Privileges and consequences - two concepts that many people misunderstand and abuse. However, most privileges come with responsibilities that people oftentimes ignore or neglect. We want the freedom but we don't the responsibility and accountability.
Most teenagers today receive a variety of privileges based on age and social circumstance. For example, driving in this country is a privilege. If you earn your drivers license, you are expected to abide by certain rules and regulations. It is understood that if you fail to comply with the rules of the road, you run the risk of losing your drivers license.
At the age of sixteen, you can apply for a junior license. If you take a drivers education course and comply with all the state regulations, you can earn the privilege of a senior license, once you turn seventeen. Many sixteen year olds are highly motivated to obtain a senior license by age seventeen. Unfortunately, in the process of obtaining a senior license, too many sixteen year olds suspend the rules and do their own thing. They break the curfew and don't limit their driving to school and work. In short, they do as they please. Too many parents endorse this lackadaisical attitude by keeping silent. Thus, they give the mixed message that it is okay to suspend rules and do what you please.
It is amazing how many parents turn a blind eye when it comes to enforcing New York State driving regulations with their sixteen year olds. The escalating number of teenage car accidents involving teenage drivers with junior licenses is alarming. Too often, when they are confronted they minimize the confrontation and always suggest that we, the adults, are overreacting.
It is spring. Many high school students are catching spring fever. Many high school campuses are not permitting students to leave the campus, once they have signed in for the day. However, some high schools still allow seniors to leave campus for lunch and study halls. They market that privilege as one that is only for seniors. So, it is known on campus as a "senior privilege." Usually that privilege can only be utilized if the school has a letter of permission signed by a parent or guardian supporting said student leaving school grounds at defined times.
With the warm weather upon us and spring flowers everywhere, the tendency to cut class and leave the campus without permission is happening all over. Unfortunately, those students who cut and leave the campus without permission usually get into some kind of trouble.
Most high school student handbooks contain consequences for cutting and leaving campus without permission. Too often, parents protect their children from being accountable and responsible. They write letters of excuse so their sons and daughters will not have to serve after school detentions. They literally lie about the offense to cover for their child. What is that kind of parenting endorsing?
Senior privilege is something you earn. It is not a right of entitlement. Unfortunately, a growing number of high school students believe they have the right to certain privileges, whether they have earned them or not. We reinforce that kind of thinking by our silence and our inaction.
Honestly, in this day and age, it borders on being reckless to even allow seniors to leave most high schools during the school day. Think about all the violence and hate that we've read about over the last few months. Think about the escalating use of pot, alcohol and prescription drugs. These social behaviors are no longer embraced by a few marginal students. Rather, they are viewed as okay social behavior by a growing number of mainstream students. The tragedies that are erupting around the country are alarming.
There are countless stories of high school teenagers getting stoned, victimizing others while under the influence and ultimately hurting themselves. Their social adventures no longer consist of going to McDonald's for a burger and a coke, but rather of hanging out and drinking at the beach or at someone's home unsupervised. Too many parents condone and make excuses for this potentially dangerous social behavior.
What if KC, a junior in a local high school with a closed campus policy except for seniors, cuts out after fifth period and meets up other friends at a home that is unsupervised? It is a beautiful day. They decide to have lunch and split a case of beer. By late afternoon, they are four sheets to the wind. KC decides to go home. He only lives around the corner. He has his car, but he shouldn't drive. He says to himself, "I only live a few blocks away, what harm can I do?" So, he gets into his car under the influence. He approaches an intersection right before his house, misjudges the approach and causes a serious accident. His recklessness almost cost his life and the life of an innocent stranger.
After that whole ordeal, his mother wrote him an excuse note as to why he left school at fifth period the day before. Again, KC got over on the system without being held accountable. Even though someone almost died, there were no consequences.
Prom season is fast approaching. More and more schools are rethinking their position on junior and senior proms. Proms are a complicated social venue. They present many new challenges that schools did not have to face in the past. Thirty years ago the prom was an end of the year celebration, a party to end all parties, as seniors took leave of four years of hard work.
Today, the average high school prom is as sophisticated as a twenty-first century wedding. The average high school senior spends a fortune on this one evening of fun and frolic. There are limousines to be paid for, videography and picture taking to be arranged, tuxedos to be rented, prom dresses to be purchased and flowers to be bought and coordinated.
Then they have to arrange the pre-prom party, the post prom party and an assortment of other prom activities that stretch throughout the weekend. It is not unheard of for many young people on the North and South shore to rent rooms in the Hamptons and/or Montauk after prom night for the continuation of their end of the year senior celebration.
It is important to note that many of these post prom activities are without adult and/or parental supervision. These arrangements are made by parents because most seniors and their dates are underage. We know that they are not gathering out East for a prayer meeting!
The senior prom is a privilege that every senior should have the opportunity to embrace. In some communities, this privilege is in jeopardy because seniors are acting recklessly and irresponsibly. For many, the drinking and drug use on prom weekend is out of control. What is even more troubling is that a growing number of parents sanction, support and in some circles, even encourage this outrageous behavior.
When confronted, they make up some lame excuse as to why they see nothing wrong with this kind of social behavior. They are in denial that supporting such social activity could be dangerous to some if not all of the participants. A growing number of parents have a very hard time saying no, setting limits and holding to those limits.
Having a cocktail party before the prom and condoning serving alcohol to minors is unconscionable. School officials should not have to become police officers on a night that is supposed to be a joyous celebration commemorating the end of four years of high school.
If students choose to come to the prom under the influence this year, perhaps they should not only be refused admission, but as a further consequence, they should be denied the opportunity to walk with their class at commencement.
Whether we like it or not, with every choice we make, there is a consequence! Privilege is not free.
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