Friday, January 31, 2014

Lucia New search and seizure rules in schools will encourage more theft

When I started school as a five year old many years ago in the 1970's, I had a really interesting a cool pencil sharpener that a boy in my class coveted. During the day, this boy tried to steal it from me a number of times, until at the end of the day he finally succeeded. I told my teacher, Sister Joan that Michael had taken my pencil sharpener, having no proof as such, since I hadn't seen him do it, but thought it must have been him given his earlier attempts on the sharpener that  I was aware of.   So, my teacher, Sister Joan proceeded to search him and his belongings until she found the stolen item, which she returned to me. As I was leaving to go home, I glanced back into the school cloakroom to see Sister Joan administering punishment to the boy by washing his mouth out with soap, thus preventing what may have been the beginning of a life of crime for a child who instead grew up to be a model citizen.

On the front page of the Dominion Post yesterday, there was story about school principals complaining that new search and seizure rules that will be in effect this year will prevent them from being able to search for stolen items that school pupils may have hidden in their school bags.

Principals say they are being hamstrung by new search and seizure rules allowing them to look in a student's bag but not to search it.

With the rules set to kick in as schools restart for the year, principals say they do little to guarantee student safety.

The reality for schools is that weapons, including knives and screwdrivers, are being brought on to school grounds but the guidelines still do not ensure such items will be found, because the guidelines limit the extent to which searches can be carried out.

Teachers can look inside bags but not search for buried contraband and, if dangerous equipment such as scalpels goes missing, a class cannot be searched.

Electronics seized in suspected cyber-bullying cases could also not be checked for content.

Former Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said schools had been back and forth to the Ministry of Education 10 times in an effort to redraft the rules, but some principals would remain unhappy with them.

The ministry said the legislation came into force on January 1 and the guidelines for principals would be signed off in the next week.

Association president Tom Parsons said it would be terrible if, after 10 redrafts, the guidelines were not workable.

"When you seize a phone and trawl through it you may see stuff that is arguably private, but that's nonsense to then not do it, because the reason you're looking for the stuff is out of good intentions."

He said principals and teachers did not use search and seizure powers unless there was a reason to suspect wrongdoing.

"Surely the privacy factor is a small price to pay for the greater safety of all students."

The article is written from the point of view of safety, but think of all the Michaels out there who will be able to start stealing from a young age, with the teachers not being allowed to search for contraband because of "privacy". Who knows what would have happened to the 5 year old boy who stole my pencil sharpener were he not thwarted by a determined school teacher who was also able to punish him for what he did?  Maybe he'd be in prison now rather than leading a normal life.

A few years back my oldest boy participated in a Philosophy class as a Year 9 subject for a couple of terms. It was truly scary, what he was being taught in that class (it was full on utilitarian philosophy), but more so the attitudes of his classmates that inidicated a terrible loss of morals over the last few decades. When asked what they would do if they had the power of invisibility, every single girl in my son's class said they would steal clothes, and every single boy (excluding my son) said they would steal money. They all wanted to steal if given the power of invisibility, presumably because they thought that such a power would allow them to steal and get away with it.

These new search and seizure rules which schools principals are rightly complaining of will make stealing at school so much easier if bags can only be looked in and not searched. All the child has to do is hide the stolen item and they are safe, and I think this will encourage more stealing among the young, as it increases the chances of being able to steal and not be found out.

It's such a different world from the one in which I grew up in, and I'm not that old, and this stupid obsession with privacy when it's not appropriate is not helping.

Related link: Safety rules too weak, say schools ~ Dominion Post, Stuff

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