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Consider this quote from Abe Lincoln

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."



     I’m going to start this week by saying that this column probably will offend more than one or two people who pick up the paper and spend time reading it. Agree or disagree with my opinion here, but remember that it is my view of what I see, and if you have thoughts drop a line and let the editor know –share your view with all of us.

     It isn’t often that I speak ill of anything that goes on in Earlham. Truth be told I’m not really there enough to find the bad in town, but rather enjoy every trip I make there. So when I picked up the Des Moines Register a couple of weeks ago and read about the three young people who are being charged with trespassing after a failed attempt to place a giant egg on top of the school prior to graduation, it started the wheels spinning in my brain. I mean it’s bad enough that school starts during the State Fair now after years of the school districts across this state screaming to be able to start early. The State Fair and the state legislature (who if you ask me gets a little to much of their lobby money from the IEA) relented and moved the Fair earlier in August allowing schools to move their schedules ahead so the teachers could have their once or twice a month “development days”. This would have been the last of it but we’ve only been hoodwinked by school districts who when given an inch took a mile and determined to set the start of school in the first couple of weeks of August, right smack in the middle of the Fair, but before I get off on that tangent…let me get back to my original thought.

     The facts as I understand them- Three students, who aren’t named because of their age, attempted to place an egg that was signed by the majority of the senior class were arrested and charged with trespassing and further weren’t allowed to walk across the stage at graduation and play summer sports. The Register went straight to retiring principal Jan Fletcher whose quote of the week was about how dangerous it was for the students to be on top of the building where there were pipes sticking up that…wait for it…were painted black.

     Ok. Let’s all be adults for a minute. Absofreakinlutely, it was a dangerous, stupid stunt attempted by HIGH SCHOOL students (and let’s also be honest-at that age there isn’t a one of us that was the sharpest crayon in the box) and yes, had someone tripped over one of those black colored pipes and fallen to their death would have created a tragedy that this entire community would have mourned. But wouldn’t it be logical to suppose that anyone out wandering up on top of a building in the dark would probably have a flashlight with them?

     With that said…Come on Mr. Fletcher….we were all young and stupid once. I certainly can understand your position and the steps you took in punishing these hooligans, but continuing to charge them with trespassing seems a little over the top to me. Seriously, we are acting as though these kids spray-painted swastikas and giant male appendages upon the school walls. This was no act of vandalism. This was not an act that would have caused irreversible damage to the building, grounds or community. In reality this was a group of young people who were proud of their community, proud of their school and proud of their class who just wanted to do something a little different and stand out and be noticed on their special day.

     I remember a similar group of kids doing something in Redfield many years back by painting the school mascot on the roof of the gymnasium. Oh sure, there was a bit of gnashing of teeth by the administration, but it was something that we all (every single person who walked through those doors) took pride in. If these young people are headed down the wrong path, if we are teaching them never to express themselves in positive and harmless ways, aren’t we opening ourselves up for more subversive behavior in the future?

     If the students in this situation did anything wrong in this instance, in my opinion of course, it was to not be able to bring their ideas to the administration and faculty of the school so that it could have been a positive experience for all. Instead it’s lines in the sand and a hard line stand by an administration that feels that the punishment fit the crime. If you ask me, and I know you haven’t, it seems to me everyone needs to take a breather and look at the situation for what it was, a learning experience for all.

     I would hope that students continue to find new ways to stand out, to make themselves proud of who they are, of the school they attend, and of the community they grew up in, and we hope will come back to.

     The students have paid the price for their crime, but saddling them with a trespassing charge that is going to haunt them over the next few years isn’t the way to teach lessons. And while we are at it, how about laying a little blame on the school district who has a very dangerous building with their black pipes sticking up through the roof. What if it wasn’t a student up there in the middle of the night, but one of the many volunteers who spend their days and nights protecting us? If the pipes are so dangerous shouldn’t we paint them a bright color that glows in the dark and perhaps while we are at it, they should have some of those orange bicycle flags attached to them. I for one wouldn’t want a firefighter up on the roof to be hurt by those ominous black pipes.

    Now before we get our Quaker sensibilities all worked up and I’m banned from ever coming to Earlham again, let me say that a lot of this column may be tongue-in-cheek, but there’s also a lot of it that makes me shake my head and wonder where we stop becoming a community that looks out for our kids and shares their joy, and instead becomes a place where we let power go to our heads and takes a harmless gesture ruin our day.

See you next week…Remember, we’re all in this together.