Cortney Stewart col sig

Cortney Stewart


You know how every kid wants a puppy at some stage in their early childhood? They beg. They plead. They make astronomical promises that they could never actually keep.

And every parent at one point says no. The reasoning is almost always the same. Kids want the puppy. Kids want to play with the puppy and snuggle with the puppy and sleep with the puppy. Kids don’t want to clean up after the puppy and feed the puppy and walk the puppy in the pouring rain or the 90 degree heat.

Who ends up doing all the actual duties that keep said puppy alive? Parents. The parents end up doing all of the things. And so parents say no. No puppy. Not until you are older and you can learn some responsibility, young lady.

That word: responsibility. It’s so loaded. We throw it around and generally assume that the issue of responsibility lies with whichever party we are currently in conflict with. Responsibility is difficult to own.

We impress on our kids the importance of responsibility. It’s why we don’t buy them puppies every year for Christmas despite all the begging. We know the facts — kids, by and large, struggle to learn responsibility. It’s part of being a kid.

And teaching them responsibility? Upon whom does that giant task lie?

Well, the adults, of course. It’s why kids aren’t parents and grandparents and teachers and community leaders.

Kids need to be shown how to be responsible. They need role models to lead them. They need examples to follow.

Kids today struggle a lot with responsibility. It’s always somebody else’s fault; somebody else’s problem. And its our job as the loving adults in their lives to help them understand that, most likely, that simply isn’t the case.

The problem is that their examples are struggling a bit, too. We adults have a responsibility problem.

Case in point: the Citrus County School Board is about to shell out over a quarter of a million dollars, $343,000, to be exact, replacing iPads that were damaged or not returned to the Board at the end of last semester. That’s $343,000 worth of technology equipment that was leased under a contractual agreement between parents and the School Board. According to School Board officials, 24% of the near 17,000 iPads were returned damaged and 10% were simply not returned at all.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is theft.

If I borrow my friend’s car and don’t return it, that’s stealing. Period. Plain and simple.

The problem here is two-fold. First, our school system has enough up-hill battles to climb. The massive logistical nightmare of trying to hold face-to-face school in the middle of a pandemic is enough added stress for one school year. Our kids need to be in the classroom. They need the social interaction and the live instruction. Having said that, our school system also realized the essential need to provide accessible and solid education for those who choose to keep their kids at home during this tumultuous and ambiguous time. They’re doing both. And that’s kind of like running two school systems at the same time. It’s kind of a big deal.

What that means is that a $343,000 hit is the last thing our schools needed right now. That’s a lot of cash that could have and should have been directed toward other projects.

The second problem is a bit more long-term in its reach. It’s that pesky issue of responsibility. Kids follow the examples they’re given. When we don’t return something simple like a leased iPad from our school district or we return it damaged without picking up the tab, we’re instilling beliefs and values that will guide our kids well into adulthood.

They walk away feeling entitled to do whatever they want with no fear of the consequences. And that’s a downhill slope that goes nowhere good really quickly.

I’m sure that there are a lot of reasons why the iPads are missing or damaged. And I know they’re pricey. But if we want our kids to be responsible adults who recognize the consequences of their actions, they need to be led by example.

The Citrus County School Board is as innovative as they come, particularly for a small district. The use of iPads for student learning is a brilliant step forward. But those programs can’t last if they aren’t sustainable. And at a rate of over a quarter of a million dollars a year, this one won’t be.

Cortney Stewart is a 2003 graduate of Lecanto High School. She has bachelor’s degrees in political science and international affairs, a master’s degree in intercultural studies and is currently working on her Ph.D. in international conflict management. She most recently spent two years teaching and training students, teachers and government officials in Baghdad, Iraq. Email her at