‘Rite Idea: Tell Us Why and We’ll Comply

If students are the best defense, they deserve frank explanations

Imagine that it is a typical Monday morning at Shaker Heights High School. The second period bell rings, the hallways swell with students, and a tide of red lanyards washes past security guards. These students’ IDs, dangling clearly from around their necks, affirm that they belong in the building.

Imagine that during this four-minute transition, however, a disheveled individual enters the front door.

Students passing by notice this individual because of a striking dissimilarity: He is not wearing an ID. Because this behavior is so irregular, security guards immediately divert their attention to this individual, who looks to be of high school age.

Imagine that in a swift, calculated procedure, security staff apprehend him and contain the situation.

And imagine that the unidentified student who entered the building that morning had a loaded weapon in his backpack.

The defusing of this hypothetical, dire situation may have been a successful outcome of the high school’s safety protocols, one of which now requires all students to clearly display their IDs all day, every day.

In this hypothetical situation, the policy’s success hinged on buy-in from students; because everyone agreed to wear IDs, IDs may have saved lives.

In a Jan. 3 interview regarding past high school incidents that endangered students’ safety, Executive Director of Communications Scott Stephens said, “The one biggest thing that has made those things end well has been students themselves speaking up to an adult. That to me is the most impressive thing — that you students yourselves are our best defense against a lot of this stuff.”

If this holds true — if the administration places so much of the onus on students when it comes to our safety, to the extent that we are their best defense against threats, and enlists us to carry out this responsibility — they must communicate with us more forthrightly.

Students would be more amenable to this policy if it meant saving their lives, rather than being able to check out a library book.

For such a significant change to be implemented mid-year — for students to now keep their IDs in sight after years of excavating them from lockers or bookbags once a year to buy prom tickets — students will assume that an incident has occurred to justify the change.

Otherwise, the administration could have waited until the start of the next school year to make it.

Despite two incidents involving guns at the high school since the beginning of the school year, Principal Jonathan Kuehnle did not mention such a catalyst’s existence when prompted during a Jan. 23 interview. He only cited recent school shootings in Texas and Kentucky as reason for students to wear their IDs constantly.

If this new policy could help prevent such a serious scenario, why not communicate that from the beginning, and why not use the two incidents at the high school, rather than pointing to events hundreds of miles away?

For students to wear their IDs around their necks every day, for students to speak up and be comfortable doing what Stephens claims some already do, the administration must communicate policy changes to us frankly, in a manner that encourages us to accept the onus that they have placed on us.

It is not students’ responsibility, nor is it this news organization’s, to fill in the blanks of the administration’s flawed communication.


This ‘Rite Idea editorial was written by The Shakerite Editorial Board, which consists of its Chairwoman Emily Montenegro and members Zachary Nosanchuk, Grace Lougheed, Julia Barragate, DC Benincasa, Greyson Turner and Emilie Evans. 

A version of this article appears in print on pages 36-37 of Volume 88, Issue II, published Feb. 8 2018.

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