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Taking the Principal to School

Why our schools can't educate.

By Petrarch  |  May 6, 2008

KARE in Minneapolis reports:

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint against Memphis City schools demanding new school policies, a reprimand of a school principal, and money for the two male students who said they were put on a gay list by the school's principal.  All of this took place at Hollis F. Price Middle College High School on the campus of Lemoyne Owen College.  The charges are of discrimination, accusing principal Daphne Beasley of creating a "list of couples including homo couples."  According to the complaint, in September principal Beasley demanded over the school intercom that she get "names of all students who were couples...hetero or homo."

It's pretty obvious that the ACLU, and most likely the author of the article as well, is trying to use the hot-button issue of homosexuality to drive this story up the national news charts.  You are reading about it here, so their efforts have been met with some success.

But the real story is entirely different - it is that this is a perfect illustration of why American schools are failing: not because all the principals and teachers are lazy and incompetent (though, no doubt, some are), but because outside forces use every means possible to prevent them from doing their job.

First, let's clarify the background a bit.  Daphne Beasley, the principal in question, felt that the scholastic pursuits of her students were being hampered by their concentration on dating, and took action to stop it.  As the school board pointed out in its response to the ACLU,

Unfortunately, in fall 2007, we received numerous complaints from LeMoyne-Owen College faculty and staff that some of our student couples were involved in explicit sexual behavior in public view on the college campus.  In light of this information from LeMoyne-Owen faculty and staff, the principal of Hollis F. Price made several general announcements to the student body that this behavior would not be tolerated.  Regrettably, the improper behavior continued.  Therefore, the principal felt it appropriate to notify the parents of those children she knew to be involved romantically.

What is the job of the principal?  Her job is to maintain sufficient order in the school so that students can learn.  There are many, many purposes and uses of a school, from teaching sportsmanship to, yes, learning about romance; but the one single, overriding purpose of the school is scholastic education sufficient to graduate future taxpayers.

For this sort of learning, order and decorum are an absolute requirement.  A principal can have the best-qualified teachers in the world, but if the students run amok and behave as they please, the school will be an unsafe and chaotic mess with little if any learning taking place.  This is exactly what we see all too often in our inner-city schools.

Ms. Beasley, in dedicated pursuit of the goals for which she is paid and in carrying out the responsibilities entrusted to her by the school board, demanded that the kids stop making out in the halls and start going to class.  They didn't.

Now, there was a day not long ago when the principal would avail herself of the Board of Education hanging on the wall behind her desk, and apply it vigorously to the appropriate Seat of Learning; alas, such opportunities are few and far between these days.  What's a principal to do when the kids won't obey?  The answer is as obvious as it is (apparently) controversial: Tell their parents.  Which is exactly what she did.

What sort of cretin in a drug-addled haze would ever suppose a high school to be a place of privacy?  It may be a while since your own days there, as it is for me, but among the many remembrances and experiences of those days, privacy certainly is not among them.

It's hardly possible for any two high school students even to look at each other without rumor running rampant, to say nothing of creating the public nookie nuisance that led to Ms. Beasley's actions.  Even liberal teacher's unions at least pay lip service to the importance of parental involvement; now a principal is to be forbidden from doing just that?

The fact of the matter is, everyone with the brains that God gave geese is aware that teen pregnancy and STDs are major problems in high school and that early teen sexual activity is a major indicator of long-term failure in life.  This couple of juvenile homosexuals are not at risk of pregnancy, obviously, but STDs are if anything an even greater risk from such behavior.

Completely setting aside any issues of morality, simple public health concerns demand that schools fight "hooking up."  There will always be juvenile sexual debauches, just as there has always been underage drinking and smoking; that's no reason for such risky behavior to be tolerated or endorsed.

Yet here we have the ACLU in their customary trenches opposed to common sense, rationality, and good order.  It's a great relief to see the school district strongly defending the principal's actions.  We need more principals like her.

She takes responsibility for everything that goes on in her domain and keeps the parents informed of students' bad behavior.  When principals have the authority to run their schools as they see fit without having to answer to meddling outsiders, and are held responsible in a fair and just way for their actions by the parents and local school board, only then may we see some improvement in what are so often cesspools.

Three cheers for Daphne Beasley; long may she reign.