Sunday, April 23, 2006

Kerre Woodham: Resorting to violence no way to solve anything

Nobody condones the actions of Daryl Falcon in grabbing an 11-year-old boy around the neck and prodding him in the face with his finger. Even Daryl himself says that what he did to the boy his daughter claimed was making her school life misery was wrong and the result of stress and frustration. He's paid the price for his actions - he now has an assault conviction and a $500 fine.

The family of the 11-year-old say they opposed diversion after Daryl badmouthed their son in the media. Dave, the boy's father, says his son has never been in trouble at school before, his reports had been fine with no mention of bad behaviour and that his son and Daryl's daughter were as bad as each other.

But Daryl Falcon has received loads of support from members of the community who have experienced the helplessness of seeing their child's life ruined by bullying or who were bullied themselves at school. The case has been the catalyst for hundreds of stories of parents who have been unable to get schools to take the problem of bullying seriously.

Every school has to deal with the issue - where there are pre-teen children, there are bullies. And it's how the issue is dealt with that is the test of a good school. It seems that at Mairehau School there was a lack of communication from all parties - Daryl Falcon, the school management and Dave the father of the 11-year-old.

The case should never have ended up in court. And when you think of the number of high-profile people who have appeared in court on real assault charges and been either diverted or discharged without conviction, it makes you wonder whether we really are equal in the eyes of the law. Nonetheless, this case proves yet again that aggression, be it child on child, be it adult on child, be it understandable or not, doesn't result in any winners.

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