Thursday, November 05, 2015

Private school problem

Brisbane readers in particular are likely noting with amazement the evidence to the Royal Commission into child abuse regarding what went on at Brisbane Grammar School in the 70's and 80's, including the former deputy headmaster denying he ever had any knowledge of anything amiss.  (Not only are former students saying this is wrong, but so are parents - a fact which seems to have been under-reported on the television summaries of the commission I have noticed.  UPDATE:sorry, I've confused evidence against the late headmaster with that against this deputy - but against him there was still evidence that he had questioned a student about his inappropriate relationship with Lynch.)

It seems the evidence of some ex-students is that, amongst the boys, knowledge of what the school's counsellor was doing in his locked door (hello, common sense warning sign) sessions with boys was pretty widespread.   But, somewhat oddly, there have been snippets on the radio of some ex students saying that (at the time) they appreciated his "caring" interest in them.  (I assume the fact that they are at the enquiry means they later appreciated that it was an incredible abuse of trust and authority.)

As with what went on at Knox Grammar in Sydney, it seems to me somewhat ironic that this sort of thing went on at a school where parents were paying extraordinary sums for the best of care and education for their kids.   Given that I was at a (rather working class area) state high school in the 1970's, it's extremely difficult to imagine that the same sort of thing could have happened there - for one thing, the State system never had any money for intensive on site counselling, and for another, it's kind of hard imagining the kind of guys going to a mixed gender State school thinking that what Lynch was doing was above board.   It seems to me that going to a top private school probably gave some of these boys a more ready acceptance of authority and belief that everyone there was really acting in their best interests.

I was sure I had made similar comments about abuse allegations at Knox, but can't find that post now.  In any event, it sort of goes to show an upside to State schools not being able to afford to pay staff to have too much time with students...

Update:  found my Knox post from earlier this year - only by scrolling through my blog.  Proof again that for some mysterious reason, Google is really bad at searching for keywords through its own hosted blogs.  (I had tried advanced search, and all...)

Update 2:   just noticed at the lunchtime news:  more terrible evidence at the royal commission, with the former deputy headmaster giving exactly the wrong response to an invitation to apologise to the former students.    Also, another student gave evidence that a teacher who is still at the school utterly rejected his approach for help when he was dazed and confused about getting abused by the counsellor for help with bullying and homesickness.   What spectacularly poor PR for the school.  


TimT said...

I'd suggest that when these events go on at a private school they get more attention than when they go on at a public school. Essentially they make a better story. I'm not sure how common they are in schools anyway, either public or private - but how could you stop it for sure? All these institutions need is two people who find they have the same paedophilic interests and you have a paedophile ring in the making.

By the way, I was at Knox for two years in the '90s and I had no idea any of this was going on. I find the story complicated, since I am still genuinely grateful for the education they gave me - I think it was the right thing for me at that time - but have to balance that against this knowledge now.

Steve said...

Your point about private schools getting more attention for abuse that happens there sounds plausible - but I'm not sure I've heard of any long standing abuse at any State school being discussed at the Royal Commission. (I may have missed it, though.)

For now, I'll stick with my theory that maybe it's a perverse outcome of private schooling that the expectation that students who need it will have close assistance from teachers and staff that makes facilitating abuse easier than the more "you're on your own" attitude of public schooling. (That, and of course, the fact that you have boarders at some private schools and the potential for out of hours contact there.)

And as for the degree of scandal: much of it (as with the Church) is not so much that abuse happens (as some cases will always happen) but the cavalier attitude of the schools and bishops towards stopping it. In fact, that's really what this whole commission is about, I think, as its full title is about the institutional response to child abuse.