Our schools are supposed to be the heart and soul of our communities. Our children spend more time in school in a given day then they do with their families.
As our children grow and become, many of them see some of their teachers as mentors, friends and positive role models to emulate while they are on the journey of self-discovery and growth.
Most school communities try to create a landscape that empowers human potential intellectually, emotionally and socially. Some private schools specifically work on the spiritual and moral development of their students.
If you were to ask the average American teenager about school, he or she would acknowledge that they might not love going to class, but they love going to school. School is one of the few places where teenagers find their niche and feel somewhat accepted.
School should be a place that encourages imagination, strengthens critical thinking skills and stimulates intellectual curiosity.
Hopefully, our schools are places that celebrate and respect diversity and encourage students to always seek common ground in their human relationships.
Today many of our high schools afford our children unbelievable opportunities. Many high school campuses are constructed like Ivy League college campuses. Their amenities and freedoms are at times disarming.
Freedom without responsibility and accountability is reckless and potentially lethal. Our learning communities need to create opportunities for our students to learn how to be free and use their freedom in a positive, life-giving way.
True freedom is not a free-for-all, where everyone comes and goes as they please. As with any human adventure, there are rules to follow, parameters to live within and boundaries that are not to be crossed.
We don't want our schools to become wastelands of human potential, especially if we believe that children are our national treasure.
As adults and teachers, we should not be afraid to say "no" with an explanation and to set boundaries and parameters that can change as students demonstrate their capacity to act responsibly.
As a norm, you are not born knowing how to respond to every social situation that comes your way. Candidly, you learn from constructive experience and the wisdom of others.
In recent months there have been extended and at times heated conversations about the annual senior prom and its' social value and appropriateness today.
Conversations around this American senior high school tradition exploded when the principal of a Catholic high school cancelled this year's senior prom for over five hundred seniors.
Needless to say, this year's senior class was not happy. Some expressed understanding as to why the principal cancelled the prom, others expressed outrage.
Since Kellenburg Memorial is a private Catholic high school, they are free to do as they please. Most probably, few public schools would even raise the question of canceling the prom, but at least a lot of high school administrators, parents and students are talking about the issues that the administrators at Kellenburg raised as their reasons for canceling the prom.
After last year's prom, Kellenburg's principal was very disturbed by the excessive and reckless use of drugs and alcohol. He implied that it was a lost weekend with no boundaries or supervision, done in the name of tradition as a rite of American passage.
As an administrator, specifically of a Catholic high school, he could not condone that troubling behavior. I think it is safe to say that every high school principal is concerned about the safety and well being of all of their students, especially their seniors during prom and graduation season.
Traditionally, the prom is the last big social celebration for the senior class. Many high schools have long standing traditions that make it even more memorable. For example, a community like Port Jefferson has had the long-standing tradition of the prom being held the Monday after graduation in their gym. The parents transform the gym into a wonderful theme, which is their gift to their children. As a community, they are amazing. It is truly a classy event that is also well supervised.
Whether it is Port Jefferson, Three Village or Southampton, there will always be students that act recklessly and irresponsibly. An entire class should not be sanctioned because of the selfishness of a few.
However, it is important that the school be in concert with its' parents to set some parameters. Students and parents should be clearly held accountable.
Condoning illegal drinking with supervision is irresponsible. Renting condos out East for the weekend for seventeen and eighteen year old coeds without supervision borders on the irresponsible. You know more often than not young people are going to drink and engage in other behaviors that could have lethal consequences for themselves and others.
Yes, there are many high school senior coeds that if given that freedom, would rise to the occasion and act responsibly and respectfully.
The deeper question for us as parents and educators is, "are those opportunities age appropriate for us to endorse and support; should they be connected to the prom weekend tradition as part of the rite of American passage?"