Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Arrested for Classroom Graffiti

Is doodling a tad on your school desk really an arrestable offense?

In New York City, a 12 year old girl wrote, "Lex was here" on her desk with marker and was arrested for it. She apparently wasn't released for "several hours."

Of course, all writing "I was here" on a desk accomplishes is putting an element of oneself on to a communally shared item with no purpose except, seemably, to make it uglier. It is defacement, and it's lame unless your graffiti is awesome. Before a person does it, they should consider how others will feel having a desk with their writing on it, or how all of the desks in the school would look like if everyone drew all over them all the time. What reinforces the rule 'Do not draw on desks' is not certainty of punishment.
Instead, most people follow that rule out of consideration for others-- it's a social contract.

Arresting a girl involves interference not only to the girl's education (interrupting her schoolwork for that day), it is also socially embarrassing for the girl (arresting her in school, damaging her reputation to teachers/peers). It's also possibly damaging to the school's rules (making them seem more arbitrary instead of sensible). And arrest requires time and effort from federal law enforcement officials, who are far more removed from the classroom than teachers, who would definitely be more appropriate people to solve the graffiti problem.

One of the purposes of education is, presumably, to help make students a bit wiser. And yet in this New York school's example, the educational institution is having some serious issues with moral flexibility, even for the most harmless situations. What sort of lesson is this incident teaching to the students in this school? Does this make the school seem more responsible? Do you think this reinforces the school's rules?

What do you think the school should have done instead?

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