Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A High School Prank: Did We Need to Know?

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A High School Prank: Did We Need to Know?

Article excerpt

The homecoming prank at Pacific High School is familiar to everybody around here who reads the newspaper or watches television.

We know that a child who was not in the popular crowd was elected to homecoming court as a cruel joke. We know that her parents kept her out of school for a couple of days, and then the child and her parents decided she would participate in the homecoming festivities. We know that the principal has identified several students who were part of the prank and those students face punishment.

We know, too, that the homecoming parade went well. The young girl rode in a Mustang, and the crowd cheered.

In a sense, it's an uplifting story. The girl did the courageous thing. She didn't let the mean kids win. The principal is doing the right thing, teaching the kids that actions have consequences.

Still, I feel a vague sense of unease.

Should we have known about this?

Kids have always been mean. They were mean when I was in high school. They were mean when my kids were in high school. They'll be mean when my granddaughter gets to high school.

Stories of cruelty abound. Stories of kindness, too. They tend to go hand in hand. Just as there are always mean kids, there are always kind kids.

But these stories used to play out quietly. They were private things. Even parents didn't used to know about stuff. A child was able, if he so chose, to keep his humiliations to himself.

I'm not talking only about major humiliations, but minor ones, as well.

Consider sports.

Because kids used to play unsupervised games all the time - from morning until night on weekends and in the summers - no parents were around when a child struck out with the bases loaded or let a ground ball go through his legs. I remember having terrible days on the playground, and then going home for supper and, of course, not mentioning my failures at the dinner table.

Why would I want to?

Now kids play mostly organized sports. Adults are everywhere - coaches, umpires and parents. It starts in T-ball, when kids are too young to throw and catch.

Maybe that's when privacy was first eroded, when we began to intervene in our children's lives. …

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