Monday, April 03, 2006

Teaching the children

Two scenarios:

1) A middle-school kid drops a knife on the floor of his classroom, having hidden it up to that point in the day. Result? Expulsion.

2) A middle-school kid, a student at the same school as the first kid, realizes before he gets to school that he forgot to take his knife out of his pocket and, realizing his mistake, immediately gives the knife to a school official, explaining his mistake. Result? Possible Expulsion, already suspended.
What's the difference between those two scenarios? Personal responsibility, for one thing. According to the IndyStar article that details the story, Elliot Voge, an eighth-grader at Stonybrook Middle School, did exactly what is described in scenario number two. He was apparently using a Swiss Army Knife to whittle wood the day before. Wait, a 14-yr old boy whittling wood?? But that's so. . . so traditionally Norman Rockwell Americana! I'll bet he even has his Whittlin' Chit. He should have been playing an XBox instead of learning how to create something and actually use his mind. I digress. . .

Voge apparently forgot that he left the knife in his coat. So he did the responsible thing: he gave the knife to the school's treasurer, apparently the first school official he saw in the school office. And what happens?

As a result of Elliot's actions, the school's principal, Jimmy Meadows, suspended Elliot for the maximum 10 school days as allowed by law and recommended Elliot be expelled. A confidential expulsion hearing is scheduled for April 10.

Wait. . . so if he hadn't turned the knife in and was caught he'd be facing the same amount of punishment? The kid made a mistake. He "fessed up", as my grandmother would say. According to the article, Voge is a quintessential "good kid": good grades, recommended for advanced placement courses when he gets to high school, and "has never had any other disciplinary matter arise against him in his school years." Plus, he whittles! And takes responsibility for his actions and mistakes. This sounds like the kid one would WANT to have.

Yet he's being punished for his responsibility. I'm not saying he shouldn't be punished, since after all, he did bring a knife to school, which is not allowed and shouldn't be allowed, but a maximum suspension and possible expulsion? That is too much. If he simply kept the knife hidden away, in flagrant violation of school policies, and did not get caught with it, he'd be in a better situation than he is in now. What kind of message does that send to his classmates? According to the attorney Voge's family hired to represent them,

Their message is to be dishonest, take more chances.

After all, another of the school's zero-tolerance policies is for students "to report knowledge of deadly or dangerous weapons or threats of violence to the school administration." And be punished for it. Because god forbid we teach children that they should do the right thing.

1 comment:

  1. Well said.

    It is a shame that honest is not encouraged. Especially in the young.

    This kid was just taught the completely wrong message. And at school of all places.