Some of you may have seen the recent spate of newspaper articles targeting independent schools and the activities of our students.
It is always challenging to read stories of young people in our community behaving badly. As a school, whenever we hear about allegations of inappropriate behaviour involving our students, we investigate the situation to try and understand what has taken place. It is a disappointing reflection on the nature of news reporting, as was the case with a Herald Sun article on the weekend, that our subsequent investigations often reveal a story with little substance.
That is not to say our students are perfect. Like all students at all schools, mistakes are made, but I have been deeply heartened to see the maturity of our students and the openness in which they have engaged in dialogue on the challenging issues of our time. More than ever, our community needs pathways to help support our young people, and unfortunately clickbait journalism is the antithesis of the support young people require to navigate one of the fastest periods of social change in our history.
What we should not forget is that these ill-informed articles often involve young, vulnerable people who are finding their way through a challenging social environment. Having media amplify these situations is stressful for all parties involved, particularly the students and their parents.
Part of our response as a School has been to encourage open discussion with our families, and I am encouraged by the fact that we are now in an ongoing dialogue as a community about how we can do better. This year has seen many candid conversations involving students, parents and staff as, together, we learn from these circumstances. And, for example, the recent forum with leading psychologist Maria Ruberto targeting Senior School students and their parents as well as the Safe Party forum for Middle School families have provided healthy avenues for dialogue. We will also be hosting Paul Dillon on Monday 21 June to discuss drug and alcohol awareness for teenagers. I highly recommend attending this session, which will be held online at 7.00pm. You can register here.
These proactive sessions have borne out the most open conversations I have ever witnessed in a school on many tough issues, but we do not shy away from the reality that there is so much more for us all to do. These are discussions that need to involve us all; schools, parents and the broader community must address the myriad topics we know demand attention right now. This will enable us to share a common understanding of acceptable boundaries in relation to language and behaviour to ensure everyone can feel safe and accepted.
As we do so, let’s remember that children will make mistakes. As a result of mistakes, with careful counselling and support, the most powerful and transformative learning often occurs.
At Carey, we are committed to the affirmation of the young people in our care and accepting our responsibility to guide them in making good decisions, whether that is within the bounds of the school gates or beyond. We are so proud of our students and their developing understanding of the impact of their actions. Every day we see them helping each other and demonstrating kindness – from giving a hand to one of their peers when they have fallen during football game to speaking up against injustices they see in their local and global communities. We look at our students and see a positive future, and we are proud to help shape them into responsible, respectful and impactful young people.