Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here’s this week’s, based on a news story I asked you all to comment on last week.

Thirteen graduating students from Quinte Secondary School [in Belleville, Ontario] have given us a whole new reason to despair for our country’s future. Their parents pooled resources to rent a bus to take them to their prom and then to take them to the after-prom party at a private residence where alcohol would be served. The school, however, warned all students that group transportation (which tends to be associated with alcohol) and any kind of intoxication would not be tolerated. Nevertheless, they showed up in a bus, with some of the students already drinking, and they were denied admittance. Several parents are now calling for monetary reimbursement and the firing of some school administrators.

The Belleville daily covered this story in rich detail, accompanied by a photo of the kids, girls holding up their prom dresses. The paper evidently chose to slant this story towards those poor students who missed out on the biggest moment of their high school life.

Why?

Those students were told that they were not to arrive in group transportation, and they did. They were told no alcohol would be tolerated, and several of them admitted to a reporter that they ignored that warning. Sounds like an open and shut case to me. After all, going to the prom is not a right; it’s a privilege. And by the way, why do you need to rent transportation to take you to and from the prom to make sure you’re not drinking and driving if you’re not going to drink until you get to the after-prom party? Besides, parents, providing alcohol to minors is still, last time I checked, illegal.

The consequences for breaking the rules were spelled out, and the students chose to disregard them. It is not the school’s fault if girls chose to spend $700 on a dress, and then broke the rules so they couldn’t get in. No one forced these girls to drop that kind of money on a prom dress (I spent less than half of that on my wedding dress, for pity’s sake). No one forced them to disobey the rules. No one forced them to drink.

And what about the other QSS students who were at the prom? Do they not matter? Why should kids who have not had any alcohol have to put up with potentially intoxicated peers at their prom? Besides, if any drunk kids had caused an accident or injury, the school would have been sued. The school had to stand its ground. That’s why I’d have written a much different headline than “Students Lost their Prom and are Angry”. I’d do: “Courageous Principal Stands Her Ground On No-Alcohol Prom”, or “Principal Sticks to Her Guns despite Parents’ Threats”.

Yet while I find the kids’ actions deplorable, we cannot entirely blame them, for they were raised by parents who evidently felt it was more important to be their children’s friends than it was to encourage them to respect authority. That “blame your parents” thing, though, can only last so long once you’re an adult. These kids have now graduated from high school, and so they have entered adulthood. It’s time they owned up.

They made a mistake. And by posing for a picture in the newspaper and complaining about their treatment, they compounded that mistake by broadcasting that error in judgment far and wide. What employer in this community is ever going to hire them? They have shown that they do not respect authority, don’t listen to instructions, think rules are for everyone else, and if anyone challenges them, they raise a huge stink.

So here’s my advice: go to the principal and apologize. Accept responsibility. Be an adult. At least you might get your self-respect back. And then, perhaps you’ll earn the respect of the rest of us in this community, too.

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