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Working in the system
Lessons to be learned from protests
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Criticism of administrators as well as students has been flying in the aftermath of an alleged incident that occurred on a Great Bend High School bus Feb. 6, 2016. In the days since, students from the high school have taken a stand by publicly protesting USD 428’s handling of the disciplinary element of this alleged incident. And it is a big lesson for some in the way Democracy works in our country.

Teenagers are nothing if not adept at pushing boundaries. This is how and where the most important learning often happens. How parents and school officials assist them in interpreting the results of their efforts will have lasting effects going forward.

A few students Monday pushed and learned how far was too far. It’s important to operate within the law to be the most effective. Holding signs, using words, and talking to the media help to get the message in front of people. Operating beyond that risks muddling the message and drawing criticism rather than support.

The district also pushed, and perhaps learned that students will not be satisfied to simply keep quiet and look the other way when their friends have been hurt. They have expectations, and when they aren’t met, they will speak out.

Also, it appears some are learning the importance of continuing to speak out when you disagree with the way things are handled.

Another lessons learned appears to be that the goal and end of a protest needs to be defined. In the past few days, students have gone from identifying broad goals, such as “justice,” and refined them to “having a sense of safety at school restored,” not only for them, but for the alleged victim. This is a reasonable goal, in line with the mission statement of Great Bend High School: to provide an educational setting to develop in all students the necessary skills to reach their potential and function effectively in tomorrow’s world.

Hopefully, in the days and weeks to come, these goals can be addressed in a peaceful manner, and students will learn that working within the system may take time, but ultimately works.