The high school years pack a lot of challenges on a teen, with tests of will, ranges of emotions, physical and mental maturation, evolution of relationships, learning to drive and 7 a.m. classes. Then there is homework, play rehearsals, sports and band practice.
So, during the final weeks of their senior year, it seems natural that some teens facing the matriculation to college or work by summer’s end might want to have a little fun.
Toilet paper gets thrown into trees in front of classmates’ houses, funny notes are written in grease pencil on car windshields, an underclassman’s hair gets a buzz cut when he’s not looking. All harmless acts easily repaired by a rainfall, elbow grease applied to a piece of glass and a trip to the barber.
In Lawrence, it’s called Senior Week. Students are warned by coaches and administrators not to push the limits, but most who have been in their shoes know it’s hard to resist pulling a prank or two.
And we learned this week that if a senior gets caught doing mischief, he or she faces hard justice just days before graduation.
Last week, three Lawrence High School senior boys who gave underclassmen buzz cuts were suspended for three days out of school and one day of in-school suspension.
The three boys gave their younger brothers and their brothers’ friends what they called “goofy haircuts.” This happened, according to a parent, with the underclassmen’s permission, parents’ approval and in a private home.
Similar incidents happened across town during Senior Week at Free State High School, where disciplinary action was taken against five senior boys for violating the district’s hazing policy. Reportedly, underclassmen also got buzz cuts.
Is this bullying or hazing, or a rite of passage? According to district policy, hazing is an act that “recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental health, physical health or safety of a student” to attain membership or affiliation with a district-sponsored activity or grade level attainment.
The district policy states those acts include:
• Forced consumption of any drink, alcoholic beverage, drug or controlled substance.
• Forced exposure to the elements.
• Forced prolonged exclusion from social contact.
• Forced deprivation.
• Assignment of pranks or other activities intended to degrade or humiliate.
Such acts described above are examples of bullying and should be dealt with severely. But the acts for which the LHS seniors were disciplined last week don’t meet this standard. It was in good fun.
School leaders overreacted.
Yes, bullying is dangerous and humiliating. Students, parents, teachers and administrators need to have a zero-tolerance policy against it.
But in this case, let the kids have a little fun.