LI School in national spotlight: Should students be suspended for “Tebowing”?

What happened?

Two students (down from four at first) were suspended from Riverhead High School, because they kneeled in a hallway, in a stunt and/or tribute related to Tim Tebow, who kneels on the football field.

Is suspension appropriate?

It is ridiculous for these students to be suspended.  Suspension is not a good penalty for students. It only deprives students of educational time. Truly “bad kids” are glad to be suspended and miss school. Suspension should only be used when all other methods have failed.

In addition, it is foolish to act like the Tebowing incident was a big safety problem. Principal David Wicks’ premise is that if there was a fire drill, it would be difficult to clear the hallway. He must be thinking about how fast him and his adult knees could get up. A bunch of 17 and 18 year-olds could pop up pretty quickly if need be.

There are huge problems with punishing these students. It is definitely suppressing their freedom of expression (Freedom of Speech). And, if the action had any religious overtones for any of them, it is suppressing their Freedom of Religion. It is not enough for the principal and the superintendent of schools to assert that the action was not religious.

It is also disconcerting that some — but not all — of the participants were suspended. The school district went after the organizers of the event. That strategy is the way the NYPD and other unfair, government agencies, go after the leaders of demonstrations. It is a trick to keep any dissent or free-thinking stifled, and to go after future leaders.

Whose responsibility is it to make the hallways at Riverhead High School Safe?

If the hallways at Riverhead High School are so crowded, that teenagers cannot joke around, kneel down, or make a scene once in awhile, then the hallways of Riverhead High School need to be made more safe by the administration. The principal and the school board should be in trouble for putting students in an overcrowded situation, where any movement out of the norm becomes a potential fire hazard. The principal and school board could use building use or scheduling strategies to alleviate the problem that is their responsibility to fix. And, the community could help by figuring out how to better fund and design schools to meet the developmental needs of the empowered young people in their midst.

Better Solutions

The principal of Riverhead High School could still turn this situation around. Like the government which needs to listen to the occupiers, this school district needs to listen to its students. Why was this maneuver so interesting to them? Is there a level of boredom with their school work? Should Performance Art be added as a class? Is football a distraction? (And, if so, should the school deal with that by allowing football connections and art in the school and/or giving all the students more outside-the-day opportunities to celebrate something that motivates and interests them?)

Listening sessions with the students who participated would be highly desirable. Though, those listening sessions won’t work, if there are punishments on the table.

As for the students that led this event…a good educator would zoom in on them. A good educator would realize the potential of those students to achieve great things. Those students should be put into a leadership seminar. Those students should be given classes or assignments to understand the power of ideas and leadership. And, someone should find a project for them that will better help the school and/or outside community.

Part of the problem with Long Island and the suburbs, is that things are very homogenized, and life moves along in a fairly boring, status quo way. The Tebowing students at Riverhead High School created a cultural event that attracted attention and started a dialogue. That was an excellent development. And, if the school leaders can let go of their first, bad reaction, and open their eyes, perhaps great good can come from this situation.

(excerpt from) Huffington Post
Tebowing Suspensions: Riverhead High School Student Athletes Suspended

Visitors to can see images from around the world of people striking the signature pose — going down on one knee and putting head in hand — made famous by Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. There is a picture of someone “Tebowing” in Grand Central Station in Manhattan, Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn “Tebowing” after finishing first in a major ski event and even someone doing it the Forbidden City in China.

It seems like Tebowing has been embraced everywhere… except for Riverhead High School in Long Island, N.Y.

Despite the fact that the “No Fun League” didn’t penalize Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch for Tebowing over Tebow after a sack, this sort of behavior has drawn a harsh penalty at a New York high school. Four student athletes at Riverhead High were suspended after staging a Tebowing session in a school hallway…


The Actual Video, Stats and Comments

The question of the punishment of the Riverhead Tebowing students is the Yahoo poll for today! Pretty good attention-getting for a bunch of high school students. The video is posted at at least two local, Riverhead newspapers. At one posting there are over 50,000 views, and at the other one there are over 90,000 views. The video is fun to watch. And, I noticed how interesting it was for the young men to try to show an expression of reverence. I think the modeling they are doing – without exactly getting it – of someone’s spiritual tribute, is another hidden benefit of this practice that local educators entirely overlooked.



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Bonus Video: Harry Chapin’s Song “Flowers Are Red” muses on the topic of students, creativity, and punishment:


One Response

  1. It wasn’t real clear, but I got the impression that the kids were suspended for there actions around the incident, and for repeatedly doing it. A lot of kids did it, but these didn’t stop, and in did more the just “Tebow.”

    I do agree is seems excessive and inappropriate punishment, but then again I don’t know what really happened.

    To me the whole think seems absurd, that anyone thinks any kind of god supports one football team over another. And fake prayer seems only a little less harmful than real prayer towards education. :)

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