I recently saw that one of the local kids from my skate park got suspended from school for not giving up his skateboard. It’s funny to note that not a lot has changed since the time I walked those same halls.
18 years ago I was sitting in the exact same office building as this young man, defending myself regarding my own skateboard. Shortly after, I was being asked to leave the school because my mohawk was “too distracting.” At this point my grades were fine, though a team of undereducated administrators and underpaid teachers were never able to grasp the idea that school was as much a proving grounds and arena to explore yourself as much as it was to cram your mind with the curriculum they had planned. Never once did they consider the context of my appearance, that I didn’t fit in at a new school, and that it was reactionary to people that were just like them.
I remember spending a class with an uninspired teacher, whom had us do nothing more than stare at a textbook for 45 minutes, as I was daydreaming about skateboarding after school. Disciplinary action for something as simple as carrying a skateboard through the hallways, became the exact freedom I craved. How simple it felt to show up to class and get suspended just for being myself, leaving the rest of the afternoon to grind curbs, and ollie cracks in the sidewalk.
I don’t know where the disconnect comes from, but it doesn’t feel like a lot has changed. With the leaps and bounds since then, regarding child psychology and how tough high school can be, it still amazes me that the focus is molding children into their idea of what is appropriate.
I finished my high school years at a school that celebrated the arts. One of the first questions my parents asked when I began that school was in a meeting with the principal. I clearly remember them asking if they had a policy on unique hairstyles, “Mohawks” in particular. The principal scoffed and said she didn’t have time for things like that. Her focus was on keeping kids in school and making sure their grades were exemplary.
I can only imagine the headache this kid is dealing with at home because of this. I know first hand that he is a good kid and makes smart decisions when it comes to who he hangs with. As an outsider I note that he always has a smile on his face and is polite to everyone in the skate park. If the administrators at his school spent a little less time picking out negatives through their outdated rules, and more time celebrating the uniqueness and diversity of their student body, giving them a safe and encouraging place to learn, perhaps they wouldn’t be riddled with dropouts, and a continual cycle of bullying and violence that hasn’t changed much since I graduated from school.
Certainly when my child reaches high school age I will be in her corner regarding these archaic issues. Outdated standards of how a child must look, or what mode of transportation they choose to take to school hopefully will be a non-issue at that point. Administration that makes a game of judging cliques are more like the school children then condemn than they are willing to admit.
This local high school, at least since my time spent there, has always been the laughingstock of the town and they continue to be. It definitely seems like their guidance hasn’t changed much since my counselor told me I would be “better off dropping out of high school.” If this pathetic excuse for a guidance counselor was still employed by the school I would certainly let her know that by following the opposite of her advice, I graduated school with a 3.0. Her reason for suggesting I drop out? Well, based on my appearance, it was obvious I would never be able to follow the rules or play their game. These same type of rules would have kept me from a long career as an entrepreneur, and from meeting my wife, whom also couldn’t follow the rules. Those rules would have kept me from writing this article, on this site, that I know will resonate strongly with so many of you. Those rules left that guidance counselor bitter and angry at the children she should have been watching over, administering them advice with a cold heart, and uneducated opinion.
I have never believed in being anti-authority just for the sake of it, however when the authority focuses on the negative, and makes a big deal out of minor issues instead of celebrating the positives, it makes me wonder what the point of the “guidance” department in the school system is.
My only hopes are that this otherwise role model student won’t to be set back from his suspension. Carrying the “essence of freedom” through the halls, and sometimes the only release a kid has, his skateboard, then being punished for it and forced to choose between giving it up for being expelled, I know which one I would choose. I applaud this child’s determination, and his position to stand up to authority when they are in the wrong. He might be suspended, but it’s that type of stance that shows leadership skills that deserve rewarding, the skills that will serve him later in life. When his time in high school is forgotten, and the tyrannical administrators have all moved on, he will remember his dedication to skateboarding and his principles, the good times he’s had, the lessons in doing what it takes to succeed, and how he didn’t sell out when it came to being a square peg in a round hole.
He might not know that this is written about him, but I am proud of the little guy. I’ve seen him go from a decent skateboarder to an amazing talent. He’s never acted like he was better than anyone else, though he certainly is better than most. He also always says hello when he sees a new face, despite being taught by his school to judge others based on their appearance, or what type of group they hang out with.
I can guarantee this one thing, the school might not understand, his folks might not understand, but as an adult, I see the spark he has. He had the strength to stick out, to fight for what’s right, and maintains a positive mental attitude no matter what. No matter what the school might think, I see the success in his future. I see that his priorities are on happiness, and I’ve learned after making sure you are happy, everything else falls into place. After all, I once was the kid with the skateboard, being suspended in that same office. I still wouldn’t give up that skateboard and right now I am living out my dreams.