Monday, April 03, 2006

Are the Protest achieving anything?

Apparently, the answer is yes. On the national scene, from Newsmax we learn that Senator John McCain Praises Pro-illegal Protests. He urges them to continue, saying "The more debate, the more demonstrations, the more likely we will prevail."

Excuse me, but I should think that a serious debate on immigration policy in the "cooling saucer" of the Senate should not be so easily swayed by demonstrators marching with signs calling for the deportation of all Europeans, at least not in the way McCain suggests.

Here at home, Prince William County school Superintendent Steven Walts is sending mixed messages. According to the Saturday Potomac News, and as heard by my own ears twice on my answering machine, Walts has recorded a personal message telling the students to stay in school or face consequences. From the article:

The statement refers to the immigration protests as "disruptions," and outlines penalties ranging from zeros on assignments, to suspension and "even more serious penalties."

"Leaving school without permission or in any way disrupting the learning environment will not be tolerated. Students who do so will be excluded from school, pending meetings with parents to decide appropriate disciplinary measures," the statement reads.

However, in the next paragraphs, we see a different message from Mr. Walts:

Walts attended the protest and addressed students with a megaphone.

"I came to here to experience, listen and learn," he said. "I know this issue is very complex, and I respect and understand that there are deep feelings involved." Walts urged the students to figure out the best way to get their message across - outside of school hours.

"Write your congressmen, or protest where Congress can see you," he said.

He did not echo the disciplinary guidelines laid out in the press release. "They already know about those," he said when questioned. He also said that he would not consider further action in light of the protest and the announcement of another protest at Freedom High School on April 7.

We already see that the student protests have reached the eyes of Congress.

Further, if the students wanted to get the attention of our school officials, they succeeded. Walts all but encouraged them to continue, by telling the protesters that their protest caused him to come out and listen and learn from them. This is the wrong message to be sending to students who are breaking the rules and causing disruptions.

As I have said many times, we can't reward people for misbehavior. Whether it is cutting in line to get cheap computers, illegally entering the country to take jobs from people who want to come here legally, or walking out during the school day in order to get an audience with the Superindent of schools, when bad acts are rewarded, more bad acts are sure to follow.

Does Mr. Walts not see that because of his honoring the protestors with his presence and his words, they are now emboldened to further acts? And what is the point of calling all parents with "stern warnings" if the Superindendent has told the paper that he plans no further action, even for a rally that has already been announced but not yet held?

Students have the same right to petition our government as the rest of us. And whether they are informed or ignorant, they have a right to say what they believe, and ask for what they want.

But during school hours, the students are under the authority of the school system. And just as your children have no right to go out without your permission, they have no right to leave school in the middle of the day to protest.

Especially given the fact that this protest has nothing to do with the schools, they could easily schedule their protests for after-school hours. In fact, such a protest would draw much more attention, as it would show a real dedication to their cause.

As it is, it looks like school kids doing what they always do, finding excuses to skip out of school.

The true irony is that the schools in our county are open to every child who shows up at the door, whether they have proper documentation or not. We spend millions on spanish-speaking counsellors and interpreters, on dual-language notices, and ESL classes. I see nothing in our schools which even hints at a discriminatory policy for immigrants of either the legal or illegal variety.

But it is the schools that suffer. And worse, as ConservaThing two points out, the other students at school to learn also suffer the consequences, when they have done nothing.

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