Covington Catholic: Expulsion is the wrong answer

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I want to expand on a short Twitter thread I put up last night.

The leadership at Covington Catholic has apologized for the actions of their students in Washington, and has indicated it is considering expelling them. In this case, expulsion is the wrong answer.

Why? Because it puts all the blame on the students, and none on the institution and system and adults that failed to teach them why those actions are wrong.

And, it is a quick way for those adults to wash their hands of the problem and make it go away. Expulsion is a cheap, easy-way-out answer.

Instead, what Covington Catholic needs to do is two-fold:

  • Figure out a punishment that is both a punishment and a learning opportunity for those students. For example: Require them to apologize, then do a face-to-face interview with the tribal elder they harassed, then write up a paper on how the United States has treated Native Americans through the years, up to the present day.
  • Design and implement a school-wide curriculum on racism, classism, and Othering. Bring in outside voices and insights. Make inclusion and diversity an important part of the school culture.

Covington Catholic, you are supposed to be an educational institution. Use this situation as an opportunity for learning and change, instead of seeing it as simply a problem to make go away.

–30–

Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. He has been President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of the Metro Democratic Club, and has served on the Democratic Party Executive Committee in Louisville. He began blogging in 2004, and currently operates two personal blogs (BruceMaples.com and brucewriter.com). He founded Forward Kentucky in the wake of the state elections in 2015, and expanded it in the summer of 2016. He has lived in Louisville since 1992 with his wife and two sons.
  • Your opinion piece makes good points, but protecting the students is also not a fair punishment. Racists do not become that from one event, and they will not change through reading or writing articles. The best punishment is for the names of the students to be published on the Internet, with what they have done associated to their names. Universities and colleges which have accepted any of these students (or considering them for admission) should rescind or reject their applications. They can still pursue their advance education at community colleges. This would be the right path for them to truly learn.

    • Thanks for the comment, and for reading. My main concern is that the institution itself not get off without accepting its own responsibility, and simply punishing the students allows them to do that. Perhaps what I propose is not strong enough for the students; hopefully, a thorough investigation will lead to a thoughtful approach.

  • The boys should be punished directly for their actions. If they’re old enough to go hassle grown women on reproductive issues, in public? They’re old enough to face some real life consequences. The parents and school should be ashamed, too. But letting them off the hook sets a dangerous precedent. And these are very dangerous times.

    • I think people are mis-reading my point. I’m not advocating “letting them off the hook” – I’m advocating NOT letting the SCHOOL off the hook. And it seems to me that a quick expulsion does exactly that.

  • These students are a reflection of their teachers and administrators, and a reflection on religious education as a whole. As guardians and mentors, the adults have failed their wards and themselves.

    I hope everyone associated with this school system and the bestial young men it produces is deeply ashamed.

    The young men this school is creating are defective.

    • I’m going to make one correction to your comment: the young men are not defective, but their actions are.

      It’s a fine line, but one that I try to maintain. Calling groups of people “defective” leads to other bad outcomes.

      Agree about the reflection of the adults in their lives.

  • I take your point, but I keep seeing the smirk on that young man’s face, and I’m not convinced that further imposing his company and that of his peers upon Native Americans is punishment for anyone but the Native Americans. Your idea about a curriculum change that focuses on racism is not a bad one, but my guess is that enrollment would be sparse. There is just no easy answer to firmly entrenched bigotry. Expulsion is not the answer because it teaches nothing. I’m thinking of something like a boot camp situation where the students are on the receiving end of bigotry and how it makes them feel to be on the receiving end of injustice for at least six weeks. It’s not too late for these kids to learn a valuable lesson and, perhaps share it with their parents and peers.

    • A good point about further interactions without prior education or consciousness-raising. I hope you are right about it not being too late for learning, for both students and adults.