How about teaching a little respect for public property?
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, June 9, 2010

This week I was going to write a positive column filled with praise for the Massachusetts Senate, which finally addressed the illegal immigration issue.

Since I had assumed that a state legislator would have to be run over by a drunken, unlicensed illegal before other legislators would finally do something, I was pleasantly surprised by the vote.

Oh wait, state rep. Michael Moran's car was rear-ended by a allegedly drunken, unlicensed illegal just before the vote. But since the liberal Brighton legislator still supports illegal activity, the motivation for the vote may have been a Rasmussen poll showing 7 out of 10 respondents support a crackdown on the hiring of illegals.

According to the State House News Service, the Senate budget amendment bars contractors from public projects if they violate federal law on employing illegal immigrants, and requires state contractors to verify employees' citizenship status. It also creates new penalties for falsifying state IDs and driver's licenses, prevents legally eligible public housing applicants from being displaced by non-legal residents, and explicitly bans access to lower in-state tuition rates at state colleges for illegal immigrants.

But I'm hearing that the House and governor may not go along with the Senate action, so the good-news column must wait.

Instead, another bad-news column. Last Saturday morning, Chip turned on his police scanner to learn about the storm-related power failure, and heard the Marblehead police talking about vandalism at the high school following the senior prom.

By Monday we'd learned that on Friday evening the seniors had held their banquet in the school cafeteria and the next day police found salad dressing and milk decorating the school walls. Ceiling tiles were strewn about. In addition, parts of the exterior of the new multi-million-dollar building were "in disrepair," including a light pole snapped off at the base that was found in the middle of the roadway and five double-paned window squares that had been smashed. Overall, the damage could total thousands of dollars.

According to the local weekly, the high school's acting co-principal, Kristina Kyles, was grateful that "the vandalism did not disrupt graduation, which was held at the school on Sunday.

"By Sunday morning, you had to look for the damage," she told the Marblehead Reporter. "It would be hard pressed for any student this morning to even notice," though she acknowledged that the actions were "disrespectful."

According to the paper, Kyles "noted that the school department is taking the incident seriously, and that officials are having confidential talks with parents, adults and administrators about it."

No, Ms. Co-principal. "Disrespectful" is talking back to grown-ups, not smashing windows.

Maybe we can put the food fight in the same "youthful exuberance" category as toilet-papering a home, egging cars, and graffiti, and could simply have made the senior class clean up the mess. On Graduation Day and instead of having graduation ceremonies.

Certainly the damage should not have been cleaned up for them; it should have been there, on display, for the graduating class's parents and grandparents to admire.

Smashing tiles and windows and breaking a light pole are malicious damage, and the criminals should be arrested. Perhaps the crime could be removed from their records if and when the thousands of dollars are paid by their parents. If those parents care about their kids, they'd make them pay it back with their first paychecks or "weekend fun" college money.

Forget the "confidential talks." The building belongs to the taxpayers, who are still paying for it via a previous Prop. 2 override, and the taxpayers deserve to know who was responsible for the damages.

If the perps can't be found or named, let all students know why thousands of dollars just disappeared from the school budget for next year. Or maybe Ms. Kyles could pay it from her acting salary.

Of course the vandals were "disrespectful." Why should they respect property that they didn't have to pay for, that they were handed by taxpayers, just as they have been handed so many things in their young lives? I know this lack of respect and appreciation isn't just here in Marblehead. Many kids everywhere are taught that they're "entitled."

Instead, when they start high school, some educator who cares about them and the future of this country should visit freshman classrooms and tell them this:

Welcome students.

Thanks to Thomas Jefferson, our great country early on determined that a democracy can only exist with an educated citizenry, so you get a taxpayer-funded education from people who don't know you, yet hope you will grow up to be a responsible citizen for the sake of us all.

So it has been determined that you'll have a basic weatherproof school building with someplace for you to sit and write, teachers paid market-based rates and benefits, and basic supplies. We throw in school sports and other activities to help socialize you, and maybe create a competitive spirit that will serve you and the country well.

Other than your parents, no one owes you anything. Take responsibility for learning what you'll need to support yourself. Show some appreciation and respect for those who sacrifice for your education.

Bring your own lunch and don't throw it at the walls.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.

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