Creative Commons/Quinn Dombrowski

Creative Commons/Quinn Dombrowski

The GEM Debate:
Should You Embarrass High School Students Like THIS? (VIDEO)

Last week in Bakersfield, California, a mandatory rally was held for graduating seniors. More than 30 students were called by name to leave the assembly because they were not eligible to graduate from North High School.

Two truancy officers called the 34 students forward and told them to look at their friends as they left the assembly because it might be the last group event with the class of 2014. “As you walk away, keep looking and keep in mind what you’re sacrificing. This is your opportunity to get this work done.”

The speech was intended to motivate students to fulfill graduation requirements in the six weeks of school that are left, said John Teves, spokesman for the school district, though naming the students publicly was a “very poor choice.” Students who are ineligible to graduate usually join another assembly where they find out what they need to complete in order to graduate.


“They humiliated them,” said Dylan Newsome, a senior who told the Bakersfield Californian six of the students named completed their requirements the same day of the assembly. “I don’t think it was right for them to do it right in front of everybody.”

Montana McCright, one of the seniors named during the rally, said she failed an elective class her freshman year but would, in fact, graduate once she completed her APEX coursework, the school’s online credit recovery program.

She said the truancy officer did not name students who were failing because they cut too many classes or were disciplined too many times. Instead, they “degraded” students who were just short of graduation eligibility.

“I’m going to graduate so I think it was unfair that they called my name,” McCright said.

Administrators at the high school made phone calls and classroom rounds to apologize to seniors and their parents. They are also considering staff sensitivity training.

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I can’t even figure out the rationale for this kind of action. Embarrassing students gains what, exactly? It only serves to alienate them and make them the target of further harassment by other students.

Let’s have a sidebar for a moment so you can imagine that you haven’t been doing well at your job. Instead of calling you into her office to discuss it, your boss decides to use a staff meeting or other public forum to name you and some of your coworkers. To have you stand up and leave. To have you look at your remaining coworkers and understand that you will be sacrificing something if you don’t shape up.

It would have been better to take those 34 students to another room. I would have said, “You all are here because there are some things you need to do in order to graduate with your class. There are six weeks left and we want to see you walk with your classmates. We’re going to do whatever we can in the time left to help you get there.” Then students can find out what they each need to do and the adults can find out what’s going on in their lives that brought them to this point.

The kind of disrespect and lack of compassion displayed at North High School saddens me. I don’t know how we can expect to end, or at least significantly reduce, bullying in schools when we have adults who do it openly and clearly think nothing of it.

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What do you think about the truancy officers’ actions? What if something like this had happened to your child? Share your thoughts below.