November 12, 2003

Zero tolerance and bad police procedure

It never fails. If I had been here to post over the last three days, the testing/school/zero tolerance news would have been drier than dust. Because I left town, there were all sort of salacious developments. Luckily for all of us, people like Joanne Jacobs and Daryl Cobranchi were around to take up the slack.

For starters, Joanne has all the updates on the outrageous "drug raid" in Goose Creek, SC. As she reports, guns were drawn even before the police entered the school, and some kids were patted down and questioned about money in their wallets by the principal (free registration is required to read the article). Be sure to read the comments on Joanne's posting, especially the long one left by enraged reader Bob King (edited here for space reasons):

The cops apparently took a control-freak principal's WORD as to what the surveillance tapes meant and committed a full-out, consciously terrifying raid on a school, and [another commenter said] that the fact they were raiding for drugs justifies the fact that they did a drug raid in the most consciously intimidating and terrifying way imaginable?...

Here's a clue for you; while the school is "in loco parentus" and as such somewhat exempt, that's due to delegation of parential rights, and that which is delegated is subject to review. It's not an inherent right given to a school to excercise on a whim, nor is it a licence to violate natural rights, much less endanger the lives of children that delegation is intended to protect...

Yes, IF there is a reasonable appreciation that there ARE drugs AND those drugs are being dealt by dealers who are actually ARMED with something more lethal than a #2 pencil, THEN it might be reasonable to do that, IF THE BUILDING WASN'T UNDER COMPLETE SURVEILLANCE to record for posterity what kind of jackbooted IDIOTS are in charge of the freaking raid!...

My NRA training told me to never draw a weapon unless I was prepared to put a slug right in the center of mass RIGHT THAT SECOND. I was taught to PRESUME a drawn weapon to be a deadly threat, and to respond IMMEDIATELY to such a threat by putting two in the chest and one in the head.

Then they went back to the idea that you never, ever even TOUCH the butt of your gun unless it's your intention to ventilate someone if they so much as twitch.

What he said. Why would any kid want to return to a school in which it is patently obvious that the principal thinks of him as a criminal first, and a student second? I know if my principal was willing to approve armed raids on obviously-sketchy evidence, I'd be too afraid to walk back into the building.

Joanne's wrapups are always good - "The Ody brothers are black, like 70 of 107 students searched at the majority white school. The ACLU is investigating. It's going to be lawsuit time in Goose Creek, South Carolina."

(Update: Backcountry Conservative has more.)

Joanne and Daryl also posted on the newest "crime" in Zero Tolerance Land - the Crime of Posting Inappropriate Information on One's Private Weblog:

"Kill Alaina!"

The throwaway comment about an irritating friend is one that former Valley High School senior Wesley Juhl wishes he had never recorded in his blog, a personal Web site he used to chronicle daily life.

At the end of September, a month after he first posted it on his personal computer while in the privacy of his home, Juhl found himself sitting in the dean's office facing disciplinary action.

That journal statement, and another that included a vulgar comment about a teacher, earned Juhl an in-school suspension and a required parent conference. The disciplinary action also brought to light the fact that Juhl did not have a current zone variance to attend Valley. As a result, Juhl was sent to Chaparral High School, which is the school zone he resides in.

Juhl, 18, is still wondering what authority allowed the Clark County School District to punish him. His journal was not a school assignment and was not posted using a school computer or a school message board...

Juhl wasn't the only Valley student who landed in hot water because of comments recorded in a personal online journal. His friend, Valley senior Angie Scaduto, was called to the dean's office at the same time Juhl was.

She was questioned about one of her journal entries, which began: "I almost killed everyone today."

The entry went on to explain all the things that had gone wrong that day, she said, and wasn't a threat against anyone. She also was asked about things she'd written about her mother and the fact that she'd said she'd taken cold medicine during lunch one day at school.

"I kept asking, `What does this have to do with school?' " Scaduto said. "They never answered my question. I was completely shocked about it. They were my personal private thoughts and I was getting picked on for them."

Let's recap, shall we, before we go any further? These were personal postings on personal weblogs that these two students posted outside of school time, which had nothing to do with his school assignments and did not make use of school-owned hardware or software. Were the comments in bad taste? Yes, although any adult with IQ higher than that of mayonnaise knows that the phrase "I'd like to kill so-and-so" is often said with no murderous intent whatsoever. Did these postings to the Internet make Juhl and Scatudo's thoughts no longer as "private" as they believed? Yes. Does the fact that they attend a public school give that school the right to completely rescind their First Amendment Rights? Apparently so.

For some reason, this school, and some of the commenters on Joanne's blog, see nothing wrong with the idea of school administrators trolling the Internet for their students' weblogs, apparently in the hopes of finding even one tiny little phrase that offends their sensibilities. The concept that students might express rude or thoughtless phrases is apparently no longer acceptable regardless of whether the student is at school. That's absolutely appalling.

One of Joanne's commenters went with the "public decency" argument:

Should a student really be able to post vulgarities about a teacher in a public place with no fear of retribution from the school? Should you not be held responsible for what you do in public place (and what place is more public than the Internet?) when that reflects on the school?

It's like a kid saying "Hey, I can say or do anything I want over here about you in a very public manner, and YOU CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!" Like it or not, once that gets around, it can be disruptive to a school environment.

In other words, students don't have First Amendment rights, a student's behavior may be judged and/or punished by the school 24-7, and any student's expression is essentially owned by and reflective of the school.

Does no one see the slippery slope this creates? Today, we say that saying, "I'd like to kill this person" on your weblog justifies intervention and punishment, solely because of incidents like Columbine. So what thoughts will be unacceptable tomorrow? "I don't like my gay classmates"? "I hate my parents"? "I hope we invade every Muslim country in the Mideast"? Is there no space left whatsoever for students to remain unjudged by the terrified and terrorizing PC crowd?

I mean, I'm all for school discipline, but I do indeed believe that a kid can go out in public away from school and express their non-PC thoughts, and the school should not be able to do a damn thing about it.

Again, Joanne's summary is far more concise: "If students are making death threats or planning to start an antihistamine ring operating out of the girls' restroom, call the cops. (Preferably not the Goose Creek commando squad.) If teen-agers are rude, profane or "inappropriate" on their own time, it's none of the school's business."

Posted by kswygert at November 12, 2003 05:27 PM
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