Local Commentary

Editorial: ‘Do As I Say, Not As I Do’

“Do as I say, not as I do.” We all know that age-old idiom doesn’t work, and in the modern era it smacks of a kind of hypocrisy that no one respects.

So what does it mean to teach cornerstone principles of American Constitutional freedoms and guarantees in a classroom, and then wantonly abandon them in the hallways? Which message is going to resonate more with the student as he or she progresses through life?

The reference here is to the recent, over-the-top lockdown of the George Mason High School campus in Falls Church while drug-sniffing dogs and their police handlers from surrounding jurisdictions lurked through the hallways of the school, after all students were required to empty the contents of their lockers onto those hallways for inspection.

The call-out of this incident by a News-Press columnist last week has created a minor firestorm of reaction by Falls Church school officials, parents, students and others.

Most who have commented have generally questioned the action for being, as one “school dad” put it, “too heavy handed.” But School Board member Patrick Riccards, apparently commenting on the FCNP.com web site on behalf of the entire School Board, defended the search incident for being “done in full accordance with federal and state law and School Board policy.”

Others have defended the action based on reports of a marked increase in drug use on the campus, particularly of the synthetic form of marijuana known as K-2, including the editor of GMHS’ online student newspaper, The Lasso.

However, only one comment that we’ve seen spoke to the core issue involved. Responding to someone who called the sweep “educational” for the students, the commenter posted, “This is indeed educational for the kids. The lesson is that those who have the power do what they want. So when you are young you should distrust authority and when you are old enough to have power you should use it to its absolute fullest. I am glad I will be dead when these kids are old enough to be in charge, if that’s what we are teaching them.”

Granted, everyone should be concerned about teenage drug use in the schools. But more than that, everyone should be concerned about teenage drug use, period. The sweep could be interpreted as more out of concern for the image of the school than for the students who somehow feel that getting high may be more valuable than learning, whether they do it on the school campus or at a time when they should be doing, for example, homework.

There may be no one answer to this problem, but treating students as less than fully enfranchised U.S. citizens is certainly not it. What gives hope to us all, and a reason to care about ourselves as well as others, is an environment where an impassioned advancement of the cause of equal justice under the law is not only lip service, but practiced.