Sometimes, the news feels like a poorly written piece of fiction. Unfortunately, it’s (usually) not. Take the proposed changes to the Ontario Education Act. In particular, “the revamped act will add cyber-bullying to the list of offences for which students can be suspended or expelled from school,” according to the CBC.
Maybe it’s unfashionable to believe people should mind their business, but I still do believe it. Being suspended or expelled for something they do outside of school on their own time seems remarkably inappropriate. I’m not dismissing the problem’s severity, but it’s not the school’s place to deliver punishment for an infraction that has nothing to do with school.
In September 2005, five thousand Queen’s University students took homecoming celebrations too far when they “drank, shouted and smashed beer bottles on the street. A car was overturned and set ablaze. About 100 police officers tried to restore order, handing out hundreds of tickets for liquor violations and laying dozens of criminal charges, but they were outnumbered,” according to the University Affairs article by Rosanna Tamburri, “Making nice with the neighbours.”
This occurred in a two block area off campus. Despite this, Kingston police billed the university $84,000 for the police coverage. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the university paid or not. What I do remember is the police wanted the university to apply academic penalties to students who acted inappropriately off campus and the university refused. Good for them.
Granted there would be exceptions. If I sent a threatening e‑mail message to my boss, I would certainly expect repercussions. A student sending a threatening message to a teacher should expect no different. But at the same time, if I were to get into a fight, I wouldn’t expect the other guy to complain to his boss, then have his boss call my boss to suspend me without pay. That would be ridiculous. Similarly, if a student gets into an altercation with a student from another school, it’s too much of a reach to claim grounds to suspend either of them.
School is about teaching so I think it’s especially important that young people learn how the world works. Our actions must have consequences, but they must be appropriate and logical. Schools might want to be big brother (or big parent) but it’s not their place.
I expect schools to teach, and the police to enforce the law.