Inappropriate protest

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It is good that middle school students in Clinton care enough about educational quality in their school to protest the layoff of teachers. It is unfortunate that the students allowed their strong feelings to result in actions that violated the rules of the school.

It would be a good opportunity to discuss with students what are appropriate methods of protest. This does not include being disruptive and refusing to go to class.

Under a proposal before the school board in the Iowa town on the Mississippi River north of Davenport, the jobs of nine teachers in the district, including four at the middle school, would be eliminated because of budget constraints and declining enrollment.

After an announcement of the proposals at an assembly, an unspecified number of students refused to return to class and subsequently received suspensions.

Perhaps students and adults in Clinton are not used to the idea of staff reductions, something that citizens of districts in rural western Iowa have come to expect over many years of declining enrollment.

Although staff reductions in our area still generate protests about reductions in specific programs or at specific grade levels, people have long accepted the idea that eliminating staff is necessary when the per-pupil revenue, which is based on a state formula, declines.

One 11-year-old protester in Clinton advocated better spending policies in the district. "They spent $300 on a new flag, and we've already got one," he said.

This may be only an example of what the child felt was a general condition of misguided priorities. However, we suspect citing a one-time $300 purchase indicates that the child and other protesting students lack an understanding of the scope of the economic decisions that need to be made by a school board, not an uncommon condition for kids of that age nor, actually, for a large segment of the adult population.

Whether or not the opinions of children are based on knowledge of the situation, children have a right to express those opinions.

It is up to adults to provide formats in which children can appropriately express opinions and up to those same adults to discipline children when they inappropriately express opinions.