School is out and graduation day has passed, but sentiments about a senior prank gone wrong still resonate in my in-basket.
I've received more than four dozen emails from readers since 51 Heritage High School students were suspended and barred from commencement for defacing school grounds, stealing school property and leaving a spray-painted lamb tied to a signpost.
Almost uniformly, the writers commended the school for handing down discipline. All but two thought the punishment fit the crime. The vast majority stressed that students deserved what they got because they'd been explicitly warned against pulling such stunts.
But here's what was surprising: Readers directed their harshest criticism not toward the teenagers but their parents, whom they characterized as enablers.
"Their parents are a big part of the problem in terms of lack of accountability," wrote one.
"I think it's important not to let quailing parents continue to enable their babies to get away with cruelty and thoughtlessness," wrote another.
Several parents of suspended students decried Principal Larry Oshodi's discipline as too harsh, but it was a smaller group that took the case to court that came in for the greatest criticism.
Those parents hired attorney Peter Johnson to petition Contra Costa County Superior Court to force the Liberty Union School District to rescind the suspensions. Judge David Flinn declined to do so, but the legal
Opinions came from all locales -- Brentwood, Danville, Moraga, Antioch, Martinez, Walnut Creek and beyond -- many from readers with no connection to Heritage. Some don't even know where the school is located. What they shared was disdain for parents' litigious efforts to spare their youngsters any punishment.
"Lawsuits by parents who just don't get it," a reader wrote. "They could have taught their kids so much more by telling them what they did was wrong, no matter how harmless the intentions."
"How can these students learn that one's actions carry responsibility if their parents apparently don't understand the concept?" asked another.
And another: "The parents going to court will send a great message to these young people that you can do whatever you want going through life without consequences."
Two emailers who identified themselves as teachers said coddling parents are as much to blame for students' misbehavior as any other influence. An administrator explained classroom misconduct can often be traced to permissiveness at home.
Another writer embellished: "We are doing young people a big disservice by being too lenient. They think they can get away with anything later in the workplace."
Taken as a whole, the tone was, well, depressing. If the children are our future, you'd rather not learn that poor parenting is turning them into miscreants. One writer thought the episode was symptomatic of an "epidemic of entitlement."
Epidemic may be an overstatement. It's dangerous to paint with a broad brush. The vast majority of Heritage seniors broke no rules and graduated as expected.
I'd like to think that those who were punished learned a lesson that will benefit them later.
Even if they didn't learn it from their parents.
Contact Tom Barnidge at email@example.com.