Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Sigh of relief

Teachers who organise school trips are getting more and more nervous that they'll be held responsible for every little cock-up that takes place, however innocent or unpredictable. So much so that some teachers are refusing to organise such trips altogether - to the great disappointment of the kids who lose out.

But teachers who went on a school trip to Belize where two pupils were raped have been held not responsible, and the pupils themselves have been told their behaviour was partly to blame.

That doesn't excuse the rapes of course, but it does help teachers who're stressed out with anticipating every possible accident and mishap and waiting for an accusing finger to be pointed at them.

The High Court found that the pupils had broken two basic rules of the trip by letting a man into their cabin and drinking alcohol. And they had not asked him to leave.

The court also found that the teachers had no reason to suspect the rapist, the resort owner's son, who had no criminal record and as far as they knew had not behaved improperly to anyone.

The teachers must have been greatly relieved, especially as the case has taken seven years to reach court - presumably seven years of nailbiting anxiety and self-accusation. Perhaps the teachers deserve to get damages for all the anguish they've been through.

The fact is that with the best will in the world, and with all possible precautions being taken, disasters can still occur. You just have to accept that they couldn't be prevented and deal with them as best you can. Dragging people through the courts seldom helps.

25 comments:

John Gray said...

funnily enough I was down on the Embankment in london on Monday afternoon and watched several french teachers trying to organise a gaggle of school kids...
I got stressed at the very thought of it all!

Nick said...

John - The thought of it stresses me out as well. Teaching was a job I ruled out pretty early in my working life! There's no way I have the necessary resilience.

Dicky Carter said...

I worked in an Infants school a few years ago and I have to say that school trips were so stressful. Good article Nick.

Jenny Woolf said...

Have to say it also amazes me that those kids didn't have it drummed into them by their parents not to do stupid things. I was thinking the other day that until fairly recently people were regarded as either children or adults. At 17 or 18 they would take themselves seriously - something teenagers are not encouraged to do.

I sound like a right old puritan, don't I!

Nick said...

Dicky - So why did you leave the school? Too much stress?

Jenny - I don't think you're puritanical at all. You're absolutely right, teenagers should have learnt to act responsibly and take themselves seriously. Acting like idiots and expecting others to pick up the pieces is just clueless.

Bijoux said...

I spent my last two spring breaks chaperoning school trips cross country to New York City and Orlando, Florida, both for musical performances. Disasters can happen, but if kids follow the rules, you can usually avert anything too tragic. I was amazed that the 200 and 300 kids that we had for each trip truly were on their best behavior. Most kids are not as bad as the media portrays them.

Nick said...

Bijoux - Good to know some kids do behave themselves and act like mature citizens. All they have to do is abide by a few basic rules, is that so onerous?

e said...

The fault here lies with the parents of children who apparently show less sense than geese...

Nick said...

e - True, parents should be encouraging more of a sense of responsibility in their children.

nursemyra said...

oh lordy, I'd never want to be a teacher

Wisewebwoman said...

I have such difficulty with all of that lawsuit shyte, Nick.
Blaming the teachers?
If men didn't rape there wouldn't be a problem, right?
XO
WWW

Nick said...

Myra - That makes two of us!

www - Good point. What action was taken against the rapist, if anything? The report doesn't give any clue. Changing men's attitude to rape is a long and tedious struggle - like pushing a boulder uphill.

Suburbia said...

Can't think of anything worse than taking teenagers abroad and being responsible for them!

However the number of school coach crash disasters (which appear to be due to tired drivers) recently make me very aware every time my 2 do a school trip.

Nick said...

Suburbia - I shouldn't worry about the coach crashes. They're a very tiny proportion of the thousands of school trips made every year.

Rummuser said...

I am glad that I am not a teacher. In India, even mild punishment compared to what we used to receive in school, now amounts to manslaughter and teachers and principals are sued.
http://rummuser.com/?p=3865

Secret Agent Woman said...

I accompanied my son's preschool class on a filed trip to the zoo and was assigned two additional young kids in addition to my own son. I had a terrible time keeping the three of them corralled and ended up having to carry one of them (quite heavy!) because she said she was too tired to walk any more. You couldn't pay me to take teens on a field trip.

Bijoux said...

Agent!!!! High school trips are SO MUCH better than preschool/elementary age. I've never had to carry anyone :) But yeah, the constant counting and making sure none of the kids wander away is a nightmare at that age, for sure. Made me appreciate my own kids, who were clingers - LOL!

Nick said...

Ramana - The situation is very similar in the UK now. Any "inappropriate" physical contact can land a teacher in hot water. I don't think it would amount to manslaughter though!

Agent - And that was just three of them! Goodness knows what it's like trying to keep twenty or thirty of them in order.

Nick said...

Bijoux - The constant counting must be a pain in the neck. And no matter how much you warn them to stay close, there'll always be one or two who wander off after something fascinating....

blackwatertown said...

I have huge respect and gratitude for the school trips that have been offered to my own children - because maintaining the illusion of organisation and control is very wearing.

Nick said...

Blackwater - I'm sure it is. And every passer-by is watching you, ready to criticise if you do something a bit careless....

Jay at The Depp Effect said...

While it is true that we should be able to trust teachers to act faithfully in loco parentis and care for our children as if they were their own, for teenagers there must be an acceptance of the concept of contributory negligence.

Actually, there should be more recognition of contributory negligence or everyone of sound mind, regardless of age.

It's easy to say 'they should have taken care of those girls' but the girls disobeyed the rules and set themselves up for disaster. In all seriousness, you'd need one teacher per cabin to make sure that type of thing never could happen and that would be impractical and in fact, undesirable.

Isn't part of the idea of school trips to foster independence?

Nick said...

Jay - I agree, we should consider contributory negligence a lot more than we do. There are usually several people at fault in a situation like that. As you say, a 24/7 cabin-by-cabin supervision would be ridiculous. And ironically, fostering independence was one stated purpose of the trip!

Liz said...

It must be dreadful being a teacher now and having to be so aware of - well, everything!

Nick said...

Liz - I know, so many things you have to be careful of, it must be enormously stressful.