Usually when you read a controversial line such as "schools today are out of control," you're prepared for a diatribe by some old codger like me ranting about modern kids.
This week, I've been using that phrase a lot. The difference is that I'm not talking about the students.
Those who are "out of control" are the administrators.
This week there have been three separate stories of school officials crossing the line of good sense. It's enough to make one wonder: where do principals go for detention? Is there a chalkboard in the teachers lounge that bears erasers in need of clapping? Or even better, imagine the long queue of students waiting for an opportunity to mete out some corporal punishment on itinerant superintendents.
Truth be told, there appears to be a litany of education officials in dire need of a good beatin'.
The first incident involves a high school valedictorian in Prague, Oklahoma who, after delivering her graduation speech, went weeks without receiving the diploma she had earned with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. When she visited the school with her father to ask where the missing diploma might be, according to an NBC News story, the principal informed them that the honor student wouldn't be getting a diploma due to a deeply offensive act on her part; during her valedictory speech, the girl used the word "hell" instead of heck.
Then when reporters asked the Prague School District superintendent for more information, the official clammed up and refused to discuss the issue due to concerns about "privacy."
That ruse would never fly when you were a teenager sitting in the vice-principal's office while the dean of punishment pressed you for answers about the pack of cigarettes in the restroom. But somehow, when the tables are turned, school officials hide behind anything to keep from being caught in the crosshairs of the truth. Great example for our youth, eh?
Apparently, there's something in the Oklahoma water, because this lunacy has extended to an elementary school in Oklahoma City. According to a Fox Sports story, a five-year-old was accused of wearing offensive clothing and ordered to turn his shirt inside out for the rest of the day. What made the shirt so heinous that it warranted such embarrassment for the child? It trumpeted the University of Michigan Wolverines football team.
The story explained that, in an effort to combat the terror of gangs wearing football jerseys from foreign countries like California and Nebraska, the school system has a rule that bans jerseys promoting schools outside of Oklahoma. But if the barely-toddling gangsters wanted to wreak havoc while wearing Oklahoma Sooners regalia or Oklahoma State Cowboys gear, that would be within the rules.
I'm not making that up. According to the story, the school's rule allows such sports team shirts as long as the team hails from an in-state school.
Of course, the insanity isn't contained in Oklahoma alone.
Again, in the same week that the previous two incidents occurred, MSN News reported that a "gifted and talented" middle school girl in San Bernardino, Calif. was yanked out of her class and reprimanded for violating another "anti-gang" policy. If she was flashing multi-fingered gang signs or wearing a blue bandana embroidered with "Crips Forever," that might be a reasonable rule. But she wasn't.
Her violation? She had a photo of her brother, a military policeman, on the cover of her binder along with a photo of her gang. The gang? Her girls softball team. It turns out that the school bans "added materials" on the books of students in the gifted and talented program.
To be fair, the school ultimately showed just how reasonable they could be. They allowed her to return to school only after removing the softball photo. The picture of the guy with the gun could stay.
Anytime you examine the cloistered world of a school, where omnipotent principals impersonate Blackbeard while mistakenly imagining themselves the undisputed captains of their ships, these kind of abuses are to be expected. After all, it's not like American children have the same kind of rights as, say, Guantanamo inmates.
But when three different instances of abused authority come to light in the same week, it's a red flag worthy of consideration by those who live in the real world.
Sadly, these stories show just how severely the budget cuts have damaged our education system. Personally, I'd be willing to pony up a few extra tax dollars if it meant our schools would expand their curriculum. Specifically, I'm thinking a few classes in "remedial common sense" to be attended by the boneheads behind the big desks. And for those fifty-somethings with lots of letters behind their names but no brains inside their craniums? New federal funding to facilitate the construction of school-ground wood sheds, and the resurrection of good old-fashioned paddling -- this time, with a lineup of school officials bent over someone's knee.
Former award-winning editor and columnist Morris Workman is the author of the Sunbury Press bestseller "Howl of a Thousand Winds," and continues to write weekly articles and editorials at www.MorrisWorkman.com. His weekly humor column "Workman Chronicle" appears every Wednesday at www.MesquiteCitizen.com.