King’s College has had its fourth student death in 18 months.
Four dead students is an inexcusable disgrace. Once again the school fails to show leadership in its handling of its alcohol issues. Blame is deflected by the school on to parents, and society in general. They fail to acknowledge that the death rate at King’s is exceptional when compared to other New Zealand schools.
Last year, following an alcohol overdose death of a King’s student, some of King’s richest parents tried hard to find ways to give their underage children alcohol in connection with the school ball. King’s headmaster's pathetic response was “I really can't answer for what people are trying to do”.
This year a prominent business man, Craig Norgate, arranged a pre ball drinking gathering for many King’s students. The dead boy died just hours after attending the Norgate function. There were reports of students getting drunk at Norgate’s function and of widespread drunken, drugged behaviour at the ball. Despite the ball being a school event, and knowing that there were drunken children at the ball, it seems that the school took far too little responsibility for those in its care. After the death, the chairman of the King’s board tried to minimise the school’s responsibility: "Schools clearly can't be 24-hour babysitters of their students".
It appears that some King’s parents encourage their children to believe that it is not possible to enjoy social events without the presence of large quantities of alcohol. If parents in poor areas showed such poor judgment, society would brand their actions as child abuse.
With parental encouragement of drinking, and a school that does not provide proper leadership in this area, what chance do vulnerable students have?