Friday, May 26, 2006

Democracy Inaction

Long Island School District Bites Hands Of Students Trying To Help

They walked out of their classrooms at Patchogue-Medford High the other day, marching in protest of the recent defeat of the school budget.

"Not another year on austerity," said one of the students. "Please vote 'yes' for your children."

If the students' pleas fell silent upon a community that, through its vote of no confidence, turned its back on education, they were heard loud and clear by school officials, who quickly moved to punish these kids for having the audacity to speak up on behalf of the school district. [Read Newsday's 80 students suspended following walkout on failed school budget.]

Suspended for taking a stand -- and taking a risk -- in support of passing a school budget?

Suspended for having the guts to publicly voice their concerns about a community's apparent lack thereof?

Suspended for exercising their First Amendment rights?

Nonsense. We say, suspend the Principal who ordered the suspension of these students!

Sure, a few of the students who "walked" got rowdy. Shame on them. Some "protested" just to get out of class or to grab a Coolatta® at the local Dunkin Donuts.

The bulk of the students so involved in this protest were as serious in intent as they were mindful of the consequences.

School administration should have at least been tacitly behind the students here. Consider this part of a civics lesson (or even Health Ed – after all, the students were “walking!”).

These suspensions, if permitted to stand, should be worn as badges of honor!

A physical confrontation is one thing. That must never be condoned. And, yes, there are issues of public safety, attendance, possible loss of school aid (such as it is), blah, blah, blah. But to suspend students for an act of civil disobedience intended to show support for the school district? What exactly were school administrators thinking? [We know. It seemed like a good idea at the time…]

Now the district has alienated their most ardent, if not most visible and vocal supporters – the students of the school district.

As Forrest Gump put it, “Stupid is what stupid does!”

A Trustee of another Long Island school district, to whom we shall ascribe anonymity, told The Community Alliance, "If I were the Principal, I would have provided demonstrators with milk and cookies, not suspension notices. Rechannel the energies of these young people and they can be a partner in an exciting political process for the community. What a great example of civics in action... Make the most of it."

We at The Community Alliance found it refreshing to see the youth of community – any community -- get off their posteriors and walk. As many of us are products of the 60s (yes, we're dating ourselves), we sense that there is way too much complacency and acceptance of the status quo in America today. It is so nice to see the youth of community rise to the occasion, even when their own parents – and school administration – won’t.

STUDENTS OF THE WORLD UNITE -- and onward to passage of the Patchogue-Medford budget on June 20th!
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To let administrators at the Patchogue-Medford School District know how you feel, e-mail Superintendent, Michael H. Mostow, at

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