In light of the recent controversy about Senior Pranks at Shorewood HS and the appropriate discipline – I thought a comparison to my day and age would be helpful in finding the right perspective.
In the fall of 1965, I started as a freshman at St. Bonaventure HS in Sturtevant, WI. It was a college prep boarding school, run by Franciscan priests.
Back then Sturtevant was a sleepy little rural town, which was probably best known for its train station, the hotel and restaurant at the train station, and its silver water tower that was the highest structure around.
The water tower was quite visible from the school (about a ½ mile or so north of town on CTY H).
And very noticeable in the fall of 1965, were the words that had been hand painted
on the side of the water tower facing the school --- Rex Sucks.
The “Rex” that the graffiti referred to, was Father Regis, who happened to be the disciplinarian at St. Bonaventure. In a public school, the disciplinarian is commonly known as the vice principal.
Regis is the 3rd declension Latin form of the noun Rex. If you know Latin, Rex is the nominative form of the noun, while Regis is the genitive form. And although I had two years of Latin in high school --- grammar was never my strong suit, so don’t expect me to explain the differences !
At any rate, Father Regis’ nickname among the students was Rex. And Rex definitely ruled his domain in keeping order among the students – or as much as anyone is able to control teenage boys.
In the eyes of the Class of ’65, they definitely felt that Rex was a bit too enthusiastic in making and enforcing the rules – hence the salute to Father Regis from the departing seniors was painted upon the Sturtevant water tower, for all to see --- Rex Sucks.
The current pranks of the Shorewood HS Seniors may seem to pale in comparison.
But the real question that is begged is:
What Was the Appropriate Discipline Back Then --- and What Should be the Appropriate Discipline Now ?
Back then, if the Seniors of ’65 were caught by the Sturtevant Police (or Sheriff ?), more than likely they would have been brought to the School, and turned over to the School Authorities for Discipline.
And it would also be understood that the “pranksters” would have to pay for the painting over of the graffiti.
The school would have followed through with consequences for the offenders. Probably detentions, garbage collection, cleaning of the school and grounds, etc.
It is very unlikely that they would have been suspended --- not because that would have marred their “permanent record” --- but because that would have been considered a reward, rather than a punishment.
And “back in the day” --- the punishment met out by the school would only have been the beginning ! Their Parents would have followed through with much more ….
In “today’s society” we have a totally different situation.
School Administrators no longer want to have “real” responsibility for the discipline of the students. Instead of taking the high road and guiding today’s students into mature adults, they rely upon Suspensions and Calling the Police.
For example, MPS has begun to study the numerous suspensions of students enrolled in their system, and if they are an appropriate way to discipline students.
A friend of mine whose son just completed grade school in MPS, had complained for the past 2 or 3 years, that his son would be suspended at the drop of a hat at MPS, rather than disciplined.
My friend definitely did his part as a father in disciplining his son --- but he felt abandoned by the MPS system, for not doing their part.
He didn’t believe that suspending a kid from school for making a ruckus was any kind of discipline --- when all it resulted in was the kid staying home and watching TV or whatever, while his parents were at work.
He felt that the school should have true discipline, such as keeping the kid in detention for an hour after school for a week or so --- and knowing the kid, I am sure the father is correct, and the kid would have knocked it off. (By the way, I believe he is basically a good kid, and he seems to have outgrown his unruly ways now in high school --- and actually hasn’t been suspended once this year !)
The Shorewood System is not much different from MPS regarding discipline.
Even before the current Senior Pranks --- SHS has had a policy of suspensions and police for almost any infraction !
For example, I know that not too long ago, the vice principal at SHS called the police and had them write tickets for disorderly conduct for two students ---- this was for a Shouting Match --- No Physical Contact !!!
And the Students were not even present when the Police wrote the tickets. They were written on “information and belief”. (If you think this is an exaggeration, please feel free to call the school administration and/or police officials to confirm that this is normal operating procedure at SHS).
Back to the Question Du Jour --- what should be done in the future for such actions as those recently committed by the Senior “Pranksters”?
In my opinion, if we look back at what worked in the day, I would suggest the following:
1) School discipline for all actions that take place on school property. I personally do not think suspensions serve any real purpose --- I would rather see the seniors in detention for an hour after school for a month. And of course, the students would be responsible for cleaning up their mess --- or paying for damages if it is of a permanent nature.
2) Whatever the discipline, be it suspension or detention --- school officials need to stick to their guns. Shorewood HS Principal Matthew Joynt should not have caved into pressure and reduced the two day suspension he first imposed, down to one day.
3) Off school property actions are the proper venue for the Shorewood Police. It could be argued that they could turn the perpetrators over to school officials and parents for discipline --- provided of course that any damages be paid for. Unfortunately, it is clear that the school has no stomach for enforcing their own discipline --- and not too much can be said of the parents who are trying to have the suspensions dismissed. (Hello --- You are Parents, Not Friends !)
4) If turning over the students to school and parents will not result in any meaningful discipline --- then it follows that ticketing for Disorderly Conduct would be in order. However, let’s get Real on the $177 tickets !
5) For most Shorewood students and their parents, $177 is a really cheap Crime --- I would instead suggest that there be “Time for the Crime” --- Time imposed by the Court for the miscreant students to:
a) clean off graffiti
b) general cleaning up of parks and school grounds
c) providing services for elderly Shorewood citizens in yard work, etc
d)such work to be done on Saturday mornings, under the watchful eye of the SPD.
Can We Go Back to Old School Discipline ? Would It Be Preferable to Today’s “Bag and Tag” (police vernacular for ticketing) …. What do You Think ?
By the way, there is an end to the story I started about "Rex Sucks".
During the 1965-66 school year, the upper classmen assured us freshmen that Rex (Father Regis) was a warmer, kinder and gentler soul. Which amazed us freshmen, as we couldn’t fathom that he could have been any stricter in the past !!!
But I can attest from personal experience over the following years, that Rex was Strict --- but Fair.
And in all fairness to Rex --- whenever we were mistakenly punished for something we didn’t do --- we knew the ledger was corrected for all the things we were never caught doing J
And --- the Senior Class of 1966 left their own Parting Message to Father Regis.
They snuck up on the Sturtevant Water Tower at Night ---- and Painted Over "Rex Sucks" with Silver Paint ………
Of course, Rex reamed out the entire Senior Class for this escapade ---
But some of those Seniors swear that as he yelled at them for their foolhardy stunt ---there was a “Tear in His Eye" ........
WHAT DO YOU THINK ? YOUR THOUGHTS ARE WELCOME !