Some of you may have noticed that Ellen, a reader who blogs at Minivan Diaries, left a thoughtful comment on my recent post about the student protest at Morton West High School. She rightly asks,
Why doesn’t anybody seem unnerved by the fact that the principal, superintendent and guidance counselors took it upon themselves to decide who should be given lesser punishments (ie athletes and college bound students), that kids were asked to “finger” leaders in exchange for “a better deal”, and some more fortunate parents were notified of the incident and told if they picked up their kids by a certain time, there would only be suspensions? Is this uneven justice acceptable by the very individuals who these kids rely on as role models?
“I have been following the blogs and media ever since,” Ellen concludes, “and nobody seems too bothered by this. Why not?”
I, too, was startled by the administration’s selective punishments when I first read about the protest, and I wrote about it, albeit briefly, in a pop quiz-like post here. Ellen wrote at greater length and with particular attention to this aspect of the story when it broke–you can read her thoughts here.
As to why others in the blogosphere and the media failed to highlight that angle, I can’t say for certain. But I suspect that newsroom judgment rather than indifference led the writers and editors to lead with the students’ dissent over the war and the parents’ outrage at the threatened expulsions. The officials’ manipulation of the top students is relevant, and surely troubling, but it’s less newsworthy than the fact that the protest was being criminalized. I would also add that the information was included in most of the news stories I read on this incident, though tucked into later paragraphs. We wouldn’t have known about the selectivity of the punishments if the media hadn’t brought it to our attention in the first place.