March 2008 Ethics Dunces

Marina High School Administrators

It is a sound ethics principle that subsequent events will not retroactively justify or validate an act that was wrongful at its inception. But the principle does not mean that those subsequent events, if significant enough, cannot or should not eliminate the need to punish the wrongdoer. What if an individual is in the right place at the right time to avert a disaster and does so, but the reason she was there constitutes an infraction? Shouldn't the fair and appropriate reward be, at very least, the forgiveness of the original misdeed?

This ethics conundrum is apparently too complex for the administrators of Marina High School in Seaside, California. Even though Amanda Rouse, a 15 year-old student, jumped into the driver's seat and stopped a runaway school bus after the driver fell out the door ("You know your school bus driver is not too experienced when…"), she was punished by the school. It seems that she had broken the rules by being on the bus at all. Amanda had felt ill on the way to school, and flagged down the school bus to take her back to the bus yard. Because she never called in sick, the school punished her for skipping school. Never mind about that saving a bus-full of children from terror, injuries, and a blood crash stuff. Rules are rules, and Ethics Dunces are, unfortunately, frequently employed as school administrators.

Yes, skipping school is bad. Undoubtedly, the Marina High administrators (Mo, Larry and Curley) are concerned lest withholding punishment for one clear violation of the rules leads to a wave of sick students staying home without making phone calls. The Scoreboard would suggest that instead of punishing a brave young woman who exhibited quick thinking and coolness in crisis by steering a vehicle full of precious children to safety, the administrators could establish a "Runaway Bus Exception," which would hold that skipping school without a call to the school will henceforth be excused as long as the student subsequently stops a runaway bus.

Only if the student is really sick, of course.

An alternative solution is to let Amanda run the school and drive the school bus. Based on this incident, I think she would handle both jobs more responsibly than the adults currently entrusted with them.




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