Protests follow 'intimacy' expulsion

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2008, 12:00am

100 Li Po Chun pupils rally at principal's home

More than 100 students from Li Po Chun United World College held a candle-light protest outside the principal's house after three teenagers were expelled for breaking an 'inappropriate intimacy' rule, students said.

They said a female student was told to leave on Thursday after being found with a male, and a couple were due to leave yesterday after being found together. It is an offence punishable by expulsion to be found in another student's room after 11pm more than once.

Students who took part in Thursday night's protest, some of whom asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said the 'intimacy' rule was a 'grey area' and that although the expulsions were the reason for the protests, tensions with principal Stephen Codrington had been brewing for some time.

Dr Codrington refuted students' claims yesterday, describing them as 'kids with an agenda who have decided to create a fiction'.

A student said teachers held 'room raids' from time to time. 'The problem is, it is one big grey area. In the first case a couple were found in bed and it was the second time the girl had been discovered, but in the second case the students weren't doing anything.'

Second-year student Yam Bloom, 19, said the protest was the culmination of growing tensions at the Sha Tin international college.

He claimed there was a climate of discontent and distrust between students, some teachers and Dr Codrington, and described the expulsions as a 'militant and hurtful measure'.

He said the students had asked the administration to define the rule on intimacy earlier this year but the administration had refused. He said it now appeared the rule had been interpreted to fit the incident.

Mr Bloom said the candle-light protest, which saw about 20 students remain outside Dr Codrington's house until sunrise, was peaceful. Ninety-three personal letters had also been sent to the principal.

Another protester said students were 'fed up' that Dr Codrington 'spends much time away from the college travelling', 'boasting on his website about how he collects aircraft barf [sick] bags on the journeys'.

Dr Codrington's personal website says he took his 1,120th flight on April 6 and his 'vomit bag collection' stands at 192.

Students also said they did not feel their views were being represented to the board and the recent resignation of popular director of studies John Green was 'a classic example'.

The 12-year Li Po Chun veteran will leave at the end of the academic year over a contract he claims discriminates against same-sex couples and gags staff. Students had spoken out in support of Mr Green.

Dr Codrington rejected the students' claims and said their description of the expulsion was 'oversimplified to the point of extreme inaccuracy'. But he was not prepared to talk about the incident.

'The main point I want to make is I'm not prepared to violate a student of this college's privacy by talking to the press about a discipline matter of a very private nature,' he said, adding that he was still talking to parents. He denied as many as 100 students were involved in the protest.

He said the students' claim that the school had refused their request to clarify rules was 'absolutely wrong'. They had been informed of the rules on many occasions and had had the opportunity to ask questions.

Dr Codrington also strongly refuted the claim that there was an atmosphere of mistrust and discontent. 'You've obviously got some kids with an agenda who have decided to create a fiction,' he said.

Li Po Chun is part of the global United World College network, which promotes international understanding and leadership through education.

Although the non-debenture fees are $180,000 a year, including boarding, 90 per cent of students are on means-tested scholarships.