Our View: Suspensions in Red Wing were appropriate

Last month, a group of students at Red Wing High School engaged in activities that, depending on one's perspective, were either vandalism or merely an overabundance of patriotism. Their efforts to surreptitiously decorate for National Pride Day caused some damage to school property, and 14 seniors were suspended.

Their parents are crying foul, saying the punishment doesn't fit the crime and that many of the students involved are patriotic model citizens whose college applications shouldn't be jeopardized by a senior prank.

On that latter count, we agree. Even smart teenagers occasionally make poor choices, and we don't believe this incident should result in a permanent black mark on anyone's academic record.

Still, it is important to look at the entirety of this situation, which may have had its origins weeks ago when the district chose not to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. Students protested, with more than 400 signing a petition to reinstate this observation, and it will indeed resume next year.

Kudos to the students who stood up for their beliefs and expressed their grievances in a formal manner. That's how protest is supposed to work.


But that wasn't the end of the saga. Students then proposed celebrating "'Merica Monday," and in so doing, demonstrated a high level of tone-deafness. "'Merica" has distinct racial — some might say redneck — connotations. Look it up online. This is an exclusionary word with no positive connotations.

Given that the Red Wing School District recently paid $90,000 to settle a lawsuit with a student who was offended by "Wangster Wednesday," we firmly believe the district had no choice but to reject an idea that had the potential of being divisive and culturally insensitive.

Observance of National Pride Day was the compromise offered by the district, but apparently some students felt this wasn't enough. They chose to express their displeasure (and their patriotism) through the use of paper streamers and washable chalk; unfortunately, some of the chalk proved to be unwashable. At that point, what had been a prank crossed the line to vandalism — and the issue of appropriate consequences arose.

We understand the parents' natural desire to protect their kids, but in this case we don't believe their public protests are the right approach to what we believe is the proverbial "teachable moment."

The better message from parents to their kids would be: "Apologize, then accept your punishment and move on. Realize that your actions can have consequences beyond what you intended, and when you deliberately defy authority, we won't always be there to bail you out."

These students, after all, aren't the victims in this situation — and their parents shouldn't treat them as if they were.

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