Whatever happened to the "morals clause" in service and employment contracts? How is it that a high school principal can get sloshed, climb behind the wheel of car, get arrested for drunken driving, then convicted for the same, and still keep his job? Indeed, how is it that the man is perversely lauded for providing his students with a "teachable moment"?
What Jon Gregory, principal of Forest Hills Northern High School, taught his students this week is that a bad act may have consequences, but one of those consequences doesn't have to be taking personal responsibility for it. The police may arrest you, the media may report what you did, and the judge may fine you or lock you up, but you certainly don't have to resign from your public office. Others may have the power to make you account for what you did, but you don't have to make yourself pay for your malfeasance.
This is the substance of Gregory's "teachable moment" after he was arrested last November for drunken driving and pled guilty to it on Tuesday in Rockford District Court. He has been hailed for his honesty in revealing his arrest to the Forest Hills school board last year and his impending trial to Northern's staff and students last Friday. Well, I'm not sure how much virtue there is in being honest about a matter that is public knowledge. I do know, however, that the integrity of making yourself personally accountable for your misdeeds is virtuous. I do know that such integrity probably demands that you resign your office for violating an important public trust -- i.e., setting an example of character for our children -- because it is simply not enough to roll the dice on whether anyone else will hold you accountable.
The bottom line is that the students of Forest Hills Northern have learned this from Gregory: Have no shame for your bad acts. It is enough to be honest and declare mistakes were made, but let's not drag integrity into this mess. If outside forces make you pay, sobeit. But you don't have to make yourself pay. Why should you? If what you did wasn't too heinous, possibly no one will make you pay much for what you did. So why make certain you will pay through your own actions?
We do not ask too much of a high school principal to have the shame to resign for drunken driving, especially when that dangerous behavior is one far too many high school students indulge in. If Gregory hasn't either the decency or the commonsense to know that by holding onto to his office, he is clearly communicating to his charges that drunken driving really isn't that serious of a thing, then the Forest Hills school board should supply that decency and commonsense. Unfortunately, while none of this is too much to ask, it is too much to expect these days of public servants.