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The Dansville Online
  • Dan Seaborn: Teach your child responsibility and respect

  • Freedom of speech is often used as a convenient excuse when people don’t want to own up to their responsibilities. In my opinion, such is the case with the young 18-year-old high school graduate who used what school officials deemed profanity in her valedictorian speech at graduation.

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  • Freedom of speech is often used as a convenient excuse when people don’t want to own up to their responsibilities. In my opinion, such is the case with the young 18-year-old high school graduate who used what school officials deemed profanity in her valedictorian speech at graduation.
    She used the word “hell” instead of the word “heck.” According to the speech, she turned into school officials the word “heck,” which was approved ahead of time. That’s the word she was supposed to say. However, in front of the live audience, she slipped and used the other word, which was frowned upon heavily by those in attendance. The question remains whether she accidentally spoke the forbidden word or did she plan all along to abandon her approved dialogue and say whatever the heck she wanted.
    The school, located in Prague, Okla., responded by refusing to give the student her diploma until she writes a letter of apology. She has decided to stand her ground and refuses to apologize. Her parents are backing her 100 percent. All three are citing freedom of speech rights. In my research, which I admit was brief and would not necessarily stand up in a court of law, I found there are limitations to freedom of speech. According to what I found, students don’t have the right to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event, and my information even included a case dating back to 1986. 
    I’m sure as parents we’ve all had opportunities to stand up for our kids, but we have to discern how to pick and choose our battles. For example, there is a 5-year-old in another part of Oklahoma who got in trouble for wearing a University of Michigan T-shirt the first day of school. Seems the school has a policy that prohibits students from wearing non-Oklahoma team gear.
    This policy was developed to discourage students from wearing clothing related to gang affiliation. When this post-toddler, pre-adolescent showed up at school, he was asked to turn his shirt inside out. In kindergarten! While I understand the necessity for the policy at the upper grade levels, here’s a situation where parents need to support their child and common sense should prevail.
    I know if the valedictorian were my daughter, I probably would have encouraged her to express her regret because whether she misrepresented her intentions or it slipped out accidentally, either scenario is worthy of an apology in my opinion. When she handed over her speech for approval, there was an implicit agreement that she would say what was written.
    It’s not always the big issues that result in the shaping of your child’s heart and mind, but a lot of the little things. Teaching them to say thank you when they first learn the word. Showing them the importance of sharing when they get their first toy. Stopping them from cheating at a board game even though it seems innocent and cute at the time. Showing them to respect authority and the law by setting an example. Coaching them to follow through on their promises.
    Page 2 of 2 - It’s not always easy for parents to know when to back their children and when to teach them to accept responsibility for their mistakes and move on. While it’s important to teach them to fight for injustices in the world, you first have to define what constitutes one.
    — Dan Seaborn is the founder of the Zeeland, Mich.-based group Winning at Home Inc. Email questions or comments to hometeam@winningathome.com.
     

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