Pic: Kent Blechynden/Dom PostI hadn’t intended to deal with the story about 14 year old Newlands College student, Amethyst Staladi, being told by dean Angela King to pull her skirt down because she ‘looked like a slut’. That was until I saw her mother, Kahira Marshall, on One News last night telling the country that she considered Mrs King’s verbal apology a couple of days ago ‘doesn’t go far enough’ and that what she wanted was ‘a letter of apology to go on both Amethyst’s and the dean’s personal file’. At that point my blood began to boil. Ms Marshall appears not to understand that when you enrol your child in any school you automatically accept the rules of student conduct set down by the school’s board, including any dress code which the school may have. Her daughter, Amethyst, has been flouting Newlands College’s dress code for some time. Acting Principal David Pegram noted that Amethyst had had ‘ongoing problems’ with her uniform, but that Mrs King had been very supportive of her. The dean had not been disciplined and would not be interviewed.
‘It was a sincere apology given by the member of staff and the apology seemed to be accepted in good grace by the student.’ But this was not enough for her mother or father, Michael Staladi, who said that he wanted Mrs King disciplined: ‘If the kids step out of line they have to go to detention. So they should have the same standards for the adults.’ Or maybe a public stoning, Mr Staladi? Well, let’s look at the players in this mini-drama: a stroppy 14-year-old girl with behavioural, discipline and attendance issues who’s received previous warnings about breaching the school’s dress code; a highly professional teacher with an impeccable record, supportive of and popular with students, described by her colleagues as someone ‘who helps everyone really’. (The staff had sent her flowers because she was upset.) So who needs to be taking a good look at themselves here – Mrs King or Amethyst’s parents?
Which would be more appropriate – teaching Amethyst a little respect for her teachers and for the rules of the school, or encouraging her to be a smart-arsed little bush lawyer, trumpeting her 14-year-old rights on television. What extraordinary arrogance, what total inability to recognise your own contribution to your daughter’s difficulties allows this mother to demand that a formal letter of apology be attached to Mrs King’s and her daughter’s personal files, or her father to insist that the dean be disciplined? What purpose did they imagine it would serve? To place a permanent stain on a fine teacher’s record? To allow them to crow about how they had brought the dean down a peg? Rhetorical questions really. My own view is that no apology of any sort was necessary. I know about teenage daughters. I know that they can dress and behave inappropriately, often provocatively.
I’ve had calls from the headmaster. And if one of my daughters had come home and said to me that a woman teacher had told her to pull down her skirt because she ‘looked like a slut’, I would have said, ‘Well, she was perfectly right, wasn’t she? Don’t expect me to stick up for you.’ So if Amethyst did indeed ‘look like a slut’ when her skirt was riding up around her thighs, the proper thing, the responsible thing, the thing that was in her best interests, was to tell her so. To be upset by the word, she had to know its meaning. Is she such a sensitive plant that her ears would be offended by hearing it spoken? Perhaps my favourite word in looking at any issue is ‘perspective’. Perspective has been lost in this matter. A kid was dressing inappropriately and was told so by a teacher. In seeking publicity for what happened, her parents have done their daughter and a fine teacher a disservice.