Australia

The teenage brain is a work-in-progress. Remember that when blaming the Shore students

The teenage brain is a work-in-progress. Scientists believe it matures at different rates, with the more emotional sections developing quicker than those controling reasoning, which helps you think before acting. Any parent could vouch for this.

Human biology aside, teenagers are also an amalgam of influences from friends, home life, school, social media, extracurricular activities and mentors. It's also a time of pushing boundaries and the exploration of new experiences. It's a heady mix that shapes the character and actions of each young person.

The "Triwizard Shorenament Official Rule and Challenge Book". Police were alerted after Shore School became aware of the students' plans.

The "Triwizard Shorenament Official Rule and Challenge Book". Police were alerted after Shore School became aware of the students' plans.

So when directing blame for some of the appalling acts proposed by a small number of students at Shore School as muck-up day activities, as revealed by the Herald last week, it should be assigned with some caution. But that has not stopped an intensely heated debate, with no shortage of finger pointing.

This was encapsulated by Facebook groups such as North Shore Mums, which debated whether the muck-up day plan was representative of the broader culture at Shore School, how much responsibility parents should take for their sons' behaviour, and whether all-boys' schools breed entitled men. (Shore is co-ed until year 3).

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Any thought that it was an isolated incident at one private school was soon quashed by reports of several more schools with students engulfed in the controversy. And it quickly became clear it was not just an all-boys' school problem. It would seem a rush to judgement to close in on one common denominator.

A Shore parent was quite right to raise concerns that it was unfair that the public airing of the document detailing the acts could affect the reputation of those students not involved: "I feel very sorry for 99 per cent of year 12 Shore boys who have been branded as entitled, disgraceful humans." There have been some accusations made with a very broad brush.

But that should not cloud any judgement on the morality of these acts. It is absolutely clear that no matter what your school, socio-economic background, parental influence may be, to write up these acts is completely unacceptable (it is unclear how many would have been attempted). It demeans those who may be targeted by such activities, and tarnishes the community in which the students live.

There is no question that this has been a deeply difficult year for many year 12 students. They should be rightly proud of their achievements. The pandemic has given rise to mental health concerns far beyond the usual pressures of a final year in high school.

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Some schools have banned year 12 celebrations all together to stamp out any chance of it getting out of hand. While such a cautious approach can be understood, particularly after the revelations of the past week, there is no shortage of ways students can celebrate their achievements without carrying out illegal acts or humiliating other people.

The 2020 year 12 cohort will always be remembered for having graduated during a time of global upheaval and discord. They should be forgiven for wanting to blow off some steam. That is to be expected. But it needs to be done in a way that respects the community in which they live.

While a teenage brain may not be fully formed, it is not without the capacity to understand responsibility and consequence for one's actions. Let us hope that those students who may have thought it OK to act in such an offensive way have learnt their lesson.

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