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‘Food fight’ principal who curbed graduation taught kids some lesson

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

EDITORIAL : A Paramus principal who curbed graduation because of a cafeteria food fight taught kids a valuable lesson: Adults can be mean, petty and vindictive.


When a drill instructor makes the entire squad OF ADULTS responsible for the behavior of a few, they are told so up front. The first time one clown makes them all pay is usually the last.

But when a young group of hellcats starts flinging condiments, there isn’t much the innocent can do except bolt (if allowed) or take cover. Still, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition.

“Animal House” was about a bunch of college frat boys — who, at the time, were legally considered adults. In this case, to punish children who neither participated nor condoned what happened last week — and then stereotype 180 kids as “warped” — irresponsibly taints the future of youngsters whose dreams should be larger than Diaz’s ego.

Ten seconds of poor judgment — by kids just entering their teens, no less — wipes out what should have been be a fond memory from this morning for countless students, families, friends and other loved ones, all because of misplaced anger over what our children have become .

Please.

This is America, Oscar, where the punishment should fit the crime. You’re not suddenly going to civilize a society that seems out of hand by holding up these kids as examples. They’re in middle school, for heaven’s sake.

And if I’m not mistaken, yours is the school where tainted soil was found loaded with dangerous pesticides, parents weren’t notified until months later, and a reporter was arrested for trying to investigate it.

Jerry DeMarco Publisher/Editor

You’re also the folks who sent a 13-year-old home for dressing up as Jesus Christ for Halloween two years ago.

Why didn’t you off the air conditioning and make the little monsters walk across hot coals to get their diplomas? Then, once they collected their diplomas, make ‘em bend over? You could have given each a hard whack with a paddle.

(Maybe I shouldn’t have written that. From the looks of things, it might appeal to Der Kommissar.)

If my kid attended that school, you can be sure I’d have sought an injunction keeping this supposedly responsible adult from enacting such arbitrary, widespread revenge.

I extend culpability to the Paramus and Bergen County superintendents, the Paramus Board of Education and the state Department of Education. Silence means approval. And they’ve done nothing to stop him.

Oscar Diaz says all of the West Brook Middle School eighth-graders didn’t deserve the same graduation as others.

And he doesn’t deserve his job.

Because of him — not the kids — “Pomp and Circumstance” wasn’t played during this morning’s commencement at Paramus High School. Youngsters didn’t get to deliver their speeches. Most iimportantly, there was no opportunity for the entire group to learn and grow from what happened.

And there will be more punishment tomorrow. A special fun day has been replaced with a routine day of classes.

Take one guess which one of the school officials got caught in the crossfire of airborne ketchup, mustard and mayo?

Yep. Oscar. Oscar. Oscar Oscar Oscar.

Diaz portrayed himself as a good guy betrayed by young’ins who, he insists, must learn that “bad“ behavior has consequences. And some parents, teachers and administrators actually bought it. “ We need to teach these kids that they aren’t entitled, that they can’t get away with murder…. ” Or something like that.

No, Vlad, we need to give the universe’s children the attention, nurturing and support each of them needs — ESPECIALLY when he or she makes a mistake.

It would have been fairly simple to require some form of community service this summer in order to obtain a diploma. Those without one can’t get into high school.

Or if he insisted on emulating the Soup Nazi, Diaz could have required each kid receiving a diploma to step up to the microphone this morning and say: “I personally would like to apologize for my class’ actions the other day.” The message would have come through loud and clear. Together, everyone would have benefitted.

What the principal doesn’t understand is that punishment without rehabilitation is useless.

There was a time, some have recently said, when kids respected their teachers. Then came Elvis and James Dean, OK? The Stones. Alice Cooper. Eminem. Let’s get real, folks.

A relative of Paramus Schools Superintendent James Montesano was my principal in grade school in North Bergen. He was known as a guy who wouldn’t take any guff. If you heard the familiar finger-snap in the hallway, you had better be on your way into class — or dive through the nearest window. And if you got him riled: duck!

But Mr. Montesano was always the first one there whenever a kid was in trouble, always the first one to speak with parents personally, always reflecting on what life as a schoolkid was like for him. He wouldn’t have even dreamed of this cockamamie punishment.

I can picture John “Bluto Blutarski” Belushi in “Animal House,“ stuffing his face with mashed potatoes and challenging his cafeteria tablemates: “See if you can guess what I am now.”

If he were Principal Diaz, the answer is simple.

A small man with a small mind.

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