As the loudspeaker crackled to life, a disturbing announcement spread across our school. “Civil disobedience without a cause,” solemnly announced our principal, “is just disobedience.”
I’d like to preface that I, as a student, am deeply indebted to the Henry Clay High School community. Our teachers are excellent, our administrators caring, and our principal admirable and intelligent. Mutual respect, however, does not eliminate the need to discuss differences. Instead, it necessitates dialogue.
This ominous announcement responded to a dispute over the wearing of lanyards with student identification badges. Many students, thinking the requirement sophomoric, decided not to wear the badges. Others poked fun, replacing their badge picture with fictional characters or crude drawings. Most, however, decided that rebellion constituted too much risk for too little gain; those caught without badges would be sent to in-school detention.
But, of all the students I talked to, not a single one thinks wearing identification will improve school safety.
Indeed, “Most shooters are teens already enrolled at the school or males between 20 and 40 years old,” Professor Joanne Simpson of John Hopkins University writes. She continues, “As a student noted... (ID cards) didn’t prevent a fellow student from hiding a gun in his backpack.”
Simple ways to make fake IDs exist and are exploited. Several classmates already demonstrated that our IDs, made of paper, prove easy to Photoshop. Any individual with malicious intents would, as we did, figure this out quickly and adjust accordingly.
Many argue that such badges prepare students for the “real world,” arguing that most professions require some form of formal identification. This, to some extent, is true, but schools should not seek to imitate businesses which catalog and track individuals like cattle. “Kids should not be labeled,” said Liz Schroeder, associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “There’s something very impersonal about wearing an ID tag around your neck.” Students, who bear the brunt of this policy, agree.
Ultimately, ID badges will probably fail to create measurable benefits or detriments. But they reflect a startling trend which must be fought: the militarization of our schools. Incremental steps like this add up, leading to an atmosphere in which school attacks are viewed as the norm. In the same way that the media’s coverage of shootings creates copycats, having a reminder of such a threat harms the general psychology of the student body.
I understand that, as part of the school district’s Ten Point Safety Plan, my school has no control over ID requirements. I even think that ID badges, when their display is not required, can be useful for students and teachers alike. But, when I am instructed that my disobedience lacks cause, I feel frustration.
I hope that my pleas won’t fall upon deaf ears, that the school board reconsiders implementing militarizing, expensive devices like metal detectors and identification badge requirements. Until then, I reserve my right to an unadorned neck.
Sam Clark is a senior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington.