Tue, July 23

Counterpoint: Mingus badge issue is about public shaming, not entitlement

Kelcie Grega

Kelcie Grega

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona challenge against Mingus Union over student color-coded badges sheds light on something far more problematic than an entitlement vs. privilege debate.

The policy, which was implemented this year, requires students and staff to wear color-coded credentials during the day that represent the school’s color scheme. Freshmen and sophomores wear red while juniors and seniors wear gray badges.

The badges also indicate who gets out-to-lunch privileges. “True” juniors and seniors, meaning upperclassmen who have earned enough credit hours toward graduation, get to leave campus for lunch.

Students who have not earned enough credits toward graduation are issued red badges, even if they have been attending the school for three or more years.

In a Jan. 4 commentary, Editor Dan Engler argues that gray badges are an earned privilege.

“Gray badges are not an entitlement at Mingus just because you’ve been going to school there for three or more years,” he wrote. “Gray badges allow legitimate upperclassmen to leave campus during the school lunch hour, a privilege they have earned.”

But the ACLU isn’t arguing that it is discriminatory to only allow out-to-lunch privileges to certain students -- it’s about invasion of students’ privacy.

In a Dec. 28 letter, Kathleen Brody, legal director for the organization’s Arizona chapter, argues that the “scarlet” badges “divulge educational achievement level to students, teachers, school administrators and the public.”

Administrators say that the badges help ensure school security.

Mingus principal and acting superintendent Genie Gee said in an email the Verde Independent that “the notion that we would issue a scarlet badge in an attempt to shame our young people is in direct conflict with the very message of love, hope, and optimism that we vigorously promote.”

It’s probably safe to assume that the Mingus board and administrators aren’t intentionally trying to violate students’ privacy. The public shaming is simply a byproduct of their security policy. Nonetheless, the policy should still be amended.

A student’s poor academic achievement can be caused by a multitude of reasons including behavior, illness or even a learning disability. Whether a student’s lack of credits is their fault or not, it certainly shouldn’t be advertised to the rest of the student body and staff.

It may be hyperbolic for the ACLU to characterize these badges as ‘scarlet’ as they do in their letter, but the apparent allusion to the fictional character, Hester Prynne, who is forced to wear a scarlet letter ‘A’ to shame her for having a child out of wedlock, isn’t too far off base.

I would wager I’m at least a decade younger than most of the administration at Mingus. I remember high school better than I’d like to and recall it mostly being a fascist enclave.

Compound that with a policy that divulges academic performance, you’re left with a system that fails its students.