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Student decision-making: Learning to act ethically

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by Jeff Kocur
The student government at my school made a questionable attempt to spice up our March Madness spirit week, and the assistant principal let it happen.

He is new this year, and it was a refreshing presence of ethics from the assistant principal’s office, which has previously ruled with a pretty heavy hand.

I saw the whole thing happen as I waited to meet with the student government adviser.

The students wanted to designate a spirit day called “Bros versus Hipsters.”

Our school is quite diverse and the assistant principal, himself a black man, was sitting down with the student government students to discuss what kind of message might be portrayed when students dress up like a bro. In our school and in our community, a bro would be closely affiliated with inner city culture, and we had a history of other incidents with sports teams full of white boys dressing up with do rags and such in the name of spirit.

The assistant principal listened, presented his concerns, and then allowed the students to make the decision about changing the spirit day.

The decision was unanimous to keep the spirit day, and they hung signs up within a day to advertise for the next week’s spirit.

It didn’t take more than a day for the student government members to remove the bro designation after they received some negative feedback including a homemade sign taped to their spirit day signs that read “just because we are black does not make us bros” or something to that extent

I spoke with the assistant principal, a man I am still getting to know. I told him how much I appreciated his process with the students, and his response was encouraging.

He explained his principle is that he can’t come into an environment and tell kids how to act ethically because then they aren’t practicing ethics; they are just following orders. They aren’t growing as people if they aren’t allowed to do some questionable things and perhaps suffer the consequences of those actions.

Student leaders have not been so empowered before at my school, especially when it comes to the newspaper, so I am encouraged we have someone who is speaking these truths.

 

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