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Far be it from me to tell anyone else how to raise his or her kid, but hang on a second. HANG ON!
Today I heard a story about a group of students at a Long Island high school that were suspended for taking part in an annual water balloon fight. Unfortunately for the students, the school’s principal, assistant principal and a crossing guard were all hit with the rubber shrapnel.
Included in the group are several seniors who now won’t be able to walk the across the stage for graduation – and the students’ parents are up in arms, many saying the punishment is too severe. But, here’s the rub; the students had been warned prior to taking aim. That’s right, they were told they would be suspended if they took part in the water balloon fight, that they wouldn’t be able to turn the tassel with their classmates and yet they did it anyway. So what’s wrong with this picture?
Well, I’m glad you asked. It’s the parents and their misplaced anger that really makes me mad! Should they really be pissed at school officials because their little angels went against what authorities said and got their teenage butts in a sling? No they should be seething at their own children!
Those kids are being held responsible for actions they took. They knew it wouldn’t end well; school officials told them as much. But the part that really gets my goat is their adolescent arrogance. Where did that come from? Those very parents are now trying to smooth things over for them. See, I’m convinced these kids did what they did because they knew their parents would bail them out; they’d probably been doing it since they put their thumbs in someone else’s push pot in the second grade.
Parenting is a hard thing and the utterly cruel thing is that there is no manual. So we end up having to feel our way through the dark, doing the best we can to prepare our kids for adulthood. Are these kids going to be better off, equipped for adulthood if their folks are always waiting in the wings to clean up their poor choices and bad behavior? Uh, no – they won’t be. What they are going to assume is that the rules that everyone else plays by don’t apply to them. That’s going to be a huge problem when they find out they actually do.
Sure we’ve been down the road before – remember the story of James Tate and his cardboard prom sign? But for me this story doesn’t feel the same – in that case, I did feel officials were being a bit ridiculous. But please don’t tell me, “It was just a water balloon fight” because it was not. This was willful disobedience and now their parents want it excused. Yes the punishment is harsh. Yes it sucks. Yes it’s too bad that these kids screwed up four years in a moment of stupidity. But at the risk of showing my age, as rapper Kurtis Blow famously said, these are the breaks.
If I were one of these parents, I’d be pissed too, but not at the school. I would suck some of the joy from right on out of my kid’s summer by grounding them and taking some of their allowance but not before explaining why. The things is these kids will learn a lesson, but if the school caves and parents win, it won’t be the one that will help them get through life.
Okay that’s my take, what about you? Do you agree with the school’s hardline approach? Should the kids be allowed to graduate with their class and be punished in some other way? How would you feel if one of these kids was yours? Would you back the school or beg for mercy?