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Principal hits out over public response to dead goanna

Public furore erupted over the killing of a goanna by King's School senior students at a cadet camp.

Public furore erupted over the killing of a goanna by King's School senior students at a cadet camp. Photo: AAP

The headmaster of an elite Sydney boys’ school has taken aim at the public and media response to the death of a goanna during a student camp.

The King’s School last Friday confirmed staff reported to police and the Australian Defence Force that senior students killed the reptile while on an annual cadet camp at the end of last term.

The news sparked extensive media coverage, public outrage and a police investigation.

In a 2400-word letter posted to the school’s website, headmaster Tony George said animal cruelty was heinous and inhumane in all forms and the outage at the allegations was “both understandable and warranted”.

But he said that, while society should expect more from independent schools, there was always a risk adolescents would make terrible mistakes.

“Schools should be safe places for children to fail well, learning from their mistakes, all the while being encouraged, coached, and supported by parents, teachers and peers,” he said.

Risk could not be eliminated and children needed to be disciplined and coached, not ridiculed and vilified or used for society’s entertainment, he said.

“When things go wrong, such as scavenger hunts or online chat rooms or alleged animal cruelty, the tabloids and virtuous trolls whip up a frenzy of public shaming and virtue signalling in blaming schools and students for causing these kinds of problems,” he said.

“This is not to say that these things aren’t wrong – on the contrary, they are not only wrong, but they can also be criminal.

“What I am saying is that the wrongful act does not justify the pillorying, shaming and vilification of students and their schools by the media or anyone else.”

The allegation of animal cruelty was the first he had needed to address in 20 years of leading schools, Mr George said.

The school immediately reported the goanna’s death to the police and the army, given the alleged conduct occurred on Defence land.

The students were removed from the camp and the school was awaiting the findings of the police investigation before undertaking any further investigatory and disciplinary action, he said.

King’s, Australia’s oldest independent school, charges students up to $41,460 for tuition and an additional $32,680 for boarders.

The North Parramatta school’s catalogue of esteemed alumni includes former deputy prime minister John Anderson and sitting Bennelong MP Jerome Laxale.

– AAP

Topics: NSW
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