The school expulsions didn’t go far enough.
This is not a plea for Coeur d’Alene School District to reconsider its expulsion late last week of three former Lake City High School students who used social media to threaten classmates. It is rather expression of a sick, empty feeling that many residents are experiencing. The school district did what it had to do, yet there’s a sense that real justice hasn’t been served.
After intensive scrutiny and consideration, school district officials gave the three students the boot. Clearly, they had it coming; what they’d done was similar to someone shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater or “Bomb!” in a busy airport. But it seems that the punishment should go further.
If parents can be held financially responsible when their minor children set fire in the woods, why shouldn’t parents also be accountable when their kids do something that threatens the safety of others? In this case, classmates were terrified that they might become victims much like the students at nearby Freeman High School only weeks before. The agony of that Washington tragedy was so fresh, so raw, that any social media threat here would carry extra weight and potential panic. And now the local victims who will suffer most are the three teens whose futures suddenly face an even steeper uphill climb than they did a few weeks ago.
Contrary to rumor and some of the misguided comments posted on news stories the past few days, students expelled from one public school in Idaho can’t just pop up somewhere else, unscathed. They’ll find most educational doors closed to them. They can’t just transfer to another Idaho public school district, as some commenters have stated; home school, private school and some online options become their greatly diminished choices because expulsions are documented in student records.
Idaho Statute Section 33-209, in referring to transfer of student records, states that the school forwarding records must include “information concerning violent or disruptive behavior or disciplinary action involving the student.” The law requires parents or guardians of these students to include the same information when they’re providing transfer documentation.
While damage has been done to the future of these three kids, it’s our hope that everyone else can learn from their poor choices. Parents and grandparents, please, communicate the seriousness of spur-of-the-moment impulses, copycat capers, what some kids might even consider a harmless prank. They are anything but harmless. A momentary lapse of judgment, thanks to powerful tools in immature hands, carries the potential of painful lifetime consequences. Let’s take advantage of this sad example to make those points real to our kids and grandkids.