Sunday, April 19, 2015

Citizen Teen

There was yet another big brouhaha at the high school here last week.

Apparently, some students were vandalizing the school's restrooms, so the administration decided that they would lock all the restrooms except for one girls' room and one boys'. 

The students — juvenile delinquents all, believe you me — would earn back a restroom for every three days that there were no more incidents. Meanwhile, the entire student body, nearly 1,000 people, would have to wait on line for the two restrooms.

I first heard about this in a preemptive email from the school's principal. He was very concerned about "the rumor mill," and wanted to make sure that we had the official story before any of our sons and daughters — liars all, believe you me — clued us in.

My immediate thought? "Are ya kiddin' me?"

With everything else we need to worry about as parents, we have to add this to the mix? And, perhaps more importantly, with all the stress our teenage sons and daughter are under, they have to worry about whether they can hold it in or not? Or get to class on time because they had to wait twenty minutes in line to use "the head?" And what about any girls who happen to be getting their periods?

Basically, all of the students were paying for the behavior of a few bad apples. This seems neither democratic nor just nor fair to me.

But, they're teenagers, so maybe we don't have to worry about any of that due process crap. As one concerned member of the community suggested online, "Put surveillance cameras in the bathrooms. They're children, they don't deserve privacy."

Ah, the joys of living in a small town.

Surely there are rules somewhere that say that children have to be allowed to use bathrooms. I'm not a lawyer, but there are plenty of parents who are, and I can only imagine the calls that were made. For whatever reason (time off for good behavior, operational pragmatism, threatened law suits), additional bathrooms were opened sooner than planned. And the whole (apparently messy) incident is now behind us.

But, it makes me think. Why do we expect the worst from our teenagers? Why do we assume they're guilty until proven innocent? Punish hundreds of them for the bad behavior of maybe five or ten?

I remember once when my daughter was three years old, we went to the pediatrician and she had to be vaccinated for something or other. It was painful and though she tried to be brave, she was still crying, as we sat down for lunch at a coffee shop next door. An extremely grouchy old man leaned over from his table and asked "What's wrong with her?"

"She's three," I snapped at him defensively, "And she just had two shots!"

As far as I know, the bathroom closings didn't drive anyone to tears, but I don't like authority figures (be they school administrators, concerned members of the community, or ornery old men in restaurants) acting like young people are somehow less than people. 

I also believe that there would be more learning (and less bathroom wall defacing) if the school weren't run like such a police state.

Then again, I can choose to look on the bright side. The incident — and consequently, the high school — was front page news in the local paper. 

Ah, the joys of living in a small town.

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