Duncan Garner: Marist College principal's reaction to BLM posters is 'ridiculous, over-the-top, inflammatory'

Opinion 11/06/2020

OPINION: I want to talk about the Marist College cluster in Auckland - no, not that one - the new one.

The huge fuss over a bunch of senior girls putting up Black Lives Matter posters in the school.

First though, I want to declare a conflict of interest: my daughter not only goes to the school, but she is part of this group behind the posters - bless her. I would have been more surprised if she was not part of this group.

But the school's response in my view has been over-the-top. They want the girls identified and effectively hung, drawn and quartered.

They appear less concerned with why they did this and wholly focused on finding the 'perpetrators'.

I think the casual but very serious threats from the principal to stand these girls down, or in some way suspend them, is a ridiculous, over-the-top reaction that's inflammatory and does nothing to defuse and resolve.

What I know is the girls put the posters up and the principal was largely supportive. But once the girls left school for the day, she was then seen taking them down. The girls got the news, which remotivated them to arrive at school early the next day and put them back up. That is their so-called crime.

Even the local MP has rushed to their defence, saying we are better off when we have young people engaged and thinking critically about the world around them - that's local MP Jacinda Ardern.

I won't be popular amongst those in society who think these girls have overstepped the mark, but bugger it, I will publicly stand with my daughter.

Which is not only the right thing to do, but I know these girls - they are not louts. They are tomorrow's leaders. Why should we be so dismissive and punitive - it's such a 1930s approach.

To hell with that - let's listen and hear what they have to say?

And rather than be seen as naughty, shouldn't the school channel their energy into something bigger? Create a great school debate - print a thousand posters, invite the public in. Embrace it, raise money - send it to George Floyd's family.

But can we stop this punitive and aggressive approach? Over what is basically just a few posters.

Duncan Garner is the host of The AM Show.