School lets students pay $20 to skip detention
MISBEHAVING students are being offered a choice between after-school detention or paying a $20 fine under one Sydney school's discipline system.
Students caught with chewing gum or in possession of a permanent marker at Bede Polding College in Windsor are given the option of two hours in after-school detention or paying the fine.
Principal Kevin Jones said that the two-tiered punishment system educated the Catholic school's 1200 male and female students about the costs of removing chewing gum from carpet, or cleaning up marks.
He said the $20 goes towards paying janitors to clean up the mess but that most students do the time rather than pay the fine.
"It is one of the things we put in place just to highlight to the kids that the damage they do with things like chewing gum does actually cost all of us in the school money," he said.
"The clean-up cost is bad - it damages carpet and that sort of thing.
"We have had it (the detention or fine system) in place for a long time.
"We don't want anyone to get a sense of disadvantage, we're very careful about equity in our school."
The school appears to take a hard-line approach to discipline.
On its website its "hands off" policy states that students caught "shaking hands" would also get an afternoon detention.
Mr Jones said the zero-physical contact policy was introduced during a period of bullying and violence 10 years ago but was no longer a major problem and no student had been penalised for shaking hands during his 11-year tenure as principal.
University of Western Sydney education lecturer Dr Katrina Barker said she thought it would be better if the school made students clean up chewing gum themselves.
"Potentially they have done something wrong and they're able to buy themselves out of that," she said of the fine option.
"There would be some parents who would say 'I am definitely not going to pay for cleaning' … but what about the kids whose parents say, 'Don't worry about it, here is $20'?"
One of Australia's leading parenting experts and author, Justin Coulson, said allowing richer students to pay a fine instead of doing detention wasn't a good lesson in personal responsibility.
"Frankly it is stupid," Dr Coulson said.
"Forcing kids to either sit detention or pay a fine doesn't fix the culture.
"If there is ongoing challenges, then we need to come up with and apply strategies to deal with them, not punitive measures.
"This is a kind of Band-Aid solution."
NSW Parents Council president Rose Cantali said it was concerning what the school was teaching children.
"I think it quite wrong - children need to learn that if they break the rules there are consequences and you can't get out of it," she said.
"We're such a materialistic society already and children are given everything they want, they don't understand the value of money and what you're doing is feeding into that.
"There is nothing wrong with children, with breaking rules, but if a school encourages that you can get out of it by paying a fine, what are we teaching our children?
"Psychologically it won't work - it only encourages students to get out of something."