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Column

Kids get galling lessons of adult life

By SUE CARLTON
Published February 12, 2007


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Boy, kids in Hillsborough schools sure have had a lot to learn lately.

Besides puzzling through algebra and biology and trying to break the code on which jeans are socially acceptable this week, they've been handed a few life lessons. A current events class. Reality 101.

Lesson 1: Adults can be appalling.

A bunch of Chamberlain High seniors needed cash for prom and graduation fun. So they got to work doling out hot dogs at Bucs and University of South Florida football games, picking up trash at school and washing cars. Their paycheck: nearly $10,000.

Impressive, don't you think, making money that old-school way? Sure beats the high school dancerette who once approached my car at a suburban stoplight to say her troupe was "accepting donations" for their trip to Hawaii.

Anyway, that hard-earned money was turned over to their senior class adviser, teacher Cheryl Maria Foster-Lawrentz. Who, according to police, deposited it all in her own account.

"Appalled," is how senior class president Maritza Dandache described student reaction, with extra points for particularly appropriate word usage.

Lesson 2: Adults can be seriously creepy.

Former Tampa Prep swim coach Kimberly Brabson III is charged with secretly videotaping students trying on bathing suits in his office.

Lesson 3: Adults can't seem to make up their minds.

So, um, what are our vacation days again?

First, the Hillsborough School Board changes the calendar and makes it fair to varied religions by eliminating religious holidays altogether. This makes sense because they also made sure anyone could take off any religious holiday, not a problem.

Then we got to learn what "political backlash" meant.

A couple of county commissioners took up a religious crusade and forced the School Board to backflip. Religious holidays including Good Friday, Yom Kippur and "Easter Monday," whatever that is, were on.

Now they're talking about eliminating all religious holidays except Good Friday. Which doesn't do much for people who would like equal treatment for Jewish or Muslim holidays, does it?

Class, who knows the second definition of the word "waffle?"

And speaking of which:

Lesson 4: Some adults don't trust us.

First the School Board considered requiring parental permission slips before a kid could join a club, a move obviously meant to please parents unhappy with gay-straight alliance clubs that support gay teens.

Then the School Board decided requiring a parental sign-off was a bad idea. (Which was a good idea.)

Now they're talking about giving parents the option of making certain clubs off-limits to their kids.

Um, question for the teacher. Isn't school supposed to be about opening your mind? And, a follow-up: haven't kids and clubs done just fine up till now?

* * *

Throw in a few campus-wide lockdowns, some student arrests, a few battles over what they serve in the cafeteria and there you have it: the modern school experience. The best we can hope for is that our kids are smart enough to learn from it.

[Last modified February 12, 2007, 07:02:18]


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