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Open letter to the Management of St.Thomas Schools in Thiruvananthapuram

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To the Management of St. Thomas Schools in Thiruvananthapuram,

As concerned alumni of the St. Thomas Schools, we are writing this open letter in response to the news report that appeared in News Minute on December 15th, 2017 regarding the expulsion of two students from St. Thomas Central School for disciplinary reasons.

At the very beginning, we would like to impress upon you the fact that, as alumni, while we are proud of what our fellow alumni, current students, and the Schools have achieved over the years, we believe that just as the Schools’ reputation and prestige are built up through the hard work of the many thousands of alumni, the perception of the Schools and the actions of their management impact us in return. As torchbearers of the St. Thomas Schools' name, we feel that it is our responsibility to give constructive inputs in order to ensure that the St Thomas community rises to ever greater heights.

With respect to the aforementioned incident, from what could be gleaned from a number of news reports regarding the incident and from reviewing the publicly available proceedings of the Honorable High Court of Kerala in this matter, we understand that the disciplinary issue under consideration was a “hug” and some Instagram photographs taken at a birthday party outside the school premises. We also understand that the students had submitted apology letters in response to the concerns raised by the teachers and the management.

As alumni, we are extremely upset and dismayed at how our alma mater has chosen to respond to what very apparently seems to be a rather innocuous adolescent behavior, in which no harassment or assault was involved. We believe that the school should aim to develop future citizens who can participate in the world in thoughtful and creative ways. Given how men and women are encouraged to participate equally in all aspects of our lives - science, politics, technology, medicine - it seems anachronistic that the management of a co-educational institution  believes that “hugging and handshakes between a boy and a girl in the school premises were against the discipline and conduct of the school rules.”

Rather than meting out harsh punishment that can gravely impact the future of young people, we  further strongly recommend that the school employ student counselors who work with the next generation, find creative ways to help them through their challenges which could yield better results, and that appropriate training for all high school teachers be provided to enable them to interact positively, and help address issues of high school students as they pass through the process of attaining the emotional maturity needed to become responsible adults. Young people go through a challenging time as they transition to adulthood and it is incumbent on the faculty and the school to support them through this, rather than stand in judgement.

We are disturbed that members of the school faculty and management apparently chose to access the private Instagram account and photographs of the student taken at a private birthday party outside the school premises. We urge that our alma mater be at the forefront of creating a learning environment, built on trust, that fosters positive relationships between boys and girls. As part of this environment, it is important to engage Staff and Leadership that conduct themselves as all-round educators in a manner befitting that of our Alma Mater. We strongly condemn the language used by members of the Mar Thoma Church Educational Society management irrespective of who did what and the general lack of sensitivity employed while handling this.

We are especially concerned about the two students, who are part of this institution and our community and are undergoing great trauma and stigmatization because of the expulsion and the manner in which the situation was handled. Std. XI and XII are particularly difficult times in a student’s life as they deal with multiple examinations whose importance to their future cannot be overstated. Consequently, it is quite disheartening to learn that our school management apparently took steps to hinder the admission of one of the students to another school.

In conclusion, we strongly urge the Schools management to reconsider their response in this incident and to adopt a constructive and conciliatory course of action that is in the best interests of the school and the larger St Thomas Schools community. Reversing the expulsions of the students and allowing them to complete their course of studies at STCS is the best decision in the interest of preserving the future of two members of the St Thomas family. In the longer term, the Schools have to make concrete efforts to engage with and support its student community, and to act as trusted advisors and mentors, instead of as inquisitors. We trust that the right decision will be taken in this regard.

It is in the best interest of the entire community for the Schools’ management to engage more intensively with the alumni community in general, to involve them in making key decisions that impact the community and to promote activities that leverage the diaspora to benefit current students. Great institutions across the world are built not just on their alumni network but by working with them, and we hope that the Management will adopt a pragmatic approach in this regard.   
Sincerely,
Alumni of St. Thomas Schools

 



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