Moral Panics

Fear of perverts in aircraft


Moral Panics Index


Perverts in Aircraft

News Reports 2 : Dec 1-3 2005

The Timaru Herald
December 1 2005

'Move men' procedure on planes raises hackles of SC males

Suggesting to South Canterbury men that they shouldn't sit next to an unaccompanied child on a plane is a mighty quick way to cause offence. Just try it.

And while some men dealing with children accept they need to be more aware of the way they deal with youngsters than they did 30 years ago, they are offended Qantas and Air New Zealand's policies to move men sitting next to unaccompanied children.

As a teacher, Timaru man Mark Hyde dealt with young children for more than 30 years. He was principal at Salisbury School when it merged last year and yesterday was relieving at Beaconsfield School.

"There is a heightened awareness, a sensitivity in the community that wasn't there 30 years ago."

If the changes resulted in children being safer then Mr Hyde saw that as positive, but he suggested teachers' moves to ensure they were not accused of inappropriate behaviour meant children could no longer form the relationships with teachers that were once possible.

The subject of male teachers being with small children was hardly even mentioned during his time at teachers college.

"It has changed. There has been a gradual lift in awareness among primary school teachers -- and not just male ones -- of a requirement and a need to protect themselves professionally from accusations that might arise if they are left alone with children.

"One thing I would never do now is be alone with a child of either gender, for any length of time, with the door closed or when no one is around."

Yet such an approach was not always practicable in small country schools, he said, referring to situations such as when the last child was waiting to be picked up after school.

"You stay with them and look after them and make sure they are safe. You don't go away and leave them on their own."

His advice to staff had always been to avoid situations where people could draw an inference from which they could not defend themselves.

While such an accusation has never been made against Mr Hyde it did happen to a colleague.

Although it was an unproven allegation the man had to shift to another school.

"Not only did I consider him to be safe to teach children, but I considered him to be a very good teacher," Mr Hyde said.

So what would he do if a young child fell over at school, skinned a knee, and was crying?

"If I have to put my arm around a five-year-old's shoulders and say `come with me and we will fix that up' then I'll do that.

"I like to think I act as a normal parent would act in that situation ... and I would expect if another adult was looking after my child and the child fell over, that they would do the same thing."

But would he sit next to an unaccompanied child on a plane?

"Absolutely. In fact I would be insulted at the thought of being shifted."

Pool staff were always on the lookout for inappropriate behaviour, according to Timaru district council pool supervisor and swimming teacher Kevin Hessell.

Pools were a place where children went to mix with their peers and any unusual behaviour from a man or woman would draw his attention.

As a swimming coach he preferred to coach from the poolside rather than in the pool with the youngsters, simply because he found it a better way to coach.

While Mr Hessell could see no reason why a man shouldn't coach children, he believed employers and organisations needed to closely monitor those who did.

Pareora husband and father of two Julian Gunther is so incensed by the airlines' seating policy that he doesn't want to fly with them in future -- and would refuse to swap seats if asked to.

Mr Gunther, 30, a social services student, was so annoyed he phoned the Herald to air his views.

"To have a policy like that on an aeroplane is basically calling us a bunch of barbarians ... you might have a female who is the dodgiest thing about, but because she is a female that is fine.

"If we do anything with children -- show any attention or affection to children -- it is seen as disgusting.

"I am starting to wonder what sort of planet I am on. Are we on planet Earth or Mars? Most males don't think about children in any other way except that you have them, you raise them and you care about them."