Before you read this post, I know my cloak of anonymity is certainly not bullet-proof and that there are in fact gaping holes in it and I'd like to make clear that the below is definitely not written about any specific incident at the school I work at or any past school I have worked at. It's just something that's been on my mind for a while and something that may well present itself as a real problem at some point in my career.
Where do you draw the line with giving people second chances?
I know Jesus told us that we should forgive someone "70 times 7" times, ie: we should continue to forgive always. But that's hard! And is it really practical?
For example, if you have a child at your school who is violent towards other children, how many times do you do the restorative chat, give a consequence, talk through the incident, put support in place and let the child return to school? Particularly if that child's teacher is beside him/herself with stress and fear at being hurt and if other parents in the school are complaining because they are concerned that their children are being hurt?
As a principal (or Board of Trustees member) you have to weigh up the mental health and safety of the children and staff you are responsible for vs the ideals of Jesus that every person deserves forgiveness, love and an eternity of chances to make the right choices and that every person has good inside them. That must be really tough. And I'm guessing the decision wouldn't be any easier if you start taking into account the child's home situation. In my experience violent children often come from violent homes and have back-stories that would make you weep.
I remember a story a year or so ago about a principal in Paeroa who had a violent child at her school and she had put her foot down and said he could not come back. The Ministry of Education were trying to force her into having him back at the school but she was putting up a fight for the safety of her community. At the time, part of me thought, "Good on her. Teachers shouldn't have to put up with being scared to come to work." But the other side of the story of course is that this is an 8 year old boy from a disfunctional home who has no love in his life. What's going to happen to him when the one stable, routined, caring enviroment he has is now off-limits?
So where do you draw the line? And as Catholics are we called to a higher moral ground than others around us?