Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rant #531: Water Balloons Bursting In Air

You might have heard about this story. It has made national news.

A group of East Rockaway, Long Island, High School students are being banned from their prom and graduation ceremony because they participated in a water balloon fight just off of school grounds.

About 50 students participated in the fight, which is supposedly an annual "rite of passage" at the school. Never before has the school taken action against fight participants.

However, this time, the fight kind of got out of hand. Not only were participants pelted with water balloons, but reportedly so were two high school administrators, a crossing guard, and several students who were not participating in the fight.

The school claims that the participants were causing traffic and safety problems, and were told to stop or they would face disciplinary action.

The decided to go on with the fight.

The parents of the participants have appealed to the school, and administrators are deciding whether they should go on with the ban or not.

The prom and graduation are big events for high school seniors. These kids worked hard to get to this point, and after a dozen years in the system (plus kindergarten), they are being banned from these big events in their lives due to one blemish.

But on the other hand, the fight evidently did get out of hand, and people not even participating were getting pelted on a busy street. When the crossing guard gets hit, you know the thing got out of hand. And the kids were told to stop, or else.

Let me tell you a story. I was substitute teaching in a middle-class district on Long Island. I was standing in for a well-regarded veteran teacher, and I had to sub for his five classes one late May day.

I didn't have many problems until I got to one class, filled with graduating seniors. The teacher gave me one thing to do with the kids. It would have taken 15 minutes to complete.

The problem was that that day, the seniors got their yearbooks. I recognized that, and I said that if they just did this one thing that the teacher left for them, they would have the rest of the 45-minute period to have their yearbooks signed. Heck, I told them that I would even sign the yearbook if they wanted me to.

Well, after about five minutes of pleading, the kids finally got what I was saying and decided that they would do what I was asking.

Except for one kid.

He verbally abused me, using every curse his 18 year old mind knew, he threatened me, and he was a nuisance.

After a warning and continued taunts, I yanked away his yearbook from him, and placed it in a drawer in the teacher's desk, As many of you know, once you close the top drawer of a teacher's desk, the other drawers automatically lock. So I had the yearbook in the drawer, locked away, and I said that I would give it back to him after the lesson.

And I fully intended to do this.

The kid went ballistic, to a degree I have never seen. His adrenalin must have kicked in on high, because he rushed at me, still yelling and screaming, and threatened me with bodily harm. About five boys tried to grab him, and he knocked all of them down with one fell swoop. And these boys who tried to restrain him were not small.

He then went to his seat, which was in the front row. If you recall, in high school, the chair is attached to the desk.

He proceeded to pick it up, and throw it at me.

Yes, throw it at me, a chair and desk that probably weighed 50 lbs. or more.

It went over my head, hit the blackboard, and bounced harmlessly away.

As I was in shock, he ran out of the classroom.

He brought back a teacher who was on hall duty, and the teacher was defending him, believe it or not. I threw both the kid and the teacher out of the room, and somehow proceeded with the lesson.

And yes, as promised the kids got their time with their yearbooks.

(By the way, the class I was teaching was Religion. I kid you not.)

I reported the kid, and the school said they would take care of him.

And take care of him they did.

I mean, I could have been hurt or worse, and since they don't care about subs, what would have happened if the projectile hit one of the other kids? I don't even want to think about it.

And when I say take care of him, they did.

I asked that he be suspended from graduation and the prom.

They suspended him for one day. In late June. And that was it.

So when I heard about the incident at East Rockaway High School, I originally thought that maybe the punishment was too harsh.

But then I remembered my experience, and I quickly changed my mind.

The punishment not only isn't too harsh, it is too lenient.

These kids should not only be banned from the prom and graduation, they probably should have to do some community service work too. And they should have had to clean up the grounds that they soiled with their water balloons.

What would have happened if they injured someone while doing this? What would have happened if someone got in a car accident because of this?

The school probably would have been sued, that's what.

As the parent of a 15 year old and a 23 year old, I think we have to be a bit strict with these kids, because the consequences of their actions could have been much worse.

Schools have to send out a message to kids--and their parents--that this type of behavior will not be tolerated, because it only takes one time for something really, really bad to happen.

(And no, I don't want these kids punished in retaliation for the kid in my incident getting a slap on the wrist, if that is what you are thinking.)

Throw the book at them. Let them learn that there is a right way to handle yourself and a wrong way to handle yourself.

And they handled themselves in a very wrong way during this incident.

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