Fed up? Get yourself a lawyer and sue

31st January 2003 at 00:00
ANY fool could tell you that these are not normal times. This is the non-punishment era, those dark days when Freya MacDonald is suing Moray Council for allegedly contravening human rights by over-enthusiastic use of detention as a means of chastisement. Significantly, senior pupils of Speyside High, the school in question, have been defending their school in an articulate and public manner.

I am not going to dwell on the minutiae of all this in case I'm sued. Not that I am against suing per se - in fact, I would actively encourage it.

Why? Because legions of our pupils are prevented from learning by the disruptive elements who are now evident in nearly all schools. These pupils are the ones getting the tea and sympathy. This is a direct reflection of the norms of wider society when you consider that Carl Bishop, recently caught in the act of burglary, is allegedly suing the footballer Duncan Ferguson for using "excessive force". Ferguson, quite naturally, sought to protect his family when he discovered the intruder in his house.

Haven't we got ourselves into an absurd moral maze if we blame Ferguson for taking action in these circumstances? And so to the classroom.

Most teachers are saying that the problem is increasing. Whole lessons are spent with teachers feeling miserable and tense, wondering if today will be the day that they will be driven to smacking the miscreants who inhabit their classrooms. Ultimately, these disruptive pupils have the power to destroy the lives of their classmates. The Scottish Executive, far from taking this problem seriously, puts pressure on schools not to exclude these brats.

Parents don't know the extent of what's happening either because schools are too embarrassed to tell them or it's not politically correct to say:

"Actually, your child is ruining this class and what are you going to do about it?"

The offenders continue to consume time and resources, often to no effect.

The parents of these spoilt middle-class delinquents should be dragged into the classrooms and compelled to confront the havoc caused by their little darlings. As I have previously said in this column, the new offenders are not the socially deprived but the offspring of the prosperous middle classes.

Don't get me wrong. I'm 100 per cent for supporting the vulnerable kid whose social circumstances mitigate against them and for whom arriving in school at all is a major achievement. Yes, pour in the resources and offer maximum help for their emotional and behavioural needs. As one of our assistant rectors said at a recent meeting to discuss such issues: "We all need someone and sometimes the school is the only someone in the lives of these children."

Having clarified that point before the proverbial knives are drawn, let's get back to the Chinese water torture brigade. The slow but interminable drip of the constant interrupter of the lesson. The irritating class clown who has to be told endlessly to settle down. The oaf who won't get the hang of the simple act of raising his hand when he wants to speak. All trivial actions? Not for the rest of the pupils who are motivated and want to learn.

Hence my exhortation to parents to engage a lawyer and sue. If we believe that all our children have a right to an education, then we must accept that, in some cases, that right is being contravened. But it's not the education authorities that should be sued or indeed the schools, because they are doing all they can within the confines of the rules set by the Scottish Executive.

Instead, sue the offenders and their parents. Name and shame the parents whose children don't know how to behave. Throwing money at the problem is not helping. For too long the offenders have had all the aces up their sleeves. The rest of the pupils need to find their voices.

Marj Adams teaches religious studies, psychology and philosophy at Forres Academy.

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