Don’t Coddle Punks, Princesses: Teach Them

“Whatever shall we do about those disobedient students?”

That’s what administrators of the Brookville Area School District asked school board members last week. The disobedience? Too-short shorts and skirts have become a distraction, inhibiting education.

They could add too-visible butt cracks and underwear to the discussion, in my view.

The administrators said students are apparently breaking the rules in groups, just to see how many can be sent to the principal’s office.

“Send them home,” said school director Steve Neil. His suggestion gets my vote – for starters.

The adults supposedly running the schools are fearful. Administrators would “be sending half the school home,” according to one principal.


It’s called “educating” the students. That’s what schools are supposed to do.

Here’s the lesson: Breaking rules brings grief. Obeying rules avoids grief.

If we don’t teach that today, we’ll pay in the future.

Students who get away with breaking dress codes today break speed-limit laws tomorrow. Next year, they break drug-use laws. Soon, they wind up dead or disfigured – as do the ones among us that they hit with their vehicles or assault while trying to steal drug-habit money.

They’re kids. These students aren’t doing anything that students haven’t been doing for decades. Teenagers push the envelope. Adults push back. The kids learn.

Not in Brookville, though.

Whining or obnoxious parents are angry at the school administration for forcing parents to leave their jobs and pick up their students.

Parents also complain that school administrators make some students change or go home, but don’t catch every dress-code violator. “No fair!” they sniffle.

Guess what? Life isn’t fair.

Reminds me of a conversation between a state trooper and a pulled-over driver.

“Those other drivers in front of me were speeding, too!” said the driver. “You didn’t get them!”

The trooper smiled.

“No, sir,” he said. “I surely did not get them.

“But I did get you! Here’s your citation.”

Punks and princesses gleefully break dress code rules today because they expect their parents to take their side.

Naturally, the kids push the envelope – with clothes bought with money given them by their parents.

Haven’t we buried enough of us already?

Kicking out the offenders is a start.

Let’s go further.

Let’s list every sent-home disciplinary infraction on the students’ transcripts that colleges and employers scrutinize. Let today’s punks and princesses be denied admission or good jobs.

My experience has been that it usually isn’t the “hoods” or the children from very poor families who pull these conceited stunts. Children from poor families understand and dislike poverty. Unless they have been dragged into hopelessness by drugged-up, drunked-up parents, those children want to get up and out of poverty.

Besides, they can’t afford the “latest styles” and the clothing that pushes the envelope.

No, it’s usually the children of the better-off parents who say, “My kid never does anything wrong,” and “You can’t punish my kid!”

We sure don’t need to educate punks and princesses at taxpayer expense.

We don’t have to allow rule-breakers to play football, be in school plays or camouflage their obnoxiousness with transcripts that look good on college/military/employment applications.

Younger teenagers expect to be hauled up short when they break rules. They only get arrogant after school administrators wuss out or parents act as though their kids are little darlings.

Breaking dress code rules deliberately marks the rule-breakers as punks and princesses, in my judgment.

But they’re not incurable. They merely need to be educated in rules/consequences, just as they need to know the Pythagorean theorem or the agreement of relative pronouns.

Inside a home, I don’t care how kids dress, or even whether they do.

In schools, however, we set the rules as communities, through our elected representatives and administrators.

Kids who come to school attired in rule-breaking fashion should not be educated that day. They don’t deserve it.

Today’s punks and princesses become tomorrow’s lawbreakers. I have seen it thousands of times.

Sure, it is difficult and time-consuming to teach these lessons to defiant, smart-alecky kids.

It is also difficult to teach them algebra, English or history, but we do that in our schools, not because it is easy, but because it is what schools do. Educating teenagers is a very hard job, but coddling them is deadly for them and for the rest of us.

When students come to school showing every indication that they are not there to learn, they should be kicked out. Parents should support that, and curtail cellphone, automobile or Internet use as reinforcement that rules are rules.

And I sure would list all suspensions, detentions and the like on students’ permanent records, so the college officials and employers among us know what we’re choosing.

Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: