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Sometimes, all too often it seems, school administrators and teachers act too much like the children they are supposed to be mentoring. The worst of it is when the rush to judge students harshly. One expects children to jump to conclusions, do inadequate "research" and judge people based on what they want to believe about a person (stereotypes) rather than on their actions. One sees a lot of kids who get into trouble all time because the adults "know" those are the kids who do what ever wrong is done. Likewise one sees other kids get away with things because after all everyone "knows" they are good kids.

I have heard a teacher say things like "they are a B student just give them a B." without any real consideration for the work the student actually did. Likewise I have seem students get detention without any evidence other than that they were in the room when something happened. It's really embarrassing to be part of those situations. Well I found it embarrassing. Others apparently do not.

The worst jumping to conclusions I have heard about recently is the case of Cody Webb who was suspended and jailed for 12 days for making a bomb threat that he didn't make. The principal didn't bother to take the switch to daylight savings time into account and "determined" that Cody's call into an information line was at the same time a bomb threat came into the school. Having determined that Cody was guilty any explanations he made were clearly lies because he was "a criminal."

I wish I was surprised by any of this but I am not. While there are many outstanding administrators who are open-minded, thorough and fair there are always a few who make the rest look bad. I'm not sure what we do about it though. Privacy laws designed to protect children generally prevent independent review of administrative punishments. Appeal is generally limited to going to the school board and boards have a vested interest in protecting their administrators.

I wonder if an independent review board might not be a good idea. Perhaps these boards could be regional in areas where school districts are small. It is unlikely that ever decision or even many decisions would need a review. But for those potentially high profile or very serious incidents and those cases where one student seems to be punished much more than the average these review boards would be useful. I don't actually expect most or even many decisions to be overturned. What I do expect is that an appeal to an independent body would increase the credibility of decisions, increase the perception of fairness, and that students who are truly getting a raw deal would have a reasonable outlet for justice.



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