I am enraged, Stephen Dudley’s life counted for nothing in a courtroom in Auckland this week. Justice Helen Winkelmann demonstrated her complete lack of touch with reality in discharging the second of two brothers without conviction. This was no petty misdemeanour, not a boyish teenage prank, this was an unprovoked attack on a vibrant young man that ended in his life being lost and Justice Winkelmann in her manifest wisdom decided that to enter a conviction against the main instigator of this would be a consequence out of keeping with the crime.
Her reasoning behind this, is that fights like this occur every day in schools around New Zealand, this indeed is the heart of the matter, never mind the asinine judge (Peters Principle probably) because she in the end only reflects societal view (around school yard violence). I have no doubt that these brothers are remorseful, that they have suffered consequences, (exclusion form a prestigious school they attended so I am led to believe), family and church consequences. They walk free in time they will become anonymous and whilst they have to live their lives in cognisance of their actions so do Stephen’s family. From whatever side you look at this it is a tragedy that is seemingly without cure.
Stephens’s family think that their loss has been made even worse, salt has been rubbed into their raw and gaping wounds, and they think a law change is necessary. The offender’s family think that justice has been done and the consequences of this moment of madness will be with the boys and the shame of it on their family for ever. The reality of this situation is that it is broken forever and cannot ever be fixed. If Stephen’s life is to count for anything however there must be a change.
What is it about our society that creates a norm where violence is endemic and an incident where a young man loses his life is labelled as just another school yard fight like hundreds of others every day. Yes it has been going on for a long time but it only continues because we as a society condone it. We condone violence in our school yards and our homes, the same as we condone abuse and all the other social ills that blight our society like an invasive cancer.
When it manifests itself we wring our hands and look inwards for a moment and nothing changes, there is no accountability for any actions or violence. Schools are left with very few options to try and mop up the mess that starts in the home and is accepted by the community.
Recently I walked from the security of a full time job to go back to day to day teaching because of a school that at its heart had developed an acceptance of violence and disrespect. In my teaching I confront and challenge the narrative of violence that underpins our society. In my opinion assault is assault and it is time that it was treated as such. Punch one of my children in the school yard and I will refer it to the Police and expect accountability, should my children offend I will hold the same position and ensure they are held accountable.
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