'A teachable moment'

'Charlie Rape gang' case shows how schools and society have changed

We’ve already laid a pitiful list of society’s problems and needs on the schoolhouse steps. Hunger. Parental neglect. Child abuse. Rampant “behavioral disorders.” Runaway self-esteem that creates little monsters of egoism.

It’s a tragedy and injustice, then, when you add criminality to the mix and expect educators to clean that up too.

But there it is, however unfair. The only question is what they’ll do about it.

The short answer is, they’re still learning what to do about it. New generations have unique ways of changing the nature of the beast.

Take the “Charlie Rape Gang” case at Lakeside Middle School.

Five students using that moniker – borrowed, appropriately enough, from a dog – brazenly assaulted classmates recently by forcing themselves on their victims and simulating sex acts on them.

Yet initially, they received but a couple days’ suspension and weren’t immediately referred to authorities for prosecution. Then, after their days off, they reportedly threatened a whistleblower.

Parents approached the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the school board, and on Wednesday five Lakeside students were rung up on battery charges in juvenile court. Two were expelled.

If you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? We engaged in horseplay when we were in school,” there are a couple of serious problems with that train of thought.

First, “horseplay” is decidedly different today. Kids nowadays are bombarded by the entertainment media and Internet – notably social media – with unseemly adult images and situations, sooner than ever before and in ways unlike anything experienced in all of human history. It’s simply a whole different reality than when many of us were in school.

Second, let’s be honest: We put up with a lot of nonsense in the “good old days” that we shouldn’t have. Assault is assault. Battery is battery. Harassment is harassment. The unwanted touching of others, particularly in a provocative manner, simply is not “play” of any kind, horse or otherwise.

The district’s hearing officer, in the wake of what happened in court, may revisit the case to determine if more discipline is warranted.

Superintendent Charles Nagle says, “We’re not going to have this behavior in our schools.”

We talked with him about all this, and we believe he means it. Fact is, he says, when the district gets complaints about disciplinary actions, it’s usually because the administration has come down harder on a student than someone would like.

Still, Nagle acknowledges that, “Maybe we did drop the ball.”

“We definitely will be using this as a teachable moment.”

The main lesson – for everyone – is that while students are being educated, they are also being socialized. Whatever they see or hear in the entertainment world, there must be strict standards of behavior in our schools – as well as our theaters, malls and everywhere else.

It’s not the educators’ fault that such incidents encroach on the learning environment. It’s just another huge responsibility we’ve dumped on their steps.

But they need to be acutely aware of what that responsibility entails.

We sure don’t envy them.

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Tue, 12/06/2016 - 23:49

Try this nickname again

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 23:48

Cities must be liable

Tue, 12/06/2016 - 23:51

Fight the real fraud