Saturday, February 23, 2013

A rather odd court ruling

A court in India acquitted La Martiniere for Boys principal Sunirmal Chakravarthi and three teachers for their role in the suicide of 13 year old Rouvanjit Rawla.

The poor boy took his life in fear on the strict conduct code at the boarding school.

The school used corporal punishment despite the fact that the Supreme Court in India had banned the use of it. Denmark and India are in dispute over the extradition case of the humanitarian and author Niels Holck. I will not decide what is wrong and right in the extradition case, but it seems that the society in India has very little respect of the court system in general. So why extradite a person to stand trial in a country where the court system is disrespected?

Anyhow during the trial against the teachers one of the teachers told the court that he had used corporal punishment on the poor boy. He had used a cane. Still the court concluded that there was no evidence of torture.

According to the teacher there is no pain involved using a cane. It would be the first according to the people who are so old that they can remember corporal punishment in schools. The entire concept of using a cane on another person is to cause pain. It is torture. It is why corporal punishment has been outlawed in most countries. Even in India.

So why reach such a conclusion?

We cannot answer this. We feel that his family was robbed of a fair ending to their suffering. They lost a child because the boarding school didn't accept the previous ruling of the Supreme Court.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

A conviction with far reaching consequences

In relationship with the dragon boat accident involving teachers and students from Lundby Efterskole the court in Nykøbing Falster has now handed down convictions.

The court fined the boarding school 25 separate fines of DKK 10,000. The accident resulted in the death of one teacher and injury to many of the students after their body temperatures dropped as low as 15 degrees. One of the students is still hospitalized and has lost the ability to speak or swallow.

The headmaster of the school got a sentence of 60 days of prison suspended. He was also banned from teaching activities on the water for 3 years.

The last past is rather interesting as the trial showed that the headmaster was abroad while the accident took place and outsourced the teaching on the water to the deceased teacher who was a former elite officer from the Royal Danish Navy. Whether the school has to refrain from activities on water while the headmaster has his job or the school can continue to conduct such activities outsourcing the teaching to another teacher is disputed so maybe the conviction will be appealed.

However, regardless of the dispute the conviction has resulted in far reaching consequences for the entire boarding school business in Denmark. The reaching for taking the students out that day was to push the students out of their comfort zone. To enable that the students had to experience discomfort and in this particular case a near death experience.

The court’s ruling is a full stop for introducing emotional growth as part of the teaching in boarding schools and also in day schools. The schools have already made press releases that they will stop activities that would push students out of their comfort zone due to this ruling. You have to conclude that while many wants to collect payment from parents and school districts none wants to take responsibility when the activities inevitable go wrong.

And they will. Deaths in Denmark as well as abroad show that wilderness expeditions and outdoor activities will lead to the death of minors when the goal is emotional growth. Deaths are inevitable because no teacher or instructor has the full picture of the student’s emotional and physical history at hand when the students are ordered to do an activity.

Records of deaths at boarding schools, in wilderness programs and any other outdoor activity are now being recorded as they happened due to the wish of guardians and teachers trying to push the individual student out of his or her comfort zone. And the numbers are not few.

The accident involving this dragon boat could have meant the loss of the lives for several students if one student hadn’t swam ashore and ran barefooted for mile because the boat had to radio or other kind of communication equipment. It took 90 minutes before the authorities were alerted. So it is only luck combined with a heroic effort from the students which prevented a tragedy beyond imagination and a doubling of the victim list for Denmark.

So this case had become a teaching tool for parents. You cannot send your child to a boarding school expecting emotional growth without knowing that it could mean risking the life of your child. Not even taken into account that the boarding school association in Denmark has made a press release that they will stop the most dangerous activities. Because where is the limit. Until this incident the rules wasn’t clear regarding boating activities. New rules were introduced after this incident. We have to ask. This was stricter rules regarding water activities. What about the other activities?

Are the safety precautions in sports taken? What about activities along the roads? Many students are from cities where bicycles and cars never meet.

Last but least: Do the teachers know what they are dealing with when they decide what the comfort zone of the students is? They are not educated counselors. They are teachers. In 1994 the Danish government decided that not everyone should be allowed to call themselves psychologists without education which had been the case before this year. Today even group homes dealing with the most troubled youth call themselves psychotherapist which is a title everyone can take in Denmark unchallenged. It is due to the cost running these places. Psychologists are too expensive to hire when we are talking of troubled youth.

The teachers at these boarding schools are doing tasks which would require the assistance of psychologists if we were talking about adults being forced through the same exercises, but when we are talking of students then everyone finds it acceptable that a simple teacher does this job.

Do the teachers realize that they are opening Pandora’s box at some students when they push the students out of their comfort zone?

Even if they were successful with damaging the students, will it benefit the students in the long run? It is not certain. We all remember the famous writer H.C. Andersen. In the end of one of his book a duckling finds out that he is a swan. Many of the students attending these boarding schools enter with a luggage based on a mixture of their social heritage and the upbringing their parents provided them with.

What if they are made to believe that they are swans and decide to reach out for the highest jobs based on that belief? Fact is that it would end poorly for them because Denmark is a society where people choose a line of living and education based on their social heritage. It is a both sensitive and vulnerable society. The development the last 30 years in Denmark has showed that areas where people enter Denmark believing that they don’t have to develop their family over generations from low-income jobs to high-income positions end up being in trouble with the law when they so to say try to skip generations aiming for the highest positions.

So teaching emotional growth can be damaging for the students when they are destined to serve in ordinary jobs by birth. That is why this ruling can be positive for not only future students but the entire society.

Last year 8 schools closed because the parents are realizing the dangers of these schools. Not only when tragedies like the Dragon Boat accident happened but more general when the students return from an enclosed world believing that the swan status has been reached only to discover that isolated in the real world on the lessons learned are unreal. We don’t need that kind of frustration. We need that each and every youth learn to function based on the resources they have been taught at home and not at some emotional growth exercise.

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