Monday, June 19, 2017

Lacking Common Sense

The young woman looked nervous as she knocked on the window of my classroom door. “Excuse me, class,” I said as I stepped out to speak. She was a former student and substituting in the next classroom.
“A boy is throwing things at other students. He won’t stop, and he refuses to go to the principal’s office. Can you help me?”

“Sure,” I said. The boy wouldn’t make eye contact when I entered the room. Every other student did though, waiting to see what would happen.
“Bobby,” I said (not his real name). “Miss Fellows told you to go to the principal’s office and now I’m telling you.” He just sat there, still not making eye contact. “Bobby,” I repeated, “Maine law say that if a student is a danger to others and refuses to leave the classroom, the teacher can use the necessary force to remove him. Now I’m telling you again to go down to the principal’s office.”

That got no response either.

“I’m going to count to three. If you’re not moving at three, I’ll move you. One, two, th…”
He got up, went out the door, and headed for the stairs. I picked up the wall phone and called down to say Bobby was on his way. “Thank you,” said Miss Fellows.

“You’re welcome,” I said, then returned to my classroom and forgot about it.

The following Monday, Jim Underwood, the principal, came into my room during my free period. I liked Jim. He was a very effective administrator. “Tell me what happened with Bobby,” he said, because he’d been out of town when I dealt with the incident and had appointed another teacher as acting principal. I filled him in.
“If you had removed him,” Jim said, “I would not have backed you up.”

That surprised me. Like I said, Jim was a good principal, one of the best I ever worked with. “Jim,” I said. “That is state law. I have a copy in my briefcase.”
“I know it is,” he said, “but the courts are interpreting it differently now.”

“So, if I wasn’t to remove him, what was I supposed to do?”

“Call the police.”
“You’re kidding,” I said.


“That’s crazy. I’m supposed to leave two classrooms full of students sitting on their hands and wait for the cops because of one disruptive student?”
“Yup. That’s what they’re telling us now.”

Bobby went to the office on his own because he knew I wasn’t bluffing. Calling the police would ruin half a day for about fifty students and at least two teachers. Clearly, things were getting much too complicated and I wondered how long I could continue in the teaching profession.
In July of last year a similar case came before our newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch, when he was on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. A middle school boy in New Mexico had disrupted class by generating fake burps. He wouldn’t stop and was sent into the hall, but he kept opening the door to “let out a giggling belch” as the Daily Signal described it. Then:

“a school resource police officer placed the student under arrest ‘for interfering with the educational process.’ The 13-year-old then spent approximately one hour locked in a juvenile detention facility before he was released to the custody of his mother. He was never charged for his misbehavior.”
The boy’s mother filed suit claiming her son’s civil rights had been violated. This was an even less serious case than the one I dealt with because there was no danger from flying objects, yet the student had been arrested and incarcerated, however briefly. Ten years had passed and the teaching profession had continued its decline. A minor incident became a federal case and made it to a high court, which, in a 94-page ruling decided in the school’s favor. 
Gorsuch wrote only four pages in dissent. According to the Daily Signal again: “Gorsuch . . . explain[ed] that a reasonable police officer should have understood that arresting a ‘class clown for burping was going a step too far.’”

Gorsuch concluded that: “the statutory language on which the officer relied for the arrest in this case does not criminalize ‘noise[s] or diversion[s]’ that merely ‘disturb the peace or good order’ of individual classes.”
Referring to his colleagues on the 10th Circuit, he said: “Often enough the law can be ‘a ass—a idiot,’” quoting Charles Dickens, “and there is little we judges can do about it, for it is (or should be) emphatically our job to apply, not rewrite, the law enacted by the people’s representatives. In this particular case, I don’t believe the law happens to be quite as much of a ass as they do.”

Common sense is often a misnomer when applied to educational and judicial practice these days, and it’s refreshing to have a Supreme Court justice willing to point that out.


Anonymous said...

In a rare event, I am going to agree with you. We need to be able to enforce order in our classrooms. Calling the police to remove an unruly student seems a bit ridiculous.

Brian said...

Ditto. It looks like you found a topic that we can all agree on!

Marty said...

I never even heard of the term School Resources Officer until well after I left school. there certainly was not one in Rye elementary, or in any of the Catholic schools I attended and not even in that crappy Jr High I went to in Baltimore, it is one of those Orwellian terms like law enforcement officer that replaced cops or peace officers.

School Resources Officer, sounds like a job that would be held by some frumpy old lady who you would go to for more pencils or toner for the mimeograph, I mean really what resources are really provided? and to whom.

Schools with armed uniformed police and metal detectors, ready to pounce on a student who accidentally leaves a butter knife in his truck bed after moving a friend under some zero tolerance policy gotta Enforce The Law, right? (Actually happened) are we raising generations of independent minded thinkers, or acclimating drones who will kowtow to authority, creating a populace that no longer has individualism creating servants of the state. Right out of Brave New World

Acclimatizing the youth of America to accept without question the New Normal of proto totalitarianism, making it that much easier to implement real totalitarianism, sadly public schools have become nothing more than indoctrination centers for the radical Marxist left

Brian said...

As a huge liberal, I hope I don't run into any of those awful sounding radical marxist leftists!

Actually, I think the cause of a lot of this nonsense are dippy parents who have brought law suits against schools for simply touching their perfect little children. And don't tell me all these parents are leftists, because I know for a fact that they are not. This is not a partisan issue. What are schools and teachers do do with the threat of a lawsuit hanging over them? So now we are stuck with the police being called in because of smelly farts or whatever. I think school discipline was much easier in the past because for the most part parents taught their children to respect their teachers, and if they heard otherwise the parents would help the teachers take care of the matter. Now many parents jump onto the sides of their little angels and lash out at the school when an incident occurs.

Don't worry Marty, step into modern schools and you will be reassured that we are certainly not creating students who kowtow to authority.

Anonymous said...

Announced you were going to count to three?

Tom McLaughlin said...

It worked, didn't it? It usually did. Not always though. I've had to physically move students, but early in my career. When I say it, I fully intend to do it, and students sense that. Bluffing doesn't work. Recalcitrant students sense that right away -- in teachers, parents, step-parents, significant others, etc. They're masters as it.

Jared Bristol said...

Tom, I'm not sure of which way you stand here. Your stance is not clear to me. As a middle school teacher myself, I can tell you that discipline, and thus respect for authority, is sorely lacking in our schools and was even at my retirement in 1999. Kids absolutely must "mind". I don't care if we, the teachers, physically remove them or if the police are called. They do not have the right to disrupt the learning of the rest of the students. To mandate, for instance, that a disruptive, unruly kid must be included in a class and can't be "punished" for his/her disabling condition is beyond ludicrous. Let me be quite clear: kids must behave as if they're normal even if their not. Period. It worked very well in my classes. The liberals are destroying education along with the rest of our society.

Anonymous said...

"It worked, didn't it? It usually did"
Meh, I suppose so.
I gave a father friend crap about that once.
He told me he only actually go to "three"....ONCE.
The FIRST time.

Anonymous said...

It usually works. But what should a teacher do in a situation where the student physically fights back and is a better fighter than the teacher? And then when the cops arrive, the student says that they were fooling around in class and the teacher attacked them for no good reason and it was self defense. And then the other students supported their fellow students story.

People need to be trained to use physical force. Untrained people trying to physically force compliance can lead to bad things.

In a related topic, according to the PEW Research Center over half of Republicans feel that higher education is bad for America.