The comments of Tom McKee on May 4 2001 on paramilitaries and school discipline were misjudged. I have taught for 10 years in a mainly Protestant school and many of our pupils have relatives with paramilitary connections. I am not aware of any situation where the paramilitaries have done anything other than harm to discipline in our school.
Paramilitary beatings are delivered to those who are unpopular with the paramilitaries. Some of the victims may well have been "anti-social", but all too often are simply unpopular. In any case, how much more anti-social can you be than to hold down a 17-year-old and drop breeze-blocks on his knee-caps?
I suggest there are two factors that may be responsible for the increase in misbehaviour in Protestant schools such as my own.
Political changes have lead to a decline in the influence of the RUC. Many RUC officers are demoralised by the changes and are no longer active in the battle against petty crime. At the same time, the UVF and UDA are engaged in a battle for control of Protestant estates. As well as last year's UDAUVF riots, many schools will have experienced a number of small fights related to the dispute, which may not have been reported but will have damaged discipline.
Every summer, the major disruption surrounding the Drumcree dispute results in many children being caught up in riots. Many children enjoy the excitement and drama of being allowed to blockade roads and turn away motorists. Having experienced this sort of power they do not easily revert to following a teacher's instructions.
The solution lies in persuading parents to take more responsibility for the discipline of their children, by supporting school discipline policies and by supporting the forces of law and order. The paramilitaries have no positive role.
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