Trying to control a class full of naughty high school students is no easy job and for a principal in New Zealand, a controversial speech she gave to try and motivate her students hasn’t quite gone to plan.
According to the NZ Herald, Virginia Crawford, the principal of Fraser High School in Hamilton, gave a speech about student truancy, although it didn’t sit well with students. In fact, the publication claims more than 100 students stormed out of class in protest to Crawford’s comments.
During the speech, which was secretly recorded by a student and uploaded to YouTube, Crawford made a number of sensational claims about kids who wag school. She warned of a “predictable” and “hopeless” future for kids who skipped school and that they wouldn’t survive if they left the comfort-zone of their local suburbs.
“As an adult, you don’t get the option of doing a detention or a stand-down or writing apology letters,” she said. “As an adult, there are no teachers to encourage, to support, to nag, to fix things, to believe in you. There are no parents or care-givers to see the principal to fix your mistakes.”
She said the only way for students to get ahead in life was to do the work now. She admitted school wasn’t easy, but assured students it was easier than having no worth-while future. Her comments then took a drastic turn.
“Every student who walks out of the gate to truant is already a statistic of the worst kind, highly likely to go to prison, either commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their life, have a major health problem or health problems, die at an early age, have an addiction, gambling, drugs or smoking,” she said. “The more you truant, the more likely you are to end up as one, or most, of those statistics.”
She said she didn’t want the students to become the statistics and claimed that research confirmed everything she was telling the students. She also said that when she caught groups of students in the town skipping school, she saw students who didn’t have a future.
“You think it’s harsh, but if I don’t tell you, who else is going to tell you?” she said. “In every class, your teacher has what you need to move to the next step towards your future goals.”
She also said that it takes courage for students not to give in to peer pressure and that she wanted everyone leaving the school to have the skills, knowledge and talent to help them be financially independent, free of violence, full of confidence.
Still, many students took offence to the comments Crawford made in her speech. According to the NZ Herald, “f*** you Mrs Crawford” graffiti tags have been spotted around the school, while acts of vandalism have also been reported.
Parents have also joined their students for the protest, with many calling on the principal to apologise to students, their parents and the community she offended with her speech.
Still, there are students and families who don’t think her comments were out of line, and simply misunderstood by students. According to News Hub, Crawford has received support from the Ministry of Education in New Zealand.
“It’s really important that children go to school every day,” deputy secretary sector enablement and support Katrina Casey told News Hub. “International surveys such as PISA have shown that attendance is one of the strongest drivers of student achievement.”
Still, it encouraged parents who were offended by the speech to contact the school directly.