With an enrolment of over 1400 boys, some incidents of bullying are unfortunately inevitable. However, bullying is an offence listed in our Code of Conduct that carries severe sanctions. Our Code of Conduct states that “Each person has the right to be treated fairly and the responsibility to refrain from any form of aggressive or abusive behaviour towards others.”
Depending on the severity a first offence carries a sanction of four hours detention, suspension, community service and/or expulsion. A second offence automatically leads to expulsion. Throughout the history of St Benedict’s, boys who have been found guilty of bullying have been disciplined and expelled in accordance with this Code of Conduct.
We believe that we have appropriate structures in place to raise awareness amongst our boys and to educate them with regards to bullying. We believe, too, that we have appropriate policies and procedures in place for boys and parents to bring incidents of bullying to our attention so that action can be taken against the perpetrators.
For the first six weeks of their Grade 8 year, instead of writing Cycle Tests, our boys complete a Bullying Programme. During the course of their orientation at the College, our Grade 8’s and their parents are also introduced to the College’s Pastoral Care structures.
St Benedict’s is a school that prides itself on its strong academic tradition and achievements. We treasure a safe and supportive environment in which all boys can maximise their learning. The College’s academic achievements are not up for discussion here, but they certainly reveal that we are successful in establishing that environment. Our academic success over the years has always been built on:
- the close interest staff take in the progress of each boy;
- the good relationships between staff and boys;
- and good communication with parents.
Boys and parents are also regularly encouraged to use the Pastoral Care structures that are in place to draw attention to problems they may be experiencing. This structure is used effectively by boys and parents to draw attention to a wide range of concerns, problems and conflict; to address concerns regarding unfairness (especially with regard to academic assessment) and to appeal decisions and actions of staff members that may have a negative impact on boys.
When an incident is reported to the Year Heads, Deputy Headmaster or Headmaster (or any other person in authority), a thorough investigation is done. When necessary, the investigative and disciplinary process conducted by the staff is informed and guided not only by the College’s Code of Conduct, but also ISASA’s Employment Relations Manual (which includes comprehensive guidelines for learner discipline) and input from legal representatives on the College’s Board of Governors.
Disciplinary Hearings, when convened, are governed by the guidelines laid down by law, including procedural and substantive fairness. From a substantive fairness perspective, acceptable universal norms must apply and these include (a) a presumption of innocence until the contrary is proven by the accuser; (b) action taken should primarily have a corrective intention and be focused on preventing a re-occurrence and (c) the penalty, or “punishment” must be appropriate to the seriousness of the transgression.
From July 2009 boys and parents who are uncomfortable using the extensive structures that are already in place will be able to phone a Bullying Helpline (0721647806) to draw a designated staff member’s (Mr Gill) attention to any incidents that they may be experiencing. (A separate line is available for Elementary and Preparatory boys.)
The College also runs a “Family Wellness Programme” that address a number of issues which we believe are prevalent for today’s youth and parents.