Did you guys happen to see the story of JP Krause — the Vero Beach High School Junior whose election as Senior Class President was voided by his high school principal earlier this year?
To campaign, Krause made a 90 second impromptu speech during his AP History class that was essentially a spoof of every ridiculous claim/proposal that Donald Trump has made over the last few years. He promised to build a wall between his school and the neighboring high school — and to force the neighboring school to pay for it. He claimed that his opponent in the election represented Communist ideas. And he defended his speech as a “complete joke from the beginning and completely satirical.”
And then he won the election.
The principal of the school — Shawn O’Keefe — voided the election, arguing that an election had to be based on something more than satire. He was trying to reinforce the notion that people running for leadership positions should take pertinent issues seriously — and that when a student body refuses to consider pertinent issues when selecting student leadership, the administration should step in and take action.
Now there’s a lot of room for open-minded debate here.
Some might think that JP’s speech was just another example of a “kid being a kid.” (I do.) You could argue that the best lessons students at Vero Beach can learn by electing JP is that elections have consequences. (I might). Some might believe that because a school’s principal has to work closely with student leadership — particularly the senior class president — that O’Keefe has the right to filter who gets elected and who doesn’t. (I do — in extreme cases like this). And others might believe that we ruin our relationship with students when we take heavy-handed actions like voiding an entire student body election (I don’t.)
But open-minded debate isn’t what happened at all.
Instead, JP was invited on Fox and Friends to talk all about how liberal educators were trying to silence a conservative voice who supported Trump. Then, the Pacific Legal Fund sent a letter to Vero Beach High School claiming that JP’s constitutional rights were violated by O’Keefe’s decision.
What do JP’s parents think of this entire situation? They are concerned that the school’s actions are going to hurt JP’s college admission chances, believe that “there wasn’t anything wrong” with his actions, and just wish the school handled the situation better.
Stew in that for a minute, would you?
A kid gets up, makes a speech in an AP History class that he described as “a complete joke,” and he ends up on Fox and Friends as an example of how conservative voices are stifled in America’s public schools?
A kid gets up, makes a speech in an AP History class that he described as “a complete joke,” and a school system is threatened with legal action for violating his constitutional rights?
A kid gets up, makes a speech in an AP History class that he described as “a complete joke,” and his parents wish the SCHOOL handled the situation better?
Would any of this have happened ten years ago? Twenty years ago?
What would your parents have done if you had disrupted one of your classes in the same way as JP had? Would they have argued that the school had handled the situation poorly? Would they have supported a lawsuit arguing that your constitutional rights had been violated? Would they have allowed you to go on Fox and Friends to vent about the horrors of the school’s decision?
Those aren’t the decisions that my dad would have made.
He would have recognized my actions for what they were — a silly prank that had no real place in the classroom. I don’t think he would have punished me — but he also wouldn’t have bemoaned the school system or suggested to me that I had been wronged in any way. He would have taken the call from the principal, apologized for my actions, and told me to quit being a goofball in class.
THAT’s why being an educator today is so darn difficult, y’all.