Dads Against the Divorce Industry

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Kathleen Parker: Making Sense of Things

Parents, students bend school rules

By Kathleen Parker

Published in The Orlando Sentinel, November 4, 1998

''Never underestimate the power of a kid.''

That chilling statement, putting us in mind of those precocious munchkins in William Golding's Lord of the Flies, came recently from the mouth of a South Carolina high school student whose protests -- together with the legal arm- twisting of the American Civil Liberties Union -- reversed a school dress code policy.

At the same time, two Central Florida high school football players and their parents are challenging a school disciplinary policy that punishes students who participate in extracurricular activities for breaking laws during their free time. The parents and their two adorable sons, suspended from the team for 30 days for drinking, complain that the policy is unconstitutional and violates the students' right to privacy.

To which I'm compelled to say: I'd no more underestimate the power of kids than I'd dare overestimate the intelligence of American parents.

Simply put, the inmates are running the asylums.

Though both the Florida and South Carolina cases may be arguable on legal grounds, they're symptomatic of the disease plaguing American education these days. Teachers can't teach because children are out of control, and children are out of control because parents are inept.

The South Carolina case revolved around hemp necklaces, which administrators viewed as symbolic of the drug culture and, thus, counter to the dress code. Hemp is a variety of cannabis but is grown differently frommarijuana and has virtually none of the THC that used to make college-age baby boomers -- read: today's parents -- dumb and dumber. So argued two students, who weave the necklaces and wear them as jewelry.

Naturally, the students' parents came to their darlings' defense, claiming that their creative spirits were being thwarted. The students won, even though school administrators are justified in trying to enforce a dress code, which by definition is supposed to eliminate distracting emblems and minimize individual expression during ``work'' hours.

``I just feel so overwhelmed with joy that I can fully express myself now,'' gushed one of the 15-year-old students.

Two Seminole High School football players are doubtless overwhelmed with joy too as their parents and lawyers argue their right to get drunk on their own time. Never mind that the school has a strongly worded policy forbidding drinking by students involved in extracurricular activities.

Owing to the parents' uproar, the boys' suspension has been tabled pending legal clarification of the disciplinary policy. And the boys haven't missed a game. Predictions are that a court will have to determine whether the school's policy is constitutional or whether it violates the kids' ``rights.''

As usual, I'm baffled. As a parent, I'd worship a school policy that reinforced my own at home.

Instead, parents side with their children, demoralizing teachers and administrators who are surrounded by arrogant, rude animals half the time and further diminishing morale among rule-abiding kids. So say dozens of teachers whose letters fill a thick file in my cabinet.

It's always someone else's fault -- the teacher's, the school's, the rules'. Not the little darlings', who, because they're being taught that they're above the rules and beyond responsi-bility, may be a frightening lot when they really are in charge of the asylum. Never underestimate the tyranny of an adult who never learned to play by the rules.

Kathleen Parker's column is distributed by Tribune Media Services. Mail: The Orlando Sentinel, MP-6, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando, Fla. 32802-2833. E-mail on the Internet:

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