Spokane Public Schools recently made Yahoo news headlines when Rogers High School suspended 32 students for either participating in or watching an off-campus fight. School officials told media that the students were punished by the school because the fight had been planned in school, and therefore had disrupted learning. We’ve seen an upswing in this kind of public school regulation in recent years, with schools offering discipline not only for off-campus fights, but also for things students post online or things they say at home or at work.
I don’t seek to argue about whether Rogers High School, or other schools that have made similar moves were within their legal rights to discipline students. The legality and authority of such actions is its own can of worms. And while I recognize that what these students did was far from right, I do assert that punishing students for off-campus behavior shouldn’t be within a school’s authority.
This kind of discipline is risky in that it takes away the right of parents to choose appropriate discipline for children when not at school, while putting additional pressure on schools to police their students 24/7.
With families having so many different parenting methods and values, it makes little sense to centralize discipline of an entire neighborhood of students to a single school administration. And with students struggling with reading comprehension and math homework, do we really need our public schools spending time keeping an ear out for rumors about things their students may have done after school hours? Not only that, but do we really want our schools spending time investigating and punishing such allegations?
The point is often made that when off-campus fights or off-campus speech start to affect the school environment, they become the business of the administration. To an extent, I would agree.
For example, in the Rogers High School case it was said that the students planned the fight while in school. If so, it is perfectly understandable that the school punish the students for planning the fight on campus during school hours.
In other cases, students have said something off-campus that led to a fight on-campus. For example, in September, an Oklahoma high school student faced suspension because he spoke badly of another student while off-campus, which resulted in that student striking him on-campus.
It’s completely reasonable for that school to have punished the students for the in-school altercation, but not for the off-campus speech.
So should school administration sit idle when it hears of students engaging in dangerous behavior while at home? Absolutely not.
For example, in the Rogers case, administration used cell phone video to identify those involved in the fight.
If they had cell phone video, it would be reasonable for them to pass that information on to the parents and police.
Parents could then discipline the children at home, and police could investigate the case and prosecute it in the juvenile justice system.
Trego is a junior majoring in journalism and mass communication and English. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.