Enter the discussion Expresses the opinion of the writer.
The Education Act enables students to obtain the position of sacred cows. Especially in some undesirable situations that concern the school environment for pupils.
Headteachers in class 9a have an obligation to do what is best for pupils, when pupils feel violated by teachers.
Drafting the law and enforcing the principal means teachers bear the brunt of it. The reason behind the headteacher’s decision is that “all students have the right to a safe and good school environment” (paragraph 9a-2 of the Education Act) and Norwegian schools have zero tolerance for abuse.
The Act states that consideration for pupils is central to the school’s work for a school environment that promotes health, well-being and learning. It’s a way of thinking that I think is basically unproblematic to agree with.
With today’s legislation, it is understandable for principals to use the pupil’s history as a basis. Even if the presentation and assessment provided by teachers or other parties provide better and more complete explanations. The latter is a bankruptcy declaration for lawmakers.
School principals and school owners also don’t want to have a state official on their backs or worse.
I think school administrators may feel pressure to ignore teachers’ presentation of the alleged abuse. The principal’s decision depends to a large extent on the pupils’ experiences and their ability to communicate them. Thus, according to the law, children’s descriptions of events are given an unreasonable amount of importance.
This can color the principal’s deliberations so strongly that decisions drive teachers into the dark. One consequence is that students become like sacred cows – they cannot be criticized.
A frightening balance of forces
The balance of power when it comes down to it is unfortunate and terrifying. So scary that teachers become unsafe and teacher training is cancelled.
Students can, of course, give an accurate description of the violations they experience or observe. But it can’t be like that as one of the teachers recently stated Bergens Tidende: “My entire career ended when the student had to explain himself to the principal. Then it was already settled.”
This case cries out for better legal protections for teachers and illustrates the immeasurable importance of a principal’s ability to assess and the prerequisites for handling such cases.
Chapter 9 of the Education Act describes the characteristics of school management and states that “principals shall maintain the secrecy of day-to-day operations in schools.” The law also states that the principal of the school must have the necessary leadership skills.
How does the appointing authority decide that the principal has sufficient competence to handle 9A issues?
Not a new legal regulation
I would expect principals to have a sharp focus on the training of principals so that they can make good and relevant assessments of incidents related to a pupil’s school environment.
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Next year, the new education law is expected to come into force. It may contain a sticky new legal regulation for physical interference against pupils.
The bill is currently under consultation. A new law could increase legal certainty for teachers, but it’s not enough to stand up to 9a cases. The requirement to document the student’s opinion, which is reasonable, can crush the teacher’s voice.
As long as the wording around “what’s best for students” remains what it is today, and there are no better changes that enhance legal security for teachers, the school will still give way to sacred cows.
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