Wednesday, May 22, 2024

St Kents apologises for throat-cutting incident

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Saint Kentigern College has formally apologised for an accident during a school musical production last April in which two student actors had their throats cut.

The school will also enter into a restorative justice process with the families involved.

The incident was subject to a health and safety inquiry by WorkSafe New Zealand.

The Saint Kentigern Trust Board last night issued a statement regarding the incident which happened during opening night of the school’s adaptation of Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street a year ago which grabbed international headlines.

Saint Kentigern had to cancel the remaining scheduled shows following the accident in which the two teens were injured.

The statement reads: “The Saint Kentigern Trust Board has entered into an enforceable undertaking agreement with WorkSafe New Zealand.

“This agreement has been reached following WorkSafe’s investigation into an accident in which very serious injuries were sustained by two students at the college production last year.”

Dr John Kernohan, deputy chairperson of the Trust Board, said the board “sincerely apologises for the fact that the accident happened and for the harm caused to all those families involved”.

“Saint Kentigern accepts that it should have done more to acknowledge the seriousness of what happened immediately after the accident.  The injuries were not minor. The injuries were significant and life-threatening,” he said.

“Individual members of the Trust Board personally feel deep regret and take full responsibility for the emotional and physical harm that has been suffered by those students involved.  Ensuring that all students can learn in a safe environment remains Saint Kentigern’s first priority.

“As part of the enforceable undertaking agreement, Saint Kentigern is entering into a restorative justice process with the families, and will not comment further until this process is completed.”

The Sweeney Todd incident resulted in two boys, both 16, having their necks cut with a prop razor at the opening performance. They were released from hospital the following day.

St Kentigern’s head of college, Steve Cole, said at the time the “unfortunate” incident happened halfway through the performance’s second act.

The prop was a razor which had been blunted and wrapped in several protective layers, Mr Cole said in April last year.

“It’s normal for Sweeney Todd to have such an instrument [and it] clearly had been checked many, many times.

“It has been bound and cellophaned and all sorts of things. It had been blunted and had been through all sorts of health and safety checks. It was a very unfortunate mistake,” he told media at the time.

The scene had been performed “many times” since January including eight dress rehearsals where the prop was used, Mr Cole said.

Mr Cole said at the time: “Plays and performance are a big part of all school life. We are distressed about what happened last night and are conducting a thorough investigation.”

In December, the Times reported that Emma Bishop, head of drama at the school for almost a decade, was to leave at the end of the 2016 school year.

Ms Bishop, who has collected a stack of nominations and awards for numerous outstanding productions, was at the helm for the Sweeney Todd production.

Mr Cole, the college’s head, announced a month after the incident, he would be retiring at the end of term two, 2017.

The school said at the time that his departure was not related to the incident as he had been considering retirement plans for some time after eight years at St Kents.

Jane Kneale, communications manager at St Kents, told the Times in December Ms Bishop was leaving to follow academic aspirations.

“I can confirm that Emma will be amongst the staff who have chosen to leave the college at the end of the year (2016) to pursue new challenges,” she said.

“In Emma’s case, she plans to return to university to study towards a PhD.”

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