Dealing with the bad apples

Being a member of a Student Representative Council (SRC) is not always about wearing a badge and missing out on classes. For some, the initial appeal wears off when they soon realise the volume of time and level of commitment required to fulfil the role effectively. This can lead to SRC members backing away their responsibilities, dragging down the SRC or choosing to opt out of the SRC all together. So, what can be done to prevent these situations from
occurring? How do you respond to situations where the  bad apples are starting to spoil the rest of the bunch?

PREVENTION:

Having students aware of the accountability involved prior to taking on a role can be one way of preventing burn out or issues during the year. Developing clear job descriptions that state the tasks involved and the time required each week could be one way of informing students about the commitment required. Having past SRC members who have filled those positions speak to potential candidates can also help in communicating the degree of involvement and work required.

During the year, it is useful to complete an audit of your SRC. The VicSRC resource kit, “REPRESENT!” features a section features an audit tool (1.7 An effective SRC) to enable you and the SRC members to obtain feedback about how the SRC is operating. Being aware of how others perceive the organisation is a useful exercise and will provide with you data to help discuss the operations of the SRC with its members and school administration.

 After a mid-year review of the SRC, the data showed that SRC members where frustrated with giving up large amounts of their lunchtime for meetings and other commitments. As the teacher advisor, I raised this with school administration and we agreed to rotate meetings fortnightly between lunchtime and class time. The SRC also agreed that they would allocate a portion of their budget to provide catering at some of the lunchtime SRC meetings.

IS IT AN SRC ISSUE OR A SCHOOL ISSUE ?

As the SRC Teacher Advisor, you will no doubt encounter an experience with a member of staff who will tell you about the inappropriate behaviour of a student who is a member of the SRC.

The Year 9 Co-ordinator approached me about Damien’s behaviour in a class that was covered by a CRT. The co-ordinator was called to the class after rude and disruptive behaviour by Damien and other students. The other students were reprimanded by way of after-school detention, however, as Damien was an SRC Member, he was told the matter would need to be taken further. The co-ordinator was calling for Damien to be removed from his position on the SRC.

Does inappropriate school behaviour warrant sanctions imposed by the SRC? Should this be in addition to any consequence imposed by the school?  Having a clear policy or SRC constitution that is understood by year level co-ordinators and school leadership that states how such situations are to be managed can assist greatly. I have heard of SRC’s threatening to withdraw support from wider school events or stage class walkouts by the student body when such processes have not been followed. Whilst the school may choose to impose sanctions based on the student code of conduct, if the sanctions were to impact on the student’s involvement in the SRC, at a minimum, the SRC Teacher Advisor as advocate for the SRC should be present at all discussions.

DO YOU INVOLVE THE SRC WHEN DEALING WITH THE ACTIONS OF AN INDIVIDUAL MEMBER ?

Depending on the matter, it can be useful to involve SRC members in managing disciplinary matters. By doing so, you are demonstrating that their involvement in decision making isn’t tokenistic and limited to fundraising and where the new bins should be placed in the yard.

Carl was a Grade 3 member of the SRC. He always arrived late to meetings, failed to complete tasks he agreed to undertake and disrupted meetings by making inappropriate noises and offing comments unrelated to what was being discussed. The school captains who chaired the meetings raised their concerns with me. We discussed strategies they could used during the meeting to manage Carl’s behaviour. The school captains also met with Carl to discuss his behaviour. The conversation between the school captains and Carl was far more powerful as it was coming from an equal level rather than a top-down approach.

The Meetings Resource Kit developed by Second Strike contains further information and advice about responding to certain behaviours during meetings.

Alternatively, having SRC members deal with disciplinary matters against students may impact negatively on their relationships with other students and school staff so you may wish to remove them from the processes.

The Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisers has recently uploaded some new resources to the MEMBERS ONLY resources section of our website. Resources on offer include:

  • Sample Job Descriptions
  • Sample Constitutions & Policies containing Codes of Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures
  • Formal Warning Letters
  • Sample SRC Reports for students

 To access these resources or to become a VISTA member, visit us at http://srcteachers.ning.com

* Whilst the stories are based on real experiences, the names contained within the article have been changed.

Have you had to deal with negative behaviour from an SRC Member ?
How have you handled the situation ?
Do you have any additional suggestions or advice ?

 

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