Sunday, February 13, 2005

California's Colton High School Crybabies

(This story has been updated, see link at bottom of page.) In Colton, California, hundreds of high school students got up from their seats and walked out of class last Thursday and gathered in the school's quad, where they chanted slogans calling for the firing of their school's principal. The well-coordinated protest began at 8:30 AM.

Here is a test. See if you can correctly guess which of following was the reason why the students of
Colton High School had mobilized themselves to this degree:

  1. The unfair dismissal of a popular probationary teacher.
  2. The possible return of the draft.
  3. The cutting of the schools band program due to budget cuts
  4. To show solidarity with those that oppose the war in Iraq
  5. To show solidarity with those that support the war in Iraq
  6. To oppose the closing of the school due to consolidation
  7. None of the above.

If you answered "none of the above," you are correct. The students were protesting the fact that their principal, Harry "Dock" Irving had made a few very reasonable changes to the school's dress code:

  1. male students could no longer walk about with their pants "drooping" (That is to say, students were prohibited from intentionally exposing their underwear.)
  2. females were told that they could no longer expose their midriffs

After administrators failed to persuade students to return to their lessons, classes were cancelled and the pupils sent home for the day. As Friday was a holiday, it is hoped that classes may resume on Monday.

Michael Townsend, a spokesman for the Colton Unified School District, indicated that he believed that only a few of the students were serious about their grievances. He went on to say,

"The vast majority walked out because it's a good excuse for them to get out of class. I think that a lot of them followed their peers."
In our opinion, Townsend is probably right. It has been our experience that high school students oftentimes will take advantage of any opportunity to "get out of class," especially if they know that doing so will result in the creation of an "incident" that will be publicized on television. (As this event was.) For them, it's fun, and sure beats doing schoolwork.

The police were called to the campus, but no one was injured, arrested or suspended.

We here at the 'Wonks are curious about one or two things.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is spearheading the administration's efforts to extend the The No Child Left Behind Act to America's high schools. And since the No Child Left Behind Act also includes these "children," (perhaps babies would be a more appropriate label) is the federal government going to write us classroom teachers yet another volume of regulations for dealing with this kind of nonsense?

What exactly are we educators to do when a group of hoodlums is allowed to derail the educational process for everyone?

It's one thing to show disapproval of an unpopular rule, law, or regulation. The right to protest is what the First Amendment was designed to protect. It's quite another to disrupt the learning process and deny other students their right to attend a safe, orderly, and well maintained public school.

In this new era of increased educational accountability, public schools no longer have the luxury of putting up with this sort of nonsense. The ring-leaders of this so-called protest ought to be identified and suspended for the remainder of the year. (Perhaps a few months away from campus might help with their matuation process.)

But that won't happen, because the federal government has determined that "accountability" only applies to those that work in the education system, and doesn't extend to parents nor students.

If meaningful reform of public education system is to be implemented, then both parents and students need to understand that they are also have the responsibility of making a dedicated effort to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to them for achieving academic success.

Update: (2/19/05) For the rest of the story, please click here

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