Marolt: Kids get drunk; teachers get blamed for ruining their evening
Teenagers are going to do normal, stupid things, right? And when our kids do these normal and stupid things, we adults just kind of have to look the other way because “kids will be kids,” right? It’s been this way forever. Who wants to get steamrolled by a runaway right of passage?
OK, if you are nodding your head and buying into this line of thinking, I think you’re missing one very important thing, and I will get to that one very important thing in a minute. First, let’s recount a recent local incident that has me thinking about this.
Eight Aspen High School kids got busted for showing up to this year’s prom after consuming alcoholic beverages. You can say, “No big deal,” but the story showed up on the front page of the local papers. Never mind that it’s offseason and there’s not much else going on in town; there’s going to be skiing on Memorial Day, and this trumped that.
Our local educators thought it was a big deal; they suspended the kids for three days each. The police thought it was a big deal; they administered the Breathalyzer tests that confirmed suspicions when kids were acting funny and outgassing funnier odors. Some parents also thought it was a big deal; they raised all kinds of public hell about it.
You would think all three groups of these concerned adults would be aligned for the health of our children. I mean, it is all about underage kids drinking at a school function, right? Who could possibly be OK with that?
Well, guess what — it was actually some parents who objected to school staff and law enforcement officers setting the offending kids straight on school policy and federal law (both, not incidentally, designed for children’s health and safety) and then creating consequences for the violations.
I’m not kidding. The vocal group of parents possessed the audacity, arrogance and ignorance to boldly, loudly and confidently accuse school officials of ruining their children’s prom night. They claim that their kids were set up through random testing and gestapo-like tactics; never mind that only eight kids were tested and all eight blew positive on the Breathalyzer. Not that it should be necessary, but school officials announced numerous times during the week that the zero-tolerance policy would be monitored and strictly enforced at prom. Yes, even Aspen kids do stupid things, stellar grade-point averages notwithstanding.
Talk about narrow thinking! Here we have an incredible school staff and law officers that we trust to keep our children safe from potential dangers on experiential-education trips all over the country and beyond, the myriad threats of violence committed against schoolchildren everywhere, failing anything from algebra to oceanography classes, and the risk of not getting into their first-choice college, and then at the end of their senior year, weeks away from graduation, we want these nurturers of youth to turn a blind eye when kids booze it up in front of them?
Forget, for a moment, even about their love for and dedication to our kids. Think about these people’s jobs! What happens if a drunk kid leaves prom and gets in an accident or just gets caught by one of those kinds of parents who do actually care about such things as underage drinking, and later it is discovered that the teachers at prom knew about it and did nothing? It’s one thing to be a “cool” teacher and completely another to be an “unemployed” one or, worse yet, to be a “defendant” one in a criminal or civil lawsuit.
Here’s an argument that parents use to excuse their kids’ drinking in high school: They want their kids to experiment with hooch a little bit here at home before they go off to college so they will understand its dangers and find the limits of responsible drinking. There is some merit to this thought process.
But what makes it absolutely, positively ridiculous is when the kids do their experimenting here at home and then those same parents step in and do everything they can to remove all consequences when their kids make the inevitable mistakes with booze. Thanks, Mom and Dad; lesson learned: There are no consequences to irresponsible drinking!
Getting back to the big question raised at the beginning, then: Kids will be kids, so do we let them? I think the answer is conditional. Yes, kids should be allowed to be kids, but only if the adults around them will be adults. Grown-ups reacting like they are supposed to is what allows kids to be kids. It’s what yin is to yang, positive is to negative and orange juice is to vodka; it’s balance. That is the very important thing.
Roger Marolt wonders why good teachers don’t get more credit for saving kids’ lives than they get blame for ruining kids’ proms. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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