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Thursday 23 November 2017

Uproar as school yearbook asks which teen is most likely to end up a stalker , prostitute or WAG

QUESTION TIME: Joanna Kiernan, pictured at Newpark school in Blackrock holds the list of questions students were asked. Photo: Gerry Mooney
QUESTION TIME: Joanna Kiernan, pictured at Newpark school in Blackrock holds the list of questions students were asked. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Joanna Kiernan

Joanna Kiernan

What is your child 'most likely to become?' A prostitute perhaps, or maybe a WAG?

How would you feel if your child's peers voted them the most likely to 'end up in jail' or indeed appear on the infamous lie detector-using, paternity-testing, delinquency-riddled UK chat series, The Jeremy Kyle Show?

A controversial yearbook questionnaire, handed out to sixth-year students attending Newpark Comprehensive School in Blackrock, Co Dublin, has raised eyebrows and a few parents' tempers in recent weeks.

The survey accompanied by a yearbook details form, on Newpark School headed paper, asked students to nominate, among other things, who in their year they feel is most likely to 'become a prostitute,' 'be on the Jeremy Kyle Show,' 'become 'an escort,' become 'a stalker' or 'end up in jail.'

On a second sheet, students were asked, among the categories, to name the peer they felt had 'the best ass,' 'sexiest legs,' and who was 'the worst drunk.'

The 'Most likely to . . .' nominations in school yearbooks, a phenomenon quite new to these shores, inspired by US yearbook traditions, is often the cause of much amusement.

However, the Newpark survey, which was created by students on the Newpark Yearbook Committee and overseen by a teacher, has shocked many parents.

Although the school assured the Sunday Independent this week that nothing offensive would be included in the final yearbook, the fact that such material even made it on to the forms has caused widespread upset.

According to Newpark Comprehensive school principal Derek Lowry, it was explained, before students filled out the survey forms, that some of the categories were inappropriate and should be left blank.

"It was made clear to them that there was no point in filling out some of those, because they wouldn't be included in the book," Mr Lowry said, while also defending the teacher involved with the Yearbook's organisation.

"She hadn't had a chance to actually look at what they were 'likely to do' or be, or best of, prior to that," he added, "but when they came along, she said clearly to all of them that anything that was offensive or insulting to any student would not be included, and that there were things on it that they could just ignore."

However, a secondary level teacher from another Leinster school, who did not wish to be identified, slammed Newpark Comprehensive School for 'dropping the ball' in relation to this issue.

"One needs to remember that when you are dealing with adolescents, that there can be a huge level of insensitivity there," she told the Sunday Independent. "Often what one young person finds amusing another would be extremely offended by. It's a very delicate age; yes, you need to give them some level of responsibility, but these forms should have never been distributed to students without being amended. It should have been monitored more carefully."

The responsibility has to fall with the teacher, she says.

"It just leaves the door open for nastiness to creep in," she added, "No 17 or 18-year-old will admit that they are upset to be nominated as the most likely to end up as a 'prostitute' or indeed a 'stalker,' but who's to say that joke won't affect them in some way? They might have a laugh about it at the time, but there are all sorts of implications there.

"Obviously, they're kids; they're going to do things like that, but this shouldn't have been allowed out or tolerated in any way. I can see both sides but this should have been amended. Most of these categories are negative in some way."

The incident has angered some parents, who are uncomfortable with the idea that their teenagers are being put in an awkward position by leaving parts of their survey blank.

"My son is under pressure to return his form," one mother told the Sunday Independent, "a list has been kept by staff of who hasn't returned it and he's terrified that if I cause a fuss he will be ostracised by his fellow sixth formers."

The same parent claimed to have contacted the school on three occasions to voice her concern, but has not received a reply.

"We haven't received any complaints up until now about it. I'd have to look into it," Mr Lowry replied, when this was put to him, adding, "I'm surprised in a way that the parent hasn't spoken to me about it first off, because I could have explained the process that was gone through.

"I'd have no problem talking to the parent and explaining the actual process. The final say rests with the teacher, but because it's a collaborative process with the students and they are sixth years, you do give them some responsibility and being teenagers sometimes they go a bit over the mark and you have to say 'no, that's not appropriate.'"

"Absolutely I find them offensive," Mr Lowry commented on hearing some of the survey questions, "and they wouldn't under any circumstances have them in the year book. That was made clear. They filled them out and handed them in to her and the committee. Then they went through and edited it then. Nothing has actually gone to the printers or anything yet. As I say, if you get a group of teenagers together, you'll find that they push things a bit."

However, many of the students viewed the survey in a light-hearted manner and were surprised to hear it had caused offense.

"I thought it was just a bit of fun," said 17-year-old Newpark student James Wheatley last week, "It was actually a lot of fun doing it and everyone really enjoyed it. Maybe if someone did have a problem with it they just didn't fill it out or something. There was no nastiness or anything behind it, not at all, like even if there was that it was just people messing with their friends."

Sunday Independent

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