Karnataka HC urges schools for “paradigm shift” from harsh disciplinary action

The court made these remarks with regard to a student suicide case, in which the victim died by suicide after being suspended and disallowed to take his exam from home
Image used for representational purpose only | Pic credits: Express
Image used for representational purpose only | Pic credits: Express

he Karnataka High Court observed that harsh disciplinary action by educational institutions hinders the development of a child’s self-esteem, on Monday, 26 June. 

These observations were made by the court while rejecting a petition filed by a principal, director and hostel warden of a school in Kodagu district pertaining to the abetment of a 15-year-old student’s suicide, reports The New Indian Express.  In the petition, the school questioned an order passed by the magistrate rejecting the 'B' report (cancellation of police investigation due to lack of evidence) filed by police in connection to the case of the school instigating the student to die by suicide, on grounds of improper investigation proper investigation. 

The accused petitioners are Gauramma, Datha Karumbaiah and Chethan Bopanna. They moved court against the order dated May 16, 2023, passed by the trial court in Kodagu.

The student had been suspended for 21 days as punishment during his exams.

The Class IX student died by hanging on October 24, 2022, after waiting for hours for the school to send him the question paper online like the school promised to send him after he was suspended. The school suspended the student for allegedly carrying alcohol in a mineral water bottle to school on being asked by a senior student.

The wait... 

After his suspension, the school accepted the student’s request to let him take the exam from his home through a link that would be sent to him. The boy, who was ready for the exam, waited for the link to be sent to him from 10.10 am to 12.30 pm, but to no avail. The link was not sent to him even after the exam was over and the answer papers were collected. Out of frustration, the student took the extreme step sometime between 12.30 am and 1 pm. His parents lodged a complaint soon after.

"I do not find any warrant of interference with the order passed by the learned Magistrate taking cognizance of the offence by rejecting the 'B' report. I am of the prima facie view that if proceedings before the concerned court are interfered with and quashed at this stage, it would be putting a premium on all acts of the school without permitting them to face trial," Justice M Nagaprasanna said on Monday.

Malady of over-disciplining their students 

Cases like this would lead to children evaluating themselves negatively and feeling bad about themselves, observed the judge. He further urged educational institutions to recognise the malady of over-disciplining their students and attempt to correct their behaviour in a different manner so that “lives of young souls would be saved.”

“The institutions should also recognise that age-old principles have now changed, I mean 'spare the rod and spoil the child' has metamorphosed into 'spare the rod and teach the child'," the judge said.

Even if the child is a “troublemaker, mischievous or otherwise” – correctional disciplinary actions like suspensions and expulsions would not always help the child, the court said. “Therefore, schools which enforce harsh discipline should think of a paradigm shift,” it stated.

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