It's the time of year when high schools are holding their graduation ceremonies. It's also the time when "senioritis" is at its peak, and kids can't seem to abide by school rules. School pranks abound. What's a tired principal to do?
In at least a few cases, students are being barred from graduation activities for actions that were intended to be in good fun. In Herndon, Va., an honor student and varsity basketball player was suspended for a week and barred from his graduation after pouring baby oil in school hallways as a senior prank. In Carson, Calif., a group of 30 high school seniors were banned from graduation night activities at Disneyland after they tried to soak underclassmen with water balloons and squirt guns.
Each incident raises new questions about how students should be disciplined--whether and when school officials should lower the boom for improper behavior. Everyone has an excuse. You need to draw the line somewhere. Yet school disciplinary procedures are far from perfect, and they could use systematic study on a national basis. The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights found earlier this year that African American students, particularly males, are far more likely to be suspended or expelled from school than their peers.
What should good school discipline policies look like? How should administrators treat pranks where no one gets hurt? What about more serious violations like bullying or cheating? Is there any value to "zero tolerance" policies? Should school administrators have autonomy to create their own disciplinary procedures? Or should the community officials and parents have a say? Where does the students' point of view fit in?