You're Wrong Jesse

Category: Life & Society Topics: Christianity Values: Education Views: 927
927

For a good portion of the day Tuesday, television cameras were trained on the Reverend Jesse Jackson as he led a non-violent protest on the grounds of Eisenhower High School in Decatur, Ill. The reason for his presence: the September expulsion of seven students for their participation in a bench-clearing brawl at a high school football game.

A local cameraperson filming the game captured footage of the incident in which students literally rampaged through the grandstands kicking and punching another student who frantically tried to escape the onslaught.

The excessive nature of the violence led the Decatur school board to expel the students for a period of two years. Feeling that the punishment did not fit the crime, the Decatur chapter of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition contacted Jackson, the organization's founder, to solicit his assistance in mediating the dispute.

With his typical media fanfare, Jackson took centerstage, arguing that the students should not be deprived of educational opportunity. After much negotiation, the school board agreed to reduce the penalty on the students to a one-year expulsion during which they could attend an alternative school for troubled youth, after which they could return to Eisenhower.

Dissatisfied with this verdict, Jackson opted to rally supporters in front of Eisenhower Tuesday and attempt to enter the school. Jackson was arrested. The school board will hold an emergency meeting to discuss further action on the matter.

There have been suggestions in the media that Jackson's involvement in the dispute is not altogether altruistic. A well-known ham for the camera, Jackson is adept at using the media to give himself exposure in high-profile situations. To what end he would use this exposure is unclear, but given the clear-cut nature of this case, his presence is indeed dubious.

The footage of the incident shows just how egregious the students' behavior was. With utter disregard for all standards of decency, school authority, manners and social interaction, the teens turned from being students to being a mob of gangsters. This is unacceptable. Therefore it was well within the school board's discretion to expel them not only for the temporary two-year term, but permanently. These students should indeed feel grateful for the board's leniency.

Violence is pervasive in today's American public schools. Notwithstanding truly horrific incidents such as the shootings at Columbine High School and in Paduka, KY, American public school life has taken on a rough edge in which the learning environment is far from ideal. So for Jackson to characterize the Eisenhower issue as something more akin to a schoolyard altercation grossly understates the severity of these students' actions. And for him to draw comparisons between this campaign of his and civil rights campaigns of the 1960s only cheapens the legitimate struggle for equality that brought about true social progress in the United States.

For those that argue that the board should consider each of the seven students' cases individually instead of leaving stand the blanket penalty, a concession can be made. Yes, there is a flaw in any "one size fits all" policy of discipline. But in this case, it was the group that created an environment of danger that threatened hundreds, and therefore the board's decision is understandable. But if Jackson feels that this angle should be pursued, then he should leave that as a local matter and should bow out of an issue that didn't warrant his involvement in the first place.

Ali Asadullah is the Editor of iviews.com


  Category: Life & Society
  Topics: Christianity  Values: Education
Views: 927

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