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McKinley Architects & Engineers

February 3, 2012 - Volume 32 Issue 7

Commentary

“Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty.” - Anne Louise Germaine de Stael (1766-1817), a French-speaking Swiss author living in Paris and abroad who influenced literary tastes in Europe at the turn of the 19th century.

 

Musket-carrying mascot case shows principals need more discretion
 

45 years, Parkersburg South High School's team mascot has been a Patriot who carries a musket as part of his uniform. The gun shoots only powder.

Since 1995, the Parkersburg South Patriot may have been breaking the law.

Parkersburg South Principal Tom Eschbacher said while the Patriot is good to go at home games, other principals say no to his weapon.
"We would go to schools throughout the state of West Virginia, and we were told that firing of that musket or possession of that musket on school property was a Safe Schools Act violation," Eschbacher told Daily Mail Capitol Reporter Jared Hunt.

The school is now seeking an exemption in state law for the Patriot.

"I've got our cheerleaders and social studies class involved in a letter-writing campaign to the judiciary committee — it's a good civics lesson," Eschbacher said.

"I think that's something that will help the members of the judiciary committee understand how important this is to the students of Parkersburg South High School."

That makes for a good school project. Local legislators have taken up the cause, including Delegate Dan Poling, D-Wood, a 1972 graduate of Parkersburg South.

"Common sense tells you it's probably going to come up somewhere," Poling said. "Somebody will say, 'Wait a minute, that young man's running around out there on the football field with a gun.'"

School principals should have the authority to allow the Patriot to bear arms on campus.

But why stop at a musket-carrying mascot? Principals should have the discretion to waive the law when circumstances arise. The same is true with laws that bar drugs from school campuses.

Over the years, there have been numerous incidences of students who meant no harm being suspended because of zero tolerance rules. School officials are not given authority to replace strict interpretation of the law with common sense.

Replacing "shall" with "may" would allow principals to do their jobs without fear of breaking the law. The principal's superiors, in turn, must have the authority to hold principals accountable for good decision-making.

This editorial appeared in the Jan. 31, 2012, edition of the Charleston Daily Mail. Used by permission.

 

Note: Photograph used by permission of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel