Final Exam Narrative Question

1. Prepare for your final exam. You will only be able to enter the exam once, so please make sure you have time to complete the exam once you enter.

Begin to prepare for the Final Exam. It may consist of MC and/or T/F, and one essay question with several components. The essay question counts as 50 points. Note however there are several questions in the situational problem. The exam covers all modules, especially modules since the midterm exam (Modules 5-7) and . However, since test questions are retrieved from a test bank, some questions may cover material covered earlier. The essay is considered inclusive of much of your learning in the course. While the exam is open resource, study of the material will be required.  The link below has information regarding your essay question. I suggest you download the document and begin working on your response.

A Case Study

Directions for responding to this case study are listed in bold below. Your narrative response is due during the same timeframe as the objective section of your final exam. Your narrative response will comprise 50% of your total final exam grade.

Case Study: Senior Shirts

Journal of Cases in Educational Leadership, by David L. Stader



The final two months of the senior year in high school are an emotionally charged time that can be a significant challenge for both students and school personnel.  School personnel often struggle to balance an emerging independence with the need to maintain order.  This balance is difficult and issues that on the surface seem simple or mundane have the potential to become lighting rods for controversy.  

Case Narrative

Deep in thought, Sidney James turned and looked out the window of his office.  This was Sidney’s fifth year as principal of Riverboat High School (RHS) and he typically enjoyed the end of school rituals.  However, as he looked out the window, he had to agree that this group of seniors had been a real challenge.  The final straw occurred in February.  During a snow break, several seniors loaded up in two or three cars and drove the eight hours to New Orleans for Mardi Gras.  Unfortunately, the local snowstorms quickly dissipated and district schools reopened before the students returned.  The fact that school was in session had little impact on the dozen or so seniors in New Orleans, and they decided to stay for a few more days.  Apparently, the parents of this group sent them more money and condoned their “senior trip” in spite of the fact that one of the young men managed to get arrested by the New Orleans police and charged with underage drinking.  The group returned as heroes and heroines to the rest of their senior class and as villains to the staff.  Sidney was bound by policy to mark their absences as unexcused, much to the dissatisfaction of several of the students’ parents.

Sidney’s thoughts were interrupted as Frank Smith, a long time social studies teacher at RHS, entered his office.  Sidney turned in his chair, “Hello, Frank, what’s up?”

“Have you seen THE SENIOR SHIRTS?” shouted Frank Smith without preamble.

Sidney noticed that Frank’s face was flushed and that he was beside himself with anger.  “No, Frank, I have not,” replied Sidney, “Please tell me about the shirts.”

“You won’t believe it,” sighed Frank, his anger quickly dissipating.  “Good luck with this one.  This group really does need to graduate soon.”  With this parting comment, Frank left the office, presumably to the teachers’ lounge to lament about the senior shirts.

Sidney sighed and started toward the hallway to find a senior shirt.  “Senior shirts” had been a long tradition at RHS.  Each year the senior class designed a tee shirt, collected money from other seniors, and contracted with a local company to screen print shirts for the senior class.  When Sidney first came to Riverboat, the shirts were relatively simple items, but had become more complex and expensive over the last few years.

Sidney soon found a senior.  The front of the shirt was simple enough.  It read SENIORS 2001 and, in script, “The Best is Yet to Come.”  So far, so good, thought Sidney.  He asked the student to turn around.  As she turned, Sidney saw the problem.  On the back of the shirt was a purple, green and gold Mardi Gras mask.  Under the mask was the slogan “GOODBYE RHS: BURN IN HELL.”  In the background Sidney could make out a figure, clearly female, tied to a cross with flames enveloping the lower torso.

“That’s an interesting shirt,” Sidney said.  “Who designed it?”  The student just smiled and said, “I don’t know.”  After a short pause, the student stated, “I am not disrupting school.  It is my right to wear this shirt.”  A smug smile crossed her face.

The student’s response had been rehearsed.  Sidney was sure of that.  A mother of one of the Mardi Gras students had been the ringleader behind the complaints to the board about the unexcused absences for her son’s trip.  She had claimed that his reduced grade point average in senior math could be pivotal in an elite college’s decision to admit her son.  In spite of Sidney’s best efforts, this issue developed into an emotional confrontation with hurt feelings on all sides.

Sidney was fairly sure the mother was behind the shirts, and he intuitively knew he would have to be careful.  He returned to his office to think.  He saw several choices.  Sending them home to change shirts was an obvious choice.  However, Sidney knew that if he sent the entire senior class home to change, chaos would likely prevail.  He could just visualize the parent meetings, the superintendent’s reaction, the local news media, and of course the anticipated parental challenge at the next school board meeting.  He could let them have their fun today, and then ban the shirts.  This seemed to be the best compromise, but was it a good idea?  He could meet with several of the student leaders of this class and appeal to their sensibility.  But how would they respond?

Sidney knew that in the past seniors had rarely worn their shirts after “Senior Shirt Day.”  He also knew from his school law class that the disruption created by controversial tee shirts usually resulted after the shirts were banned and not by the shirts themselves.  Sidney also realized that he could simply do nothing, which would minimize any planned confrontation.

Susan Johnson, his assistant principal for the past three years, knocked on the door with an apologetic, “May I come in?”  Sidney nodded and pointed to a chair. S idney had come to respect Susan’s opinions and now was a good time to listen.  “What do you think, Susan?” asked Sidney.

Susan leaned back, took a deep breath.  “I think we need to be careful.  I know how hard you have tried, but a lot of hurt feelings remain on all sides.  Several teachers are already unhappy with this class.  You saw Frank’s reaction.  They see these shirts as another challenge to our authority and a final slap at them.  They seem to think that we can ban any student expression that is offensive to them.  You and I both know that several parents are behind these shirts.  Any attempt on our part to ban them will most likely result in another battle before the board.  I think we need to consider if the board is up to another ordeal with this group.  I suspect you are considering meeting with several senior leaders.  I am not sure, but from what I have heard, their parents are also behind this.”

Sidney smiled, “Good thinking, Susan. I don’t know what to do, but you have convinced me that this could get way out of control.  Let’s think logically for a minute.  We could list our options, decide which ones are legally, logically, and politically defensible, choose the best course from these options, and then decide how to implement the decision.  Let’s think….”

1. List the pros and cons of each of the options listed in the case.  Are there any other options?

2. Balancing student rights to free expression and school officials’ responsibility to maintain good order and discipline is often difficult.  How should Sidney and Susan reconcile these two competing principles?

3. What United States Supreme Court cases are pertinent to this discussion?

4. Consider the following possible legal issues surrounding the shirts.

a. What are the expression rights of the students?  Would prohibiting the shirts violate First Amendment rights?  What case law can be referenced?

b. Would the prohibiting of the shirts deprive the seniors of property without due process?  What case law can be referenced?

c. Does the T-shirt contain political speech?  Do the shirts undermine school authority?  Does any desire to prohibit the T-shirts arise from something more than the desire to avoid discomfort?

d. Are the shirts lewd or indecent or do they simply convey a critical message that school officials do not want to hear?

e. Does the shirt constitute a threat?  Do the shirts encourage or contribute to school disruption? What about the background figure?  Could the background figure, obviously female, create a hostile environment?

Compose a two-page narrative (double spaced, one-inch margins, 12 point, Times New Roman font) that addresses the following questions/prompts.  Incorporate your responses into your narrative (in other words, do not list a question, then an answer, but instead incorporate your responses so that your narrative flows).  Paste your narrative into the section designated for it on the final exam. The formatting my change when you paste into eCollege exam – do not be concerned. If yu did well in the midterm exam, you only require half the marks here to get a good grade.