Michael Sheridan, an eighth-grader in Connecticut, bought a bag of Skittles in the hallway of his middle school. Because this is against school rules, he’s been suspended from school, will miss an honors student dinner and will have to give up his title as class vice president. You can read all about it in the New Haven Register.
My initial reaction was: “Wow, is the school nuts? This seems pretty extreme over candy, a food all of us as adults enjoyed in childhood without anyone turning it into a federal case.” Then, I started thinking about federal cases, in particular the one that’s unfolding here in New York. There are some interesting parallels going on. Eliot Spitzer broke some laws and he’s going to lose his office over it. But, the question must be asked: Are the school’s rules regarding candy as reasonable as our nation’s laws regarding money transfers and prostitution? In other words: Should a student be punished as severely as Sheridan is being punished for breaking rules that weren’t even rules a few short years ago? (Plus, it’s candy! Moms buy their kids candy! It’s harmless â€” unless you happen to eat it in large quantities, but that’s another issue. I wonder if this school that’s so keen to prevent children from ingesting one stray sugar molecule also has fully funded its gym programs?)
(I want to add: I don’t think the child should receive no punishment. After all, he did break a rule. But the punishment meted out seems in excess of the crime. Missing a dinner to honor his academic achievements seems counterproductive and stripping him of his class title seems overzealous. The analogy with Spitzer would be, I think, if he had been caught speeding. Sure, he would have been embarassed and met with censure for breaking the law. But would he have had to resign as governor? I don’t think so. The punishment should fit the crime.)
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