Whether it is the Missouri State Senate or the Independence School District, adults seem to have had a rough last few weeks in our area.
And the ill-advised, irresponsible or just plain dismissive actions of some of these adults truly show an unfortunate example to our area youth.
We’ll start with the men and women in Jefferson City on the Senate side.
When the current legislative session ended on May 18, one of the bills left on the table to perish was House Bill 1940, aka the Cronkite New Voices Act. The bill is part of a larger, nationwide push to not only protect student journalists from censorship, but to also hold them accountable as the next generation of writers, editors and keepers of the Fourth Estate.
Despite efforts from teachers, students and the Missouri Press Association, the adults in the Senate claim that they didn’t understand the bill enough to put it to a vote.
Keep in mind this bill has passed the Missouri House and a Senate committee for three straight years. And it is there duty as elected officials to, you know, understand bills coming through their chambers.
When I questioned Sen. Mike Cierpiot on this at a recent Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce Government Relations meeting, he reiterated that point — and even doubled down — saying he feels there was some misunderstanding of what the bill was about. But that he was leaning toward voting against it.
Sen. Cierpiot and 32 other Missouri State Senators just told our high school and college journalists that they couldn’t quite comprehend a bill that had been in front of them three prior times. So much so, they cannot even take it to a vote. That’s absolutely absurd.
Another parental swing-and-miss came from our neighbors in Independence during a now-infamous decision by the Independence School District to keep Truman High School honors student Kylan Scheele from his deserved spot walking across the stage at graduation.
And what was Kylan’s unforgivable sin? He created a post on Craigslist announcing Truman High was for sale after graduation. Not a single term in his 86-word for-sale ad could be construed as a threat.
Yet, the obviously-lacking-in-humor administrators, led by Superintendent Dr. Dale Herl, thought otherwise. They parceled out three or four words from this 86-word bit of comicality and, instead of diffusing the situation like adults, became the story with an outrageous punishment and citing obnoxious terms like “zero tolerance” in the process.
Independence Police didn’t find the threat to be credible in the least. But apparently the adults at ISD know better than law enforcement. And by God, they were going to make an example out of Kylan.
And, sadly, in doing so, their lack of judgement and inability to determine real threats from humorous banter should concern many in that school district.
A former educator in Lee’s Summit, Ben Martin, perhaps said it best on a social media platform on this topic: “We are losing our sense of humor. In every area in our society we seem to have zero tolerance for this or that. As a result, even a joking reference becomes an immediate threat to the community. The person who was alarmed at the post on Craigslist had lost the capacity for understanding satirical humor. The administration of ISD (and really school administrations around the country) are so trapped by their policies on zero tolerance that they can’t sit back in their office and laugh. Heck, call the kid in and razz him about it, reverse the joke and have a little fun. But no, the fortress schools are slowly trending toward prison schools where not only are students treated like criminals the moment they enter — bag searches, metal detectors — but their minds are imprisoned in a numbing prison of hyper-seriousness.”
While we do rely on adults to protect the kids from themselves on occasion, this wasn’t one of those opportunities.
In fact, the adults — be it in Jefferson City or Independence — have shown a lack of leadership lately when it comes to our kids.
Do better, adults. The kids remember these times when being far older doesn’t mean you’re far wiser.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.