A sop to society

St Bede's College board members face a difficult task in dealing with the aftermath of an interim High Court injunction which prevented the school from sending home two errant rowers from a national rowing competition.

The two pupils were reinstated into the school's Maadi Cup rowing squad after the rector, Justin Boyle, ruled the boys would not take part in the regatta following their breaching of Auckland Airport security.

The fathers of the boys, Shane Kennedy and Antony Bell, won the interim injunction on Monday, allowing their sons to in the meantime continue to compete in the regatta.

Mr Kennedy stood down as chairman of the St Bede's College Rowing Club.

Heated debate has ensued since details of the interim decision were released, with many people criticising the parents for challenging the college's authority to discipline pupils.

Board of trustees chairman Warren Johnstone says it is important to realise the High Court did not examine the merits of the case.

The decision to ban the boys from competing was made after what Mr Boyle and senior management believed was a full investigation and consideration of an appropriate penalty.

The High Court decision differed from the thoughts of the school. Justice Rachel Dunningham was satisfied there was ''at least a serious question'' over the issues raised by the parents but added her orders were ''neither an endorsement of the boys' behaviour, nor a decision that the school's response was inappropriate''.

The legal process continues: the boys' parents have to submit a formal statement of claim by today to continue the interim injunction for the remainder of the regatta.

This is not the first time St Bede's pupils have been involved in some sort of ''hi-jinks'' at a Maadi Cup, and the actions of a few rowers last year at Twizel may have been at the back of the mind of Mr Boyle this year.

Last year, pupils reportedly burned the acronym SBC, which stands for St Bede's Crew, on a road in Twizel during the regatta.

Parents were said to be unhappy then about the treatment of their children, but for a different reason.

A parent said the pupils involved closed ranks and would not disclose who was the ring leader.

The boys had also doused tennis balls in petrol before lighting and throwing them.

It was revealed yesterday one of the pupils involved this year was disciplined after last year's Twizel meet - but he was not an instigator and was punished after the event.

The decision by the two fathers to take this year's matter to court seems to drive at the very heart of where society is heading.

Often, promising young sportsmen, in particular, appear before the court for ''uncharacteristic'' acts of violence or misbehaviour and are let off with warnings, while others have a stain on their record for the rest of their lives.

In this case, all St Bede's pupils in the Maadi Cup, and their parents, signed a code of conduct requiring them to comply with instructions, school rules and societal laws - while warning any serious breach may lead to being sent home.

The school took the view the incident was a serious matter, given it was a breach of Civil Aviation rules.

But the judge granted the injunction because if the boys were banned from competing it was arguable they could not be adequately compensated for the opportunities they had lost if it was later found the school made the wrong decision.

The decision to take legal action has the potential to undermine the authority of schools.

It takes away the ability of a school to manage children in any educational activity outside the classroom, and opens the door for parents to challenge in the courtroom any decision made by a school.

Schools must have the right to take appropriate action when their pupils stray from agreed terms and conditions.

The legal steps taken have the potential to completely undermine the authority of schools and their boards.

Sadly, it is a course of action which seems a sop to an increasingly politically correct society without boundaries or consequences - when it suits.

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