King's looks at stopping school ball

By Michael Dickison

David Gaynor. Photo / Herald on Sunday
David Gaynor. Photo / Herald on Sunday

King's College may have held its last school ball, as it considers how to keep its students out of harm's way.

Just over a week since the death of a student after the ball, headmaster Bradley Fenner said the school would be reviewing the annual event and whether to continue holding it. Other Auckland schools are also discussing phasing out school balls in favour of graduation balls attended by parents.

Mr Fenner said the school was taking a hard look at the event as well as the reality that some of its students participated in alcohol and drug use.

"Just like other schools, we would have some students doing this, and we would look at prevention and monitoring to ensure our school is drug-free," he said. "As far as the ball is concerned, we would be considering whether we wish to continue holding events of that kind, and maybe look at another approach for social events."

The focus would be on allowing for the positive aspects of social interaction without the risks, he said.

He hoped to have a meeting with other headmasters and principals in the future to "share some thoughts and come up with a consistent approach trying to ensure safety for the students".

King's student David Gaynor, 17, died in hospital last Saturday after leaving the ball. Since then, other schools have made additional counsellors available to students and staff coping with the tragedy.

Mr Fenner met police yesterday to help with their investigations, as they spoke with students and staff who had been at the event.

Diocesan School principal Heather McRae, who is also the chairwoman of the Auckland Secondary School Principals Association, said most schools were making deliberations on safety at school balls.

"Everyone is reflecting on the ball event. It seems that the pre- and post-balls have become more difficult for us as schools to know what's happening, and for parents as well," Ms McRae said. "There's a lot of discussion about alternatives."

When Diocesan held its ball on Saturday, it would follow the example of St Kentigern College and hire an alcohol and drug detection agency. St Kentigern employed sniffer dogs at its ball last Saturday.

Ms McRae said Diocesan could phase out school balls.

"We have considered whether we would hold just the graduation ball at the end of the year with the parents there, and just for the Year 13 girls."

St Kentigern's College headmaster Steve Cole would not comment on whether the use of sniffer dogs at the school's ball over the weekend was effective, adding school ball stories have been "done to death" in the media.

"The ball was a tremendous success as far as the staff are concerned and as far as the kids are concerned," Mr Cole said. "It's another school ball just like 59 other ones I've been to."

Western Springs College principal Ken Havill said his school would have its ball on Saturday at the Town Hall with previously planned safety procedures in place. Smoking and drinking alcohol were not permitted, and students clearly affected by pre-ball drinking would have their parents called to collect them.

Mr Havill said if the school received information about the organisation of an after-ball event involving the illegal supply of alcohol, it would pass this on to police.

- NZ Herald staff

- NZ Herald

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