Mass school walkout over principal’s speech
MORE than 100 high school students have stormed out of class in protest of their principal's comments about truancy at school.
Graffiti reading "f*** you Mrs Crawford" had also sprung up since the speech by principal Virginia Crawford last week at the school in Hamilton, on New Zealand's North Island.
According to the New Zealand Herald, last Thursday Ms Crawford gave a speech saying students who wagged were "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, die at an early age, have an addiction, gambling, drugs or smoking".
The speech was secretly recorded by a student and uploaded to YouTube where it quickly went viral.
There have also been reports of unrest, with graffiti and vandalising of school property.
Student Cody Barron, 16, said the speech had since divided the school, with people either supporting her or upset at what she said.
"It's definitely divided the school. Everyone's split apart. Some people are setting off fire alarms, costing the school like $3500."
He said it had only happened once - on Friday - but he expected it to happen again.
"There's also been a lot of tagging. Targeting Ms Crawford.
"The graffiti read "f*** you Mrs Crawford," he said.
He wanted Crawford to apologise.
"We want an apology to the community and everyone else she's offended really."
Parents Jo Scott and Justine Kettle were unimpressed with Ms Crawford's comments.
Ms Scott, who has a son in Year 11 at the school, said she was proud of the kids taking a stand for what they believed in.
"I think good on the kids for standing up to her."
She no longer supported the principal, she said.
"Do I support the principal? Nah. I might have last week but not any more. How can you support someone who's just called all our kids losers?"
Ms Scott wanted to see Ms Crawford apologise for what she said, a sentiment shared by other students who were protesting this morning.
However, while many disagreed with her sentiments, some senior students have backed the principal, stating her message has been misunderstood by students.
Older students at the school gates said she used "shock tactic" language to get her message across.
Lauese Faaosofia, 17, said he was embarrassed by the protest as it made the school look bad.
"These guys are making our school look bad, smoking, what the hell? Our school is good, it's the people, as you can see, wagging. She was trying to give us a message not to wag. These kids here, Year 9, they don't even know what they're here for."
The Year 13 student said he supported the message Ms Crawford was trying to send about not wagging school.
Fellow Year 13 student Carlos Tuimavave was also frustrated by the protest, stating a lot of the students were younger and just looking to get attention.
He believed students had misinterpreted Ma Crawford's speech and said she had to use emotive language to get her message across.
"I support Ms Crawford … most of these kids here are juniors. What they didn't understand about [the principal's] speech was the message she was sending. She could have used better context within her speech with the use of consequences and stuff … but if she said something like, 'you wag and you're gonna get a detention', no one would care. No one would listen.
"Obviously she got her point across if this is the outcome. Obviously her point got across to every student here.
"I feel like she had to go to the extreme to be able to get our attention for us to listen."
He said she wasn't targeting her message at any specific student or groups of students.
"If you make bad decisions now imagine the outcome of your decisions that you make later in life," he said.
When asked why kids were wagging, he said some teachers weren't able to adapt to all of the different needs of the students.
"So maybe they aren't enjoying the class as much as they could. They might be wagging because they're not receiving the support that they wish to receive."
He said the students should "just be grateful that we have a principal who cares about us enough to worry about our futures".
"She wouldn't have said that if she didn't care about us."
Students and parents on social media last week condemned the speech as demotivating and stereotyping.
"Any student that walks out the gate to truant is already the statistic of the worse kind," Ms Crawford said during the speech given at school assembly.
She told the students truants wouldn't survive outside of Hamilton.
"When I drive out of school during class time for meetings, and I see groups of students sitting outside the dairy, fish and chip shop, bus stop, some of the things I am thinking is that is another group of students without a future.
"That is another student who will end up as a statistic, that's another loser, that's another wannabe. Another student desperate for friendship, another we've lost."
She urged students to put in the effort at school to make a better life for themselves.
"You and I know the only way to fix this is to do the mahi now, to do the work now. School is not easy, but it is a lot easier than having no hope and being cast aside without any worthwhile future."
When approached at the school office, Ms Crawford declined to make any comment, referring the New Zealand Herald to Board of Trustees chairman Jeff Green.
Mr Green has yet to respond to requests for comment.