(That There Are Consequences to Our Actions)
Students at Cincinnati’s Withrow High School learned the lesson that actions will have consequences in the real world. Principal Sharon Johnson had been informed that a senior prank, involving water balloons, had been planned. Ms. Johnson gave several warnings that its implementation would cause the cancellation of the school’s prom for May 2nd. Unfortunately, 200 students carried out their misbehavior; consequently, the prom was cancelled. Numerous parents and Withrow graduates are said to be supporting her decision.1
The water balloon fight took place in the cafeteria and involved about half of the senior class. The actions had effects beyond a mere disruption of a school lunch hour as Principal Johnson listed in her letter to the parents and guardians affected by the decision, “This so-called ‘prank’ was a problem for many reasons. First and foremost, it created significant safety issues for our students and staff. Several students slipped and fell in the water, and one sustained a serious knee injury. Second, it created a sizable mess for our custodial staff to address. Lunch sessions for other grades were delayed while we worked to restore safe cafeteria and hallway environments following the ‘prank.’ Finally, and perhaps most disturbingly, the students were advised multiple times not to engage in such behavior, and chose to do so anyway The letter also states that Withrow’s ‘school resource officer informed the senior class during lunch (Thursday) that any future incidents like this one will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’”2
Unfortunately, Two Lessons Still to be Learned
It was noted, “School officials said that at least three parents, including Kenya Stewart, are trying to raise money for an alternative prom for the students. ‘We just want our children to have a prom,’ Stewart said. ‘So, it’s three or four of the parents working together and we’re going to try and get it done.’”2 The wisdom of that decision remains to be seen. Will it simply be viewed as an attempt to bring justice to those who were not disruptive or will it come across as opposing the rightful authority of the principal to make and enforce school policy?
One of the seniors, Brandon J. Craig, was thoughtful about the incident and aftermath. He had a point that apparently previous classes had faced similar warnings, but the administration had not followed through. If the “pranks” were of similar gravity as he implied, then it points out the hazards of authority not following through on its warnings. Mistakes of the past should not be perpetuated because previous mistakes suggest a precedent to some people.
It does not also indicate that school officials were negligent as Brandon claimed when he wrote, “The warning was given in enough time that the administration could and should have done what was needed to do to keep the prank from happening and to apprehend and punish those solely responsible.”2 High school administrators are not there to prevent mishaps from occurring as teachers in kindergarten need to do. Unless they were informed of an impending danger of serious proportions, they acted responsibly in allowing these pre-young adults learn one of life’s lessons.
It may be years before all of the students realize what was gained from this experience. Those of us on the plus side of 50 know this all too well. To be reminded, we just have to pick up a newspaper (or look online, sorry).
1 — WLW radio, 700AM, Cincinnati, 2/8/2013
2 – Alyssa Dailey, WCPO digital, 2/8/2013