Thank goodness the last week of school is just a week away.
Sure, the arrival of summer will mean an increase in petty juvenile crime; the cops expect it. And an emergency room worker at MCG told me they routinely see an increase in pediatric injuries when lack of supervision arrives with the summer.
But the good news is that the children and the adults will get some time off from school. Lord knows they need it.
Sure, the idea of a summer vacation from school is pure anachronism, a throwback to an agrarian time when we needed the kids to help in the fields. I've even read in old papers how the schools would sometimes close down for a week or two in the fall so children could pick cotton.
We've come a long way since then, but we stubbornly hang onto the idea of shutting down schools for a couple of months. That's great for the tourism industry and for summer camps, but no so good for education when kids lose the first couple of weeks of the next school year to time spent reviewing what they forgot during the lazy days of summer.
We know the last week or so of school is a waste, too. That's one of the funnier things about the government's requirement for a 180-day school year: the law doesn't specify each of those days be spent in useful activity.
Just check any school this week. You'll see empty days at the high school level, days filled with goofing off and recreational movies at the middle-school level and antsy elementary pupils whiling away their final hours on activities that are anything but academic.
Don't ask educators; many will deny it all. Instead, ask the kids what they're doing this week. Other than a few scattered exams or end-of-course tests, these last few days are largely a holding pattern until the doors burst open and the children race out to summer. It is what it is.
However they get to it, the summer at least is a time to recharge. And while the children are getting some playtime, perhaps the adults can take time for reflection.
The Columbia County Board of Education started that process this past week. Stung by criticism of harsh inflexibility on discipline, the school board started working on changing the code of conduct so that students' self-disclosed, inadvertent possession of weapons and legal drugs - say, a butter knife in a lunch bag or a Tylenol in a purse - won't automatically draw long-term suspension or expulsion.
This follows the school board's rejection in a Grovetown Middle School case of the absurd punishment leveled against an 11-year-old for yanking down the gym shorts of another boy in the locker room.
The boy was expelled and sent to the alternative school for the rest of the year. Apparently unsatisfied that they still weren't harsh enough, school officials then called Grovetown cops - who piled on the nonsense by charging the boy with simple battery.
Cooler heads ultimately prevailed. In hearing the appeal of the case the school board decided the boy had been punished enough and sent him back to school. A few days later, the cops took the now-12-year-old pants-yanker to juvenile court. The judge dismissed the charge.
After I first wrote about the punishment of this boy, I heard from people all over the county. Many were protesting similar unfair treatment towards their children; some complained about punishment that, from their own description, their children certainly deserved; and a few were furious that I would dare take the side of a child.
It is to the latter group that my heartiest raspberry is sprayed. The middle group lives in their own world of denial and are unreachable.
That first group, though? The ones who legitimately feel their children have been victimized by officials either too constrained or two blockheaded to use common sense in disciplinary cases?
They get to say I told you so. And fortunately, it seems, the school board is listening.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.
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