The intended lesson for seven Clarksville High School seniors on Graduation Day — that disruptive actions have consequences — taught us all a lesson: adults make mistakes.
It all started with a water fight, the high-schoolers armed with water-laden balloons and squirt guns filled with H2O.
It’s unclear how long the skirmish lasted. After all, every bathroom faucet held reloading potential. And being drenched naturally calls for reciprocation.
Did these teenagers sneak their plastic and latex munitions into the school, hidden in backpacks and pockets? No. They were told they could bring the items to school, albeit for use outdoors during a picnic.
Hard telling who fired the first stream. Kids rival ducks in their draw toward water. At an early age, puddles beckon little feet and ponds call to fishers of all ages.
But, as Clarksville Community Schools administrators rightly pointed out, the teens showed poor judgment in engaging in a water fight inside the school building. Hindsight makes clear better choices.
As punishment, the seven seniors were denied participation in graduation ceremonies, the culminating event that capped their 12 years in school.
Even given that one participant slipped in water and fell to the floor — the student was uninjured, school officials acknowledged — the disciplinary action seemed too harsh, a point made by many of the parents.
One can understand the parents’ pleas for leniency for their children, whose disappointment must have been palpable.
After all, parents are a big part of the school experience, too, helping their kids learn to read, study for exams, run lines for the play, create science projects, fine-tune their jump shot, and more. They see firsthand the work their children put in between kindergarten and high school graduation.
All that hard work was dismissed out of hand, though, when it came time to dole out punishment — for a water fight.
Clarksville administrators turned a deaf ear to calls for moderation of the punishment, the appeals coming from community members as well as family and friends of the graduates.
While the core mission of schools is to educate, these officials missed the opportunity to teach the students a valuable lesson, a lesson in grace.
Grace understands mistakes — that we all are capable of them. Grace finds a way to hold people accountable for their error, without making them feel lesser because of it.
In a year in which everyone has struggled through a horrific pandemic, we all could have benefitted by a little grace.
An administrator, through grace, would have said you can walk with your classmates, but first you’ll clean the floor on which you’ll tread. Then, handing each of the seven seniors a mop and bucket, would have said with a sly grin, “You clearly know where to find the water.”
Now, that’s a lesson for a lifetime.
— News and Tribune