Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Proverbial Stopped Clock

Just as a stopped clock is right twice a day, the ACLU, I am pleased to report, is on the correct side on not one but two cases that I found whilst surfing the internet today.

In the first, a school had a stupid school rule that wasn't applied consistently or fairly.

A school district that initially refused to publish a yearbook photo showing a senior dressed in chain mail and holding a sword has agreed to print it after all, lawyers for both sides said Monday...

Agin, 17, dressed in costume for his senior photo. He belongs to the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group of 35,000 dues-paying members who stage mock battles, learn arts like calligraphy and conduct demonstrations in shopping malls.

Portsmouth High officials claimed the photo violated the school's "zero-tolerance" policy for weapons. Agin and his mother sued with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, saying the decision infringed his right to free speech.

This isn't a free speech issue. You have no right to free speech in the school yearbook. I will concede that the rule here is stupid--no one could be harmed by a picture of a sword--but the school could have any stupid rule it wants with regards to the yearbook. My school required us seniors to go to a portrait studio downtown and get our yearbook pictures taken--boys in tuxes, girls in gowns, no argument, the decision is final. Stupid rules aren't unlawful, they're just stupid.

What makes this case a loser for the school district, to the tune of $2,000 in ACLU legal fees, is that the stupid rule wasn't consistently applied.

School officials can regulate the yearbook's content, the commissioner said, but rules were being enforced unfairly, since past editions of the yearbook contain photos of toy guns, arrows and a knife. The school band's banner depicts a rifle-toting patriot.

They deserved to lose that one. I'm glad the kid fought it.

In the second story, a school in New Jersey is going to give urinalysis tests to students on Monday morning to identify those that were drinking alcohol over the weekend. Students who test as having had alcohol will be counseled and their parents notified.

Long-time readers of Right On The Left Coast will know that this is one of my hot buttons--it's none of the school's business what students do on their own time. The school needs to be teaching them to read, write, calculate, and think; let their parents determine if their other activities are beyond the pale. Not that I advocate student drinking, but had my high school done this, they'd have ended up calling my mother. She'd have asked if I was causing any trouble at school, they'd have said no; she'd have asked if I was maintaining my 4.00 unweighted GPA, they'd have said yes; she'd have told them to mind their own business. She might even have told them that she bought the alcohol for me, as did several parents of students I hung out with. Many of these students ended up graduating at the top of our class, wearing California Scholarship Federation stoles and going off to prestigious universities. You'd be hard pressed to find any disciplinary records on any of them.

So butt out. Schools have enough to do trying to teach academic content, and should only try to play parent, social worker, and/or confidant in exceptional cases and not as the rule.

But in the New Jersey story, school officials are excited about conducting this testing. In steps the ACLU.

"Medical care and treatment are issues between parents and children," said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

Except, of course, where abortions are concerned. And then, since we can't be sure the parents will make the right decision (kill the baby!), we ensure (at least in California) that medical care and treatment regarding abortions are issues between children and anyone but their parents (e.g., the school, the doctor, the courts, the teachers union).

Because of this inconsistency, I can't give ACLU two full points here. I'll only give half credit for the second story, so for these two situations the ACLU gets 1-1/2 points out of 2. That's 75%, a C.

Considering my views on the ACLU, a C is probably as good as they're ever going to get from me.


Mike said...

Interesting. At least twice a year I receive a membership solicitation from the ACLU. On each occasion, I send them an impeccably typed, polite letter informing them that my check will wing its way to them as soon as they publically announce their wholehearted support for all of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, particularly the Second Amendment. Thus far, no reply, no public announcement.

I'd like to think that the willingness of the ACLU to take up a case involving the display of a weapon, albiet an ancient weapon indicates a more rational attitude toward the right to keep and bear arms. More likely, it is simply a knee-jerk reaction for juvenile rebellion and against adult/school authority.

Please understand, I support the young man involved and see no harm whatever in his yearbook photo, though I suspect that he will, like many of us have, look at that yearbook photo in years to come and wonder what the hell he might have been thinking. I, like Darren, have so little respect for the ACLU I am reflexively suspicious of its motives, and have little doubt that it actively works to undermine America.

Darren said...

I've never received such a solicitation. Perhaps they know better and are saving stamps.