It appears that the school officials at Bonners Ferry High School have learned to appreciate the concept of collective population punishment. After a series of faux bomb threats scrawled in the boy’s bathroom, school officials have placed large areas under continual surveillance and reportedly withheld food from all boys to try to prompt them to turn in the culprits.
Last year, the school had a wave of hoax threats. Two students were prosecuted and another was expelled as a result. After shutting down the school after someone scribbled something referring to a bomb, the school reportedly told parents that male students would be denied lunches since the boy’s bathroom was the scene of the scribbling.
I certainly understand the frustration of the school since this is the 11th such hoax. However, the article below reports that the school responded with collective punishment based on gender: all male students at the high school lost their lunchtime privileges for two days to put pressure on students to turn in their friends.
There are a number of problems. Starting with the least problematic, two days of bag lunches hardly seems likely to produce public condemnations or confessions. Second, why wouldn’t there also be a possibility that girls also know of the culprit? Third, in my day, denial of a school lunch would be a reward as a protection from Sloppy Joe overload.
Finally, and more importantly, the school is teaching students that collective punishment and coercions is a proper response to such problems. No individualized suspicion. No reasonable suspicion. Just collective punishment due to some clown who scribbled a thoughtless note on some bathroom stall.
However, Richard Conley, superintendent of the Boundary County School District insists “I think the message got sent. We’ve had a very, very good response from the student body.”
In case any of the “Badger Boys” are looking for authority, they may want to cite Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: “No persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” The association of collective punishment with terrorism is worth noting.
Moreover, I am bit surprised that the school can suspend school lunches, which are subject to state and federal law.
I am not saying that this is akin to the Germans taking out every tenth male for a firing squad in a French village for punishment for the activities of the Maquis in World War II. Two days of bag lunches is not a major punishment. However, the use of collective punishment sounds a terrible message to students about basic rights and due process.
What do you think?