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Schools would be shirking responsibility if students are sent away on ground of indiscipline: Madras High Court

Schools should not turn away students citing indiscipline as this would entail shirking away from the responsibility of a school to ensure the all-round development of students, the Madras High Court observed.

The Court clarified that it is conscious that schools today run as enterprises with the “paramount aim of achieving excellence in terms of their academic balance sheet” and that in the bargain, the all-round growth of students is relegated to the back burner or shunted out altogether.

However, schools of learning are expected to handle and manage different segments of students and strive to mould them into good citizens, Justice V Parthiban said.

He went on to opine that schools should focus on this responsibility, instead of looking to send undisciplined students away as a “quick fix”.

“The core purpose of education, one should not forget, is to bring out the best in the children on all fronts. Some students may be boisterous and brash, characteristics of teenage indulgences. It is easier for any institution to send a student away on the ground of indiscipline. But such easier way out for the school would amount to shirking its ultimate responsibility cast upon it and reflect on its inability to address so called errant behaviour of the student concerned, which is not uncommon in any school, for that matter. It takes a broad mind and a large head to understand the teenage proclivities of rebellious streak and address the so-called waywardness of the student, as integral part of the school’s bounden duty, instead of sending out the student from the school as quick fix reaction or solution,” the order said.

The Court made these observations while allowing a plea moved by a woman protesting the decision of a Thanjavur-based school to deny her son admission to the 11th standard, citing his indiscipline in the past.

The petitioner told the Court that she worked as a cook near the school and that her husband was working in Kerala. She further submitted that it would be difficult for her to find a different school for her son. She also filed an affidavit apologising for her son’s past conduct and assured that he would abide by the school’s disciplinary norms in the future.

Senior Advocate M Ajmal Khan and Advocate T Lajapathi Roy, appearing for the petitioner argued that there has been no specific allegation of misconduct against the petitioner’s son and that the general allegations made could not be the basis of sending him out of school at a crucial stage in his schooling.

The school, however, continued to express reservations about admitting the boy in view of his alleged past behaviour. The Court noted the objections of the school cannot be discarded completely, not could it be accepted at face value.

Justice Parthiban proceeded to opine that the school should allow the boy’s admission after accepting the petitioner’s affidavit assuring of his future good behaviour.

“No doubt, the conduct and behaviour of a student is very important to the school authorities in the overall welfare and interest of all other students studying in the school, nevertheless, while imparting education, the School has concomitant duty to inculcate good conduct and character in every student as part of the pedagogical imperatives. Education, which derives from the Latin words, ‘Educare’, ‘Educere’ and ‘Educatum’, means the act of teaching or training, to nourish, to bring up, to lead forth, to raise, to draw out. Etymologically, the term Education means drawing out the best of a student, not only in terms of his or her academic potential, but also in terms of the all-round growth of the students, who come under the tutelage of the school in their foundational and formative years of learning,” the Court said.

The judge pointed out that there are no specific instances cited of incorrigible behaviour by the petitioner’s son.

The Court added that in an institution having several hundreds of students, including students hailing from various socio-economic, cultural background, “it is too much for any institution to expect a homogeneous conduct and regimented behaviour from all sections of the students.”

In a school, it is very much common to witness variegated response by the students to the demand of the academic attention. Some students are passionate, some are hard-working, some are hardly working, some are playful, some are little lazy, some are obtuse etc. But, ultimately, what is to be seen by the school management is as to whether the student concerned has become thoroughly incorrigible by his exceptional deviant conduct compelling the school to act drastically as in the present case”, the Court said.

In this view, the Court remarked that the complaints made against the petitioner’s son appeared quite normal.

“An odd behaviour of a teenage student may not be taken to ruffle or provoke the collective conscience of the school management to the point of shunting the school doors on him. The school needs to be reminded of great words of Mr. Abraham Lincoln ‘mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice’,” the Court emphasised.

The Court, therefore, proceeded to allow the petition and direct the school to admit the petitioner’s son within a week’s time after considering the petitioner’s affidavit.


Via Bar & Bench
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