This Is How You Inspire a Lack of Respect for Authority

Sign outside of Minot High School's Magic City Campus.

A group of Minot High School students are facing criminal charges for an end-of-the-school-year prank.

Three boys, ages 17-18, have been charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor crime, after throwing about four water balloons in the school lunch room.

From the Minot Daily News:

Assistant superintendent Kim Slotsve refused on Friday afternoon to comment on the specifics of the water balloon incident, but she said the school district has had students charged in the past with disorderly conduct if the circumstances warranted it.

Slotsve was formerly a high school principal and said she told students, “if you do something in school that’s also against the law, you would have both consequences (at school and in court).”

Slotsve said in general, water on the floor could be considered a hazard making it hard for people to walk.

“We want a safe environment for our students,” she said

This sort of overblown, relentlessly bureaucratic response to a relatively harmless incident is what undermines respect for authority.

Because it’s hard to respect authority which is wielded so capriciously.

When school administrators refuse to discuss an incident like this publicly, hiding behind excuses like student privacy even as the details proliferate on social media, it rightly angers the public. This was a controversial action by the school. Administrators, or someone speaking on behalf of the school district at the very least, should provide a candid explanation. Refusing to do so only serves to stoke fires of resentment.

And calling the police over four water balloons seems an overreaction. Was there something else to the incident? Something more which justified the involvement of the police? Because otherwise these kids deserve detention, maybe suspension, but not a criminal record.

What they did was naughty. Treating it like a crime is absurd. Something which furthers what I think many perceive as a growing tension, and lack of trust, between parents and educators. Not to mention law enforcement.

The educators are not entirely to blame for that. Far too many parents have abdicated responsibility for disciplining their children to the schools. Worse, far too many parents blame the schools for disciplining their kids when it’s the kids themselves who earned it.

Now schools are, increasingly, outsourcing discipline problems to local law enforcement. More and more we have cops walking the halls of our schools, and while security amid national news stories about shooting incidents targeting schools is a part of why that came to be, an unfortunate side effect is that many infractions which in another era would have earned misbehaving students detention have now become crimes.

That’s an escalation we ought to be worried about.

Back to the incident at Minot High, someone has started an online petition calling for the charges to be dropped. It has about 521 signatures as I write this.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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