most severe forms of bullying there is.  There is no place for this in a school.  As a result I would have put an action plan in place.

Specific Actions Worthy of Consideration: 

I would have contacted all the parents involved, and called a meeting.   Communication is important, and talking with family/whanau a key part in establishing where to next. 

I would have talked to the trauma specialists at the Ministry - they have a team and people trained in dealing with significant issues.  Seeking external advice seems prudent and professionally responsible.   

I appreciate some schools would be concerned about the incident bringing bad publicity - but this too can be carefully planned for and managed.  What's important here is acting quickly and with the best interests of students at the forefront.

Along with talking with parents regarding next steps, I would be in touch with the police for guidance, advice, and to make sure they are aware of the issues.  They also have specialist workers who I would expect would take some form of action - even if only from the stand point of educating students on what is ok and what is not.  I have always found the local community constable and police educator teams to be invaluable.  They have resources and resource people that can be tapped into. 

Working with my staff and any appropriate professionals (perhaps other schools where the issue involves students from other schools - which I understand is the case here), I would ensure a comprehensive sex ed/ethics/information series of workshops was planned and ready to put in place.  

One of my biggest concerns in this case are the  female students who claimed it was 'normal teenage behaviour'.  It's not normal.  It was rape, control and degradation of young girls.  In no way is that normal - to even think that raises huge concerns.  Schools can play a part in educating these girls on how to be safe, and how their friends can keep them safe.  I repeat - it is not normal and it is most definitely NOT ok.  

I'd make sure we had good therapeutic support and counselling for the victims - and something that addressed the lack of moral compass the boys displayed.  

I would want to address the issue of low self esteem, and the group mentality of 'it's none of my business - she'll be right', so these kids understood how serious it is and to be an idle bystander is just as culpable.  

I, along with my team, would work closely with the police and I wouldn't let it drop.  From talking to parents and the students, to assisting with laying charges - there are things the school and police can do together when they work as a team.  Sometimes you have to be a squeaky wheel in order to address issues.  I'd consider this to be a 'squeaky wheel' moment. 

One of my calls would be to Child, Youth and Family.  These young girls are young, vulnerable and most definitely at risk.  As a parent, I am really struggling with those parents that have told police to 'let it drop' because their daughter doesn't want to talk about it.  I'm sorry, but you are the parent, so parent!  

CYPS intervention would be to ensure there were no child protection and safety issues at play here.  These were young, underage, unsupervised children out getting drunk and into serious situations, including group sex and rape.  There needs to be some questions asked and some deeper probing into why these children were out alone and unsupervised.  They would not be easy questions, but they would need to be asked.  Too often we don't make the hard calls to ensure the safety of children.  Educators are advocates for children - and this would be one of those times I would expect educators to advocate.

Finally, the young 'men' need dealt with.  This kind of behavior is depraved and most definitely normal.  They need help - specialized help.  What concerns me about these young 'men' is where this might lead.  Is this the tip of the proverbial sexual deviancy ice berg?

Is this the sexual delinquents equivalence of mass murderers who start out by hurting animals?   Fast forward into the future and imagine these 'men' are in their late 20s.  What do they do to get their 'kicks' then?  Kidnapp some unsuspecting victim, and graduate to 'rape' drugs?   I don't pretend to be an expert in this area but it does raise some questions.

Is the picture of the future I paint a bit harsh?  I don't think so.  These two roast buster ringleaders, Parker and Hales, have already proven they are depraved, amoral, and on a major ego trip.  That, in my opinion, requires significant intervention and help - and I would be looking to find support and resources where I could.  Punishment sure, the victims need retribution, but figuring out what on earth is behind this kind of depraved mentality (particularly when others think it is 'normal') is critical so that we don't see repeats of this kind of situation.    

So in summary, I don't buy the comment that there is nothing that can be done.  There is always something educators can do.  Schools are a good start, because at the end of the day, we are the at the chalk face - it's where the young people are and to all intents and purposes, they are a captive audience.  Does it require policy - I don't believe so, but it does require strong professional leadership and an un waivering belief that we can make a difference.  Lets start by addressing this head on, challenging the assumptions and reprogramming what is beginning to look like a far more ingrained culture than any of us would have thought.  This is a modern world we live in - there is no place for this kind of behaviour in an enlightened and equal society.  Time to step up.

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