A right and not a privilege

Soumya Kurnool

Eighteen is the age of majority, associated with newfound freedoms  and rights, such as the right to vote and to get a license. But more importantly, the right to legal responsibility for oneself.

Yet the fundamental definition of majority is being called into question with an FUHSD policy that allows parents to continue to hold responsibility over legal adults when it comes to attendance.

The “Adult Status” request policy the FUHSD school board has put into action requires students to fill out the “18 Year Old Responsibility Form” and return it to attendance technician Calvin Wong with a parent signature. If parents do not approve, the application cannot go through to the next step, which is the studentís assistant principal. He either approves or denies the application after consulting with the studentís attendance record, his or her behavior record, and whether or not the parents are on board with the idea of a self-clearing student.

“We would rather err on the side of safety,” Assistant Principal Brad Metheany said, ìthan on the side of ‘Why would you ever allow him to check himself out?'[…]My number one charge is still that students are safe and everyone knows whatís going on.”

However, the misguided mindset that the FUHSD policy harbors is that students would misuse the right if not kept in check by parents. The district fears that self-declared adults who actually lack maturity will exploit the right, hence the word of the parents is honored in discussions about the privilege.

“Being 18 is not like a blanket,” Metheany said. “You get to vote, but you don’t get to go to the front of the line, or to vote the next day. You need to follow the procedures in place.”

However, the procedures themselves should be brought into question. The ì18 Year Old Responsibility Formî states that “I understand that in choosing to attend Monta Vista High School, I agree to abide by the same rules and regulations of attendance behavior and academic pursuit as apply to all students, regardless age.”

Herein lies the main problem. Not only does the policy clash against the California State Education Code Section 46012, but it challenges the definition of majority, a federally accepted status. What gives a random school in Cupertino, CA the authority to use ìsafetyî as an excuse to take away a right that can be upheld in court?

“The students don’t let me down,” Metheany admitted. “They don’t let themselves down. And whatís important, they stay safe.”

This is the truth of the matter; students don’t tend to misuse the privilege. They are mature, legal adults. Yet it also begs a fundamental question. If MVHS students tend to be so trustworthy, then what is the problem with sitting down to have a face to face on the matter with them, rather than with parents? If the students don’t engage in unsafe practices, what do the parents who do not legally even have custody rights over their 18 year old child have to do with anything?

Metheany characterizes the sentiment exactly.

“Trust must go both ways,” he said.

And if it doesn’t? Then we have a flawed system, one where fundamental rights are ignored, where paranoia is rampant, and where no sense of moral responsibility is instilled in students. This is precisely what is wrong with the system in place at MVHS, and trust must go both ways to remedy the problem. Mommy and Daddy are not going to be around in college to change diapers or check attendance, and if students are being babied up until the last day of their senior year, then we have a serious problem when MVHS seniors become college freshmen.