Commentary: Raise bar for adults, hold kids accountable
As a believer that our children watch what we do more than listen to our words, I wish to respond to the sadness coming out of Strasburg High School since this past January.
• In January 2014 a teacher/coach was allowed to resign after he faced charges of “hazing, assault and battery by mob, and seven counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor” (Northern Virginia Daily, Jan. 11, 2014). This after he had been on paid leave for some months.
• When the situation on the Strasburg High School basketball team bus was discovered, the School Board ended the seasons for both the varsity and junior varsity teams. As I read the reports in the Northern Virginia Daily, seven students were found guilty of violating school policy. Thus, for the actions of seven, both teams lost a season. A basketball team will usually have 12 players, so about 17 players were punished along with the seven. This, in my mind, is a draconian and thoughtless solution to a complex problem.
• The School Board approved the removal of several basketball players from Strasburg High School in January without seeing the bus video. When the School Board did view the bus video, it expelled some of them for 365 days from the May date of viewing the video, not retroactively from the January date. Thus, the students will miss three semesters of school unless they enroll elsewhere.
• The School Board chose to severely punish several basketball players when the county sheriff and district attorney, who had viewed the bus video, charged some players who pleaded guilty and were punished by a court. Is the civil action not enough for the School Board?
• At least one of the adults on the Strasburg High School bus has returned to work. I saw no article concerning his return, but much has been printed about the students.
• The practice of “lynching” supposedly was known of by some teachers and coaches in Strasburg High School. If these adults knew of the practice and did little or nothing to stop it immediately, they passively approved it and helped the climate at Strasburg High School be a negative one.
• One of the coaches on the bus was quoted in the Northern Virginia Daily as saying that the trip from Moorefield, West Virginia, was “more raucous than usual.” Why would any adult allow raucous behavior by students in any situation? To do nothing in that situation sanctions the conduct, and students learn a negative lesson.
• After I read the Title IX report, I wondered why the attorney hired by the School Board had to add such a lengthy addendum for corrections.
It seems from several reports that some of the basketball players were way out of line on the trip back from Moorefield, and they should be held accountable for their actions. However, children make decisions without careful consideration of consequences (view the ear-piecing video out of Central High School), and one of our responsibilities as adults is to teach and help them grow. Yes, hold them responsible but deal with their transgressions in a timely and just manner. (Read John:4)
I believe that the School Board has mishandled this situation from the beginning. It has held at least seven students and their families in limbo before finally expelling some for 365 days. However, what of the adults?
We entrust our children to teachers and coaches, and we share expectations concerning our children with these teachers and coaches. Some of these expectations are that we expect our children to be taught a subject by these adults and to grow into productive citizens. We expect teachers and coaches to be positive role models. We expect teachers and coaches to be just, but firm with our children. We expect teachers and coaches to build a healthy climate for our children in which to learn. However, when adults are not held to the highest accountability, our children see this. Is it no wonder that situations of poor conduct occur in our childrens’ lives when adults are forgiven for more serious transgressions? Yes, hold our children responsible and expect good conduct from them, but raise the bar for the adults who are in charge of them.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg.