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Important Life Lessons

School has only been in session for a little more than a month. Already there have been countless stories of hate, discrimination and violence. In our larger community, there have been a growing number of ...

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School has only been in session for a little more than a month. Already there have been countless stories of hate, discrimination and violence. In our larger community, there have been a growing number of stories of young people being bullied because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation and their religion. Even more disturbing is when these concerns are brought to those in authority, nothing is done about them.

The silent indifference with which these social injustices are faced is scandalous and disturbing. As educators, we need to lead by example. As parents, we need to demand respect for all of our children, no matter what their color, economics or social circumstance.

The building blocks of positive behavior are grounded in the three B s: be respectful, be responsible and be resourceful. The key to these three behavioral objectives is consistency. Everyone from the superintendent to the support staff that maintains our school buildings must be committed to treating the students and all people for that matter, with respect.

Students are astute at every level of education. They miss little when it comes to social behavior and how their peers are treated. If we operate our schools with a double standard, we are not being respectful. If the student handbook talks about accountability, then accountability has to be equally applied to the honor student, the athlete as well as the student on the fringe. There can be no exceptions.

If the captain of the football team comes back from lunch intoxicated and the handbook says a student must be suspended from school and all extracurricular activities for such behavior, then that rule must be applied even to the captain of the football team, even if it means missing the championship football game.

Unfortunately, we don t often apply disciplinary guidelines equally. More often than not, the captain of the football team would get a pass as not to jeopardize the weekend game, while the fringe student would be held fully accountable for his inappropriate behavior.

That kind of inconsistency and blatant injustice only fuels hostility among students and underscores their belief that adult systems are often corrupt and unjust. Parents should not be able to rescue their students who have been noncompliant. Lying for your son or daughter is blatantly unacceptable and irresponsible. If our children break a school rule, they must be held accountable and responsible. We are not helping them by making excuses for their irresponsible behavior.

We must encourage our students to be responsible for the choices they make, both their positive and their negative choices. Students need to learn early on that for every choice they make there is a consequence. Discipline is not a dirty word and no is a reality in all of our lives. Everything we want and seek cannot always be yes!

Our school communities need to be more resourceful, as we attempt to empower our students to be more respectful and more responsible. As we attempt to hold our students accountable for the choices that they make, we should attempt to design consequences for noncompliance that will help students learn important life lessons.

Detention, suspension and other punitive approaches to poor discipline, more often than not, will not change student attitudes or behavior. Resourceful responses to negative behavior take time and effort to design and implement but are imperative, if we want to change the climate within our schools and on our playing fields.

Parents must support our schools in creating a positive climate where all students are expected to be respectful, tolerant of differences, responsible for positive decision-making and accountable for all choices that are made.

If we take all of this seriously, it is bound to become uncomfortable because most of our children will test the waters to see if we mean business. Therefore, we must be prepared to practice what we preach and support our schools and their efforts to hold all of our children accountable for all of their choices and decisions.

In today s climate, we cannot tolerate language that is riddled with discriminating words, even if they are not intended to be biased and/or hurtful. We cannot tolerate teasing that makes fun of a person s weight or sexual orientation. There is no place on a school campus for ethnic or religious humor. Under no circumstance should violence of any kind be tolerated or excused. Nor can we coexist with the escalating use of drugs and alcohol, especially among our middle school and high school students.

Contrary to public opinion, those behaviors are not a rite of American passage to adulthood. They are potentially reckless and lethal behaviors. By our silence and our tolerance, we are saying they are acceptable.

Recently, two private high schools were engaged in a highly competitive varsity soccer game. They have a reputation for being fiercely competitive soccer rivals. The game was intensely close and was well attended by spectators. As the game unfolded, the sportsmanship among the competing athletes was deteriorating. Towards the end of the game, a fight broke out on the field. That fracas forced the game s premature finish.

However, before the game was called and the melee was contained, six players had been handed red cards. This means they are suspended by the league for their next league game. A number of soccer players involved in the brawl were hospitalized. One athlete had his hand broken. According to a videotape, another athlete was literally assaulted while he was on the ground by an opposing player from the other team.

In addition to the athletes inexcusable behavior on the field, a number of parents got into a physical altercation in the stands. In addition to the six red-carded athletes, the referees will submit a report to the league. Further disciplinary actions could be taken by the league against the two schools involved.

Hopefully, the two high schools involved, which have excellent reputations in our larger community, will see this unfortunate circumstance as a teachable moment. Hopefully, they will not remain silent on the behavior of their athletes and the fans who attended that game. Both schools have an opportunity to address what real sportsmanship must be about. Time will tell if they seize the opportunity to challenge their athletes and parents to be respectful, responsible and accountable.

If they elect to pass on this opportunity, they will only fuel the lack of respect and the escalating violence that is not only infecting our schools but our communities as well.

The real tragedy that night was not athletes getting into a physical fracas on the field, but rather, athletes and parents leaving that game believing that fist fighting, cursing and assaulting someone is okay and is part of the game.