Let me introduce Drury Christian School in Auckland, New Zealand. It is famous because it exploited a loophole in New Zealand’s ban on school corporal punishment: they made the parents do it instead. This made local news in 2007, and there was going to be a legal challenge against the school for it.
In May 2007, however, New Zealand banned corporal punishment in the home, effectively closing this loophole. As a result, the legal challenge was dropped and everyone forgot about Drury Christian School.
I’ve written previously on Leaving Fundamentalism that this loophole has been a common way for Accelerated Christian Education Schools (of which Drury Christian School is one) to get around the law. My school in England did it, and I can show you prospectuses from schools in Ireland and South Africa saying the same thing.
But obviously a good Christian school wouldn’t break the law, would it?
Well, here, courtesy of the Wayback Machine, is Drury Christian School’s prospectus from July 2009, more than two years after corporal punishment became illegal in their country:
Here is the offending section, in full (emphasis original):
GUIDELINES FOR CORPORAL CORRECTION, “Smacking”:
For repeated bad behaviour, consultation with parents must be on going, and if loss of privileges is having no effect, then corporal correction should be considered. In New Zealand, there is a strong feeling against corporal correction, but this has come about because of the misuse of smacking in the past by many adults who have hit their children in anger. Humanism is also strongly opposed to Biblical standards, and has made no effort to see how well a disobedient child responds to a smack administered fairly and in love.
Some guidelines for corporal correction are…
1. Parents should be the only ones doing the smacking. They should only do it at home.
2. The parents should make sure they know the whole story, and that the child too understands why it is being smacked.
3. It should be done in a private place, never in front of other children.
4. It must not be done in anger. Love is the key to winning the heart of a child.
5. Three or Four smacks is quite enough, and a thin paddle is best on the bottom or the hand.
6. Do not get into a power struggle. A parent must remember the child is a reflection of their own lives and must therefore discipline in humility. After smacking, the child and parent should talk together and pray. They should give each other a hug. If this is not possible immediately, then leave the child time to himself and talk a little later.
7. Give encouragement. If given in love, a verse from the Bible is a help to stop a recurrence of the bad behaviour. Forgive the child the wrong he has done when you see there is repentance. When repentance is not immediate, the parent should pray and allow some time. A good example of an encouraging scripture from The Bible is:
1 Corinthians 10.13 “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
The school should keep a diary of parent-staff consultations, and record the time when corporal correction is given by the parents because of a child’s bad behaviour at school.
Notice the disingenuousness of “In New Zealand, there is a strong feeling against corporal correction”, suggesting it is only a ‘strong feeling’ when in fact it was made criminal by the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007.
I know that this prospectus stayed online until at least December 2015, because that’s the retrieval date I used when citing it in the draft of my PhD thesis. In 2016, Drury Christian School updated its website, but the updated version still referred to corporal punishment:
In serious cases there would be corporal discipline (administered by the parent), probation for a period or finally dismissal from school.
This wording stayed up until at least November 2016, when it was last archived by the Wayback Machine. When the page was archived again in May 2017, the reference to corporal punishment had been removed—ten years after it was legally banned.
So I have some questions:
1) How likely is it that Drury Christian Schools administrators woke up one day in 2017 and had a sudden change of conscience about violence against children?
2) How likely is it instead that someone pointed out to them at last that it’s probably inadvisable to advertise on your website that you break the law?
3) The 2009 prospectus said the school kept diaries cataloguing instances of corporal punishment. Will law enforcement in New Zealand be looking at these diaries? (Or is Drury Christian School burning them as we speak?)
4) How many children were assaulted while these criminals hid in plain sight?
5) When will we see some people prosecuted for assault against minors?
You might be wondering why I didn’t do anything about this sooner.
Fair question. I wish I had. It would have been easier to raise this while the information was still live on their website. A few reasons: I was busy with a PhD; I thought that I would have more authority to speak on this issue once I had the PhD; I felt that, as a foreigner, it would be better for a New Zealander to speak on this, so instead I raised it with people from NZ when I spoke to them (none of whom pursued it).
Anyway, I’m not going to bite my tongue on stuff like this again. I’ve interviewed people whose lives have never recovered from the damage inflicted by school corporal punishment. I want to see justice.
Previously on Leaving Fundamentalism:
More on Drury Christian School:
Escaping the Cult of Accelerated Christian Education (The Critic)