Our views: Hold students accountable for actions

Tenino High School students knew what was expected of them. They signed a code of conduct which governs student behavior for students in sports and in school clubs. They also knew the consequences of violating that code of conduct.

Now that they've been caught in violation, some of their parents want to change the rules. Tenino School Board members have bowed to parental pressure and agreed to delay disciplining at least 10 high school students who allegedly consumed alcohol at a private New Year's Eve party.

That sends the wrong message to students and to parents in the district. By delaying the punishment in this case, the school board is not treating students uniformly. Forty other high schoolers have been held to the conditions of the code of conduct during the past five years. The district policy should be adhered to.

Complaining parents say the code is too harsh. That may or may not be the case. But to delay the punishment of the 10 students while the school board examines the code is wrong. The board should follow through on the punishment of the students, then analyze the code of conduct over the summer and begin anew in the fall.

Parents aren't doing their children any favor by trying to help them wiggle out of the discipline called for in the code. Part of every parent's responsibility is to set expectations and limits for their kids, then hold their sons and daughters accountable to those standards. Children need to understand that there are consequences for their actions.

What has some folks in Tenino upset - and justifiably so - is the fact the punishment delay allows students to continue participating in sports and other school activities. Other students who have violated the conditions of the code of conduct have been removed from their team, or pulled from their student activities immediately.

The code is clear. It states that students who "possess, buy, sell, give away, or knowingly be in the presence of illegal use of alcohol" are excluded from all school district activities for one calendar year, though they can appeal that punishment.

That might be harsh, especially given the standards in neighboring districts. Olympia and Centralia, for example, suspend student athletes for the rest of their season. North Thurston says students cannot participate for 40 days. In Oakville, it's 60 days. Rochester takes away 40 percent of the sport season. Punishments increase for subsequent offenses.

So, indeed, Tenino's one-year suspension might be too severe.

But that was the punishment when students signed the code, and that was the punishment when they showed up at the New Year's Eve Party. The board ordered a review of the code in December, but that won't be completed until spring.

"This is absolutely wrong," said Loretta Bowlen, whose son, Jared, couldn't play sports for two months this fall because he showed up at a Tenino High dance after drinking alcohol. "Those kids are getting away scot-free. They're being told that it's OK."

What the students did was not OK. Holding them accountable under existing rules, while painful, is the right and responsible thing to do. The school board should follow the procedures it has put in place for the last five years. Let the punishments be administered promptly, then determine whether revisions to the code of conduct are warranted.