Greetings, Friends ~
The wise among us know that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. We also know that if someone needs help, we set aside our personal opinions about how that person got in a particular situation and we help them anyway. But we live in today’s world, don’t we? As time goes by, there seems to be more and more consequence involved in helping others. Let each of us make a decision not to let that discourage us from doing things that make a positive difference in the life of someone else.
I read an article today about a 17-year old high school honor student who was suspended from school and stripped of her role as captain of her volleyball team. What did this youth do wrong? NOTHING.
The teen-in-trouble is a responsibly-employed student who, after getting off work, received a call from her friend who was intoxicated and needed a ride home from a party. The intoxicated teen made a responsible decision not to drive. She did exactly what we teach every adult to do in that same situation – do not drive drunk. Because of the high school policies of zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol, the teen girl who showed up at the party to drive her friend home received a consequence. Not from the police who broke up the party for obvious reasons, but from her own high school.
There are so many things wrong with this scenario it is hard to even make sense of the high school administration’s actions against her. The school, for starters, should have absolutely no part is what is occurring off campus and on the weekends. That is a parent’s job. As a parent myself, I would have given my teen a reward for responding to a friend who had called her for this type of help.
Before we digress, let’s not worry about whether that other teen should have been at a party drinking alcohol in the first place. That is a problem for her parents to sort out, and not our business. My focus is on the wrongdoing of the school for punishing a teen who showed up and did the right thing to help her intoxicated friend. That sets a precedence and gives the rest of the kids a very poor message about what to do if a friend calls them and needs a ride. That should be of concern for all parents and every responsible adult among us.
When my daughter was younger, I recall sending extra lunches to school with her to share with the kids whose parents could not afford to feed them. After a week or two, the school counselor got wind of this very criminal behavior (sarcasm, noted) and reported it to the school’s principle. My daughter and I were both called in to the school’s office to receive a strong reprimand. I vividly recall being told that my daughter would be suspended from school if she shared anymore of her food, regardless of the fact that there were kids present who were going hungry. Was I wrong for helping? Was my daughter wrong? Of course not. The true wrongdoing here is being an adult in that school system who knew full well that these kids were going hungry, then instructing other adults and children not to share our abundance.
We do realize, of course, that those put in charge of systems are handcuffed by policies and laws that should have never existed in the first place. I know teachers and those working for that system who also think these policies are wrong and should not be in place today. So, how do we collectively change it? We can start by altering our own mindset about “who is in charge” of our children. It never was the schools. We let them interfere to this extent, and we need to stand up and insist these types of policies are reversed. For those kids who are true problems in the system, there are already policies and laws that exist to deal with the occasional child who needs special attention. The good kids should not be suffering as a result of a few bad behaviors.
As far as the teen that showed up to drive her friend home, I am writing a letter in support of this teenager to her school. I do not know her, but I do know that she did the right thing and for that, she received a harsh and undeserved consequence. The school grossly overstepped their authority and responsibility. By policy, yes. But even that was ill-implemented in this particular case.
Any policy in a school or other government organization that punishes our kids for doing what is right should be wholly unacceptable to every single one of us. With regard to drunk driving, what this high school did to the teen girl who showed up to help her friend will reverse our progress as a country 20-30 years with regard to drunk driving awareness. It also sends a message that it is better for kids to get behind the wheel of their car drunk rather than reach out to their friends for help when they know they need to do so. Is that what we want?