The Sydney Morning Herald has been criticised for “double standards” after publishing an editorial claiming “the teenage brain is a work-in-progress” following a crime-filled muck-up day planned by an elite boys' school. Critics were quick to point out the nation’s age of criminal responsibility is just 10 years old.
The editorial was without a byline and simply labelled “The Herald’s View”.
It claimed the public should be careful when assigning blame for “the appalling acts proposed by a small number of students at Shore School.”
It’s a view that was echoed by some Shore parents over the weekend who began posting photos of their children in the school uniform with the hashtag #ProudShoreMum and blue and white hearts to represent the school's colours.
Last week, Sydney Morning Herald revealed that year-12 students at the elite private school in North Sydney had published a muck-up day plan that challenged the cohort to “spit on a homeless man”, "kiss an Asian chick” and "have sex with a woman who weighs over 80kg or one who is 3/10 or lower”, among other illegal and offensive activities.
There was widespread outrage after the piece was published, with some arguing the students had acted with “impunity”, “privilege” and “entitlement.”
But today, an editorial by the paper claimed: “a Shore parent was quite right to raise concerns that it was unfair that the public airing of the document detailing the acts could affect the reputation of those students not involved.”
The paper also argued that 2020 is a “deeply difficult” year for year 12 students and “they should be forgiven for wanting to blow off some steam.”
“While a teenage brain may not be fully formed, it is not without the capacity to understand responsibility and consequence for one's actions,” the editorial continued.
The piece has drawn scorn from journalists and the public alike.
“This is just an extraordinary way to describe a group of men egging each other to, amongst other things, sexually assault girls under the age of 15,” wrote journalist Osman Faruqi on Twitter.
“Nobody was ever saying that teenagers don't do dumb things. The question is why was this cohort of boys' dumb thing spitting on homeless people and assaulting women, while other schools put dishwashing liquid in the fountain,” Guardian Australia journalist Naaman Zhou added.
“As we all know, the “don’t spit on homeless people” part of your brain develops the day after your Year 12 formal,” wrote another person on Twitter.
Others questioned whether the paper would rush to defend Indigenous or ethnically diverse students in the same way.
“If the kids were from a Muslim school they would have been arrested by now, and we’d likely have seen their names and photos all over the media,” Faruqi wrote in another tweet.
“Remember this the next time you hear about ‘African youth gangs’ etc. Or don’t they get the boater hat discount?,” tweeted ABC Offsiders panellist Richard Hinds.
Another person claimed: “Indigenous children as young as 10 can find themselves in detention for minor offenses. Double standards!”
Earlier this year, Sydney Morning Herald ran another “The Herald’s View” which argued ‘Putting children under 14 in jail is wrong and wasteful’.
“There are moral and legal arguments why children, who often have little understanding of what they are doing, should not be treated the same as adults,” the piece read.
“The inquiry into the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory exposed how brutal conditions can be for young people.”