EDITORIAL: Grads get vital life lesson

York Dispatch

Consequences. Those are the pesky results of the decisions we make.

When we’re young, our parents and teachers can try to buffer us from those consequences, but once we get out into the real world, we will have to own our decisions — and the consequences that follow.

That’s why we think William Penn seniors Ajiana Coleman, Katena Wilson and Katrina Thompson should own their actions and sit out graduation day if the school stands by its determination that they are guilty of fighting on school property.

Because of a school policy, if students get into trouble before graduation day, they may still receive their diploma, but they may not attend the ceremony in which they walk across a stage to do so.

William Penn High School seniors listen during their graduation ceremony on June 9, 2016.Amanda J. Cain photo

The three students, all friends and transfer students from Helen Thackston Charter School, made an emotional plea to the school board at its meeting last week to find a way to let them participate in the school’s graduation ceremony this June.

Administrators have ruled that the three were involved in a cafeteria fight that resulted in police being called to the school. The young women received 10-day school suspensions, as well.

The three say they were actually trying to prevent a fight and were fighting back in self-defense. If that’s so, and the school determines they were without blame, then of course they should walk across the stage on graduation day.

But if they are making excuses and re-casting their involvement and are responsible for participating in a fight, they should take the consequences and call it a valuable learning experience. Allowing emotions to rule our decision-making, without thinking it through — for example, jumping into a physical altercation — will typically result in hefty consequences.

Students speak out about not walking due to 'Bearcat Bold'

Getting a clear understanding of this will go a long way out in the “real world” they’ve likely been hearing so much about this year.

The real world is a place where if you drive after you have been drinking, you might face fines, loss of license and even jail time.

If you violate company policy at your workplace, you might lose your job ... in the real world.

You get the idea.

"Us walking on stage is not just punishing us, it's punishing our moms, our dads, our family," one of the young women told the school board.

Here’s where the life lesson comes into play: The school’s policy isn’t punishing their families. If the girls fought and they must suffer the consequences of their actions — their decisions — then they are responsible for their family’s disappointment. The school is not.

We often have people call our office hoping not to have their names published after they have been arrested. They typically tell us that when we publish the police and court records, on view to the public at government offices, we are going to break their loved ones’ hearts. But if they hadn’t broken the law, their information wouldn't be in open court records.

The blame game doesn’t get you very far in the real world, either. It’s better to own your mistakes and how they have hurt yourself and others. It’s another one of those life lessons that is worth its weight in gold.

Parents and school administrators should not budge on this rule. Because if they do, where will they draw the line next time?

And if the students want to blame you and claim it’s not fair, go ahead and tell them what your parents told you way back when: Life’s not fair. Or, more accurately, life’s consequences don’t discriminate, and they certainly don’t  let grown-ups off the hook for very long.

These young women might as well make that one of their last lessons of high school, because the world is waiting.