Letter: Honor code enforcement shuns due process

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Thanks to Edgar Allen Beem for last week’s commentary. That a Yarmouth High School student was apparently interrogated and sentenced by school authorities for an honor-code violation without representation – all based on a Facebook photo submitted by an anonymous source – looks like a case of a well-intended system led astray by an overzealous administrator.

High school students (and their parents) in our state are essentially forced to sign honor codes if they want to participate in extracurricular activities, ceding unusual authority of enforcement to school administrators. I’m no lawyer, but if schools in Maine see fit to play the role of judge and jury for our young people, they could at least provide some other basic access to due process.

I’m the father of a senior at Yarmouth High, and I am not ignorant of violations of the school’s honor code, mostly based on hearsay. (For the record, my daughter’s high school career has been exactly 100 times more virtuous than my own – and that’s not hearsay.) I’ve also been informed of instances in Yarmouth where enforcement of the honor code was, at best, selective.

What messages are we sending? The system is clearly broken. I think Michael Waxman, the student’s attorney, is correct to call for an open forum on Yarmouth’s honor code. A high school student’s participation in extracurricular activities is a privilege, not a right, but that shouldn’t mean school administrators get a “pass” on due process and basic fairness.

Keith Kreisher