A principal has come under fire over what some parents have called “over the top” suspensions of more than 50 students.
The decision was made after the students from Toronto High School, in Lake Macquarie, located in the Hunter Region of NSW, participated in a Facebook game that involved posting negative and abusive comments about other students.
The NSW Department of Education confirmed the suspensions on Friday, saying that more than 50 students had received short suspensions of up to four days and a small number had been given long suspensions of up to 20 days.
The school’s principal, Mark McConville, wrote a letter to parents telling them that the students involved – including those who had “liked” negative comments about other students – had been suspended.
“Imagine if it was your child who opened up their Facebook account to find over 50 ‘likes’ about a negative/abusive/harassing post about them,” he wrote.
While the community’s response to the suspensions has been largely positive, there are some who say the principal’s actions were too heavy-handed.
One parent said her daughter, who “liked but never commented” on one of the posts did not deserve to be suspended, and accused McConville of “seeking a great headline”.
“I support the anti-bullying that Toronto High School adheres to, but this situation is so over the top,” she said, adding her daughter was now labelled a bully.
Another parent was concerned that the suspension would go on her son’s record.
“My son wants to be a cop [and] having this on his record is ridiculous,” she wrote.
However, the majority of parents and online commenters backed the principal’s decision, saying it was aimed at setting positive standards at the school.
“I applaud Mark McConville and hope Toronto High realises what an asset they must have to be led by this individual,” wrote one commenter.
“Awesome. Best thing I've ever seen a principal do,” wrote another.
One parent, whose son was questioned but not punished because he had posted a positive comment about another student, told The Brisbane Times that the incident reinforced the dangers of social media for young people.
“My son's face was white when he came home, he was really shaken up by it,” she said.
“I think the school's response was appropriate. This sort of thing needs to be nipped in the bud straight away.”