I am currently taking a course called “School Administration and the Law”. Each week we read a number of different court cases where teachers and administrators were held responsible for terrible things that have happened at school.
My heart goes out to the teachers who, in the vast majority of the cases, were trying to do something really cool for their students, when something freaky happened that ended in tragic results. My classmates and I pretty much leave each week wondering why we are silly enough to ever plan a science experiment, a field trip, or coach a sports team.
But beyond that, there has been a feeling in the pit of my stomach that there is something really wrong with this whole process.
I recognize that in each of these cases, the lives of a child and their family were dramatically affected. I also recognize that the courts are currently the only way that families can recover lost wages, cover medical expenses, and find some semblance of justice.
But at the same time, I question if it really is better in the end that fault is assigned and consequences given? Is it really the best thing that a family and a school are pitted against each other in a fight to determine who should be held responsible?
What if we all were on the same side, working together to ameliorate the situation as best we can, and to do everything we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
I know that some will say this is a simplistic and idealistic view. That without courts forcing schools to live up to certain standards, they wouldn’t. But I have to say, the teachers I know are there because they care about kids. No one I know would ever want a child to be hurt.
Is it really idealistic to think that working together, recognizing that we are all doing the best we can, is perhaps a better way to approach problem-solving than pointing fingers at each other? Can the principles of Restitution that guide us in solving problems with students not be applied to more complicated problems?