Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

June 6, 2013

A clear message for AHS class of 2013

The Andover Townsman

---- — Congratulations to the 456 graduates of Andover High School’s class of 2013.

By all accounts, the class was filled with shining standouts who excelled in all areas — from academics to athletics, from the arts to technology.

As family and friends looked on, they were sent off from the Tsongas Arena in Lowell Monday night to begin the next chapter in their lives, backed by the strong foundation of an Andover education — an education that is held in high regard throughout the region and beyond.

For many families, the Andover public school system is the reason they move to town and choose to raise their children here — the reason why they could be overcome with pride this week as they watched their now young adults accept their diplomas and toss their caps into the air.

But this year’s graduates were not the only young adults making headlines in the days leading up to commencement.

Last week, three Andover teens were seriously injured when the car they were driving in crashed into a tree on Elm Street.

For the second time in just shy of a year, the teenage driver, a 2012 graduate of Andover High, was charged with drunken driving. Following a stay in the hospital, he was sent to jail for 60 days. His two passengers, local young men as well, are being summonsed on cocaine possession charges.

While we don’t know what caused the accident or what transpired in the hours and minutes before it, the evidence collected by public safety officials at least suggests destructive behavior was at play.

It’s precisely the type of behavior Andover High School Principal Chris Lord has been working to combat since stepping into the leadership role last year.

During his first year on the job, Breathalyzers have found their way into school dances and even the Junior/Senior Prom. An Andover police officer is a daily presence at the high school.

From the start, Lord has come out and said inappropriate, much less illegal, behavior, will not be tolerated at Andover High.

It’s a cultural shift for many within the high school community. And it’s one that Lord has taken some heat for — particularly over his recent decision to suspend 20 students, primarily seniors who violated an agreement to forego the traditional last lap through the high school on the final day of classes. As punishment, they were forced to miss the first day of senior week activities.

Some argue the decision was heavy-handed. But as adults, we must at least respect Lord for sticking to his convictions. We may not agree with the ground rules he set. But we can’t argue that once those rules are in place, and clearly communicated, there should be consequences when they are blatantly disregarded.

Sure, we should raise our children to voice their thoughts and opinions in areas where they object. But as adults, we also know our bosses typically have the last say. We can make a case, we can disagree, but if we value our jobs, we must accept the final decisions that are made.

That lesson will only serve Andover High’s class of 2013 well as they embark on the greater world. And it sends a message to future AHS classes of what will be expected of them in the years to come.