Thursday, 13 October 2011

How far should schools go in aiding the police in identifying young rioters?

My local free sheet the excellent Camden New Journal is leading this week’s edition with a story, which raises a moral issue that has left me in two minds.
Two local schools have been assisting police in identifying pupils caught on CCTV in the August riots in London.
One head teacher said his school was “duty bound” to assist the police, while the other couldn’t be reached to comment on the "hot potato" decision to actively support the investigation.
So far four teenagers face charges in the wake of the schools’ help. Of course this doesn’t make them guilty. But if found so, there are serious consequences over and above receiving a criminal record.
Stiff prison sentences have been handed out regardless of the youth of the offenders. A not necessarily short, sharp lesson might push an already wayward child into a life of crime.
The question is “What has the higher priority, a school’s duty of care to its pupils or to society at large?”
This is much the same dilemma as that faced by parents recognising their children pictured in “Do you know these rioters?” initiatives conducted by the police.
Some parents have hauled their kids off to police stations but I suspect not many.
Thankfully I’ve never been put in the position whether to ‘shop’ one of my own children. It would not be an easy choice. But as their parent, at least the decision would be mine.
Where the offence is grave, there can be no question schools must work with the police to apprehend culprits. But it is a fine line head teachers must walk when they weigh up identifying pupils for what might be trivial offences.
The law may prove heavy-handed and strain general teacher-pupil trust throughout the school.

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What do you think? GC