Monday, 18 August 2008

Protecting the Presumed Innocent

The Herald has told me with horror that a judge has allowed granted bail to a 14 year-old who is accused of raping a 16 year old which left him free to attend the same school as his alleged victim. The school has since suspended the 14 year-old.

I feel very uncomfortable about this situation.

On one hand the school needs to create a safe environment for the young woman who made the allegation and the situation does leave her vulnerable if her offender was attending the same school. But on the other, this boy also has a right to an education and this has been denied on the basis of a charge rather than a conviction.



Anna McM said...

Yes - I read this with horror as well. This situation isn't too common (one would hope), but it must be reasonably common for kids who are alleged to have done other stuff to be suspended/taken out of circulation while their actions are investigated or to keep other pupils safe. What happens in those situation? And presumably, there are other ways of granting the boy his right to education without actually having him at school?

The ex-expat said...

At the moment not much. The 'problem' students just become someone else's problem until they are lucky enough to get a referral to one of the few facilities that deal with kids with severe behavioral problems or even worse, jail.

Anna McM said...

That's crappy. What kind of facilities are there for these kids, and do they actually get anything resembling an education at them? Do they get picked on by other pupils?

The ex-expat said...

I did a placement out at two small kids that catered for primary aged kids with severe behavioral problems.

The schools were tiny (something like maximum of 25 students) and had a high number of specially trained teachers who worked with the families to alleviate the causes of the disruptive behavior (most of the kids had been abused).

They had a reasonable rate of success however for kids with conduct disorders (they didn't feel any empathy) there wasn't much that could be done.

Anna McM said...

Are the conduct disorders things which kids are born with, or are they the result of environmental factors?

The ex-expat said...

They haven't nailed down the causes of conduct disorder. But I guess like most things our environment can bring out the best in our genetics so a little from column A and B can make a rather nasty problem C.

Apathy Jack said...

This is a hard one. On the one hand, the judge shouldn't have put him anywhere near his alleged victim, but on the other, he is innocent unitl proven guilty, and the government does insist that children are entitled to an education.

I've dealt with students who have been sexually assaulted before, and they fall into one of three broad categories:

1) Done by a stranger - little to be done but call the police.

2) Done by a family member - nothing is done, or the police are called (and I know that the first option isn't a good one, but it's how it goes down sometimes...)

3) Done by an acquaintance - in which case a posse is usually formed who, after a while, call the police to tell them that a rapist can be found at the bottom of the flight of stairs he just fell down.

The boy needed to be removed for two reasons:

Firstly, the safety of the girl, but secondly: the press may not know his name, but I guarantee that every single person at the school does. I'm sure the teachers can man up and do their jobs (I've taught sex-offenders before - you just do it) but the boy is in clear and present danger from his fellow students. The girl's male friends will be out for revenge, and even if she didn't have much in the way of violent acquaintances, there will be boys in the school who didn't know her personally but who will want to perform some old-fashioned vigilante justice just because, you know, rape isn't cool, and if someone rapes someone from your school, they need a hiding.

The boy's life at that school is over. If he is innocent (and I'm not presuming he is - that's for one of those juries whose duties I keep ducking to decide), that is a tragedy, but the courts presuming you are innocent is not the same as a pack of hormonal anger-management cases holding court when the teachers aren't looking.

Anna McM said...

That's actually a very good point, Jack. I wonder how the school is handling it with regards to the other pupils - eg what sort of critical incident response they would put in place? Any thoughts?

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what the NZ Herald article said, but this is from the Waikato Times:

'The Education Ministry has agreed to provide teacher aide funding for the boy and meet his educational costs. "We will place him at an off site location so he can continue his education until this matter is resolved."'

The ex-expat said...

@ jack I agree with your points that sending back to the school would be a recipe for trouble. But presumably these kids lived in the same neighbourhood so it wouldn't take that much for any teen hellbent on revenge. However then it is just someone else's problem.

@anon. The Herald article was more focused in on the suspension but I'm glad to hear that he still has access to education.