If we are ever going to make progress in reforming the education system, we have to find ways to appeal to at least some members of the education profession. Often, teachers, administrators and school boards have distinct strategies. If we can appeal to a subset of educators, we have a better chance of success. Put another way, no school reform can possibly succeed, without the support of at least some members of the education establishment.
Here is a story that made my blood boil, as a parent. But it illustrates the point that there may be possibilities for reforms that appeal to at least some educators.This story provides an example: Bong Hits for Jesus was written on the banner produced by a high school student in Alaska. He held it up for the TV cameras when the Olympic Torch passed by. His principal saw the banner, ripped it down and suspended the student for ten days. As parent and an educator and a person of common sense, I applaud the principal for disciplining this kid. Naturally, a lawsuit happened:
(The student) was off school property when he hoisted the banner but was suspended for violating school policy by promoting illegal substances at a school-sanctioned event.
The school board upheld the suspension, and a federal judge initially dismissed Frederick's lawsuit. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the banner was vague and nonsensical, and that Frederick's civil rights had been violated....
The appeals court said even if the banner could be construed as a positive message about marijuana use, the school could not punish or censor a student's speech just because it promotes a social message contrary to one the school favors.
And for her trouble, the principal, Deborah Morse, ( no relation) may end up facing fines.
The court is expected to hear arguments in the case in late February. In addition to the First Amendment issue, the court also will consider whether Morse can be held personally liable for monetary damages.
Morse, now the district's coordinator of facilities planning, said, “I think it's important for school administrators all across the country to have some guidance in how to enforce school rules at school activities without risking liability.”
So here is what some smart conservative advocate of school reform should suggest: come up with legislation giving immunity to school administrators from lawsuits. In any other profession, the professionals are given the room to make judgements and use their discretion. In education, professionals have the courts breathing down their necks, second-guessing their decisions and generally interfering with their ability to do their jobs.
This kid has no civil right to advocate drug use. A 10 day Suspension is not that big of a deal. Kids need to have limits set on their behavior. This adult was trying to do her job.
If conservatives could come up with a legal strategy to protect school boards and adminstrators from these frivolous lawsuits, it would be VERY attractive to that group of education professionals.
(Cross posted at the acton blog.)