Shy and insecure, the fourth-grade student dropped to the floor of a classroom filled with students, ordered by a Fresno teacher to do pushups and other calisthenics for talking during a lesson.I, too, have been known to use not-officially-sanctioned penalties for minor infractions. As often as not, these penalties (including push-ups) took less time and paperwork on my part than officially-sanctioned penalties, and I opted for the time savings in class. But as I became more and more aware that some people will use any excuse to sue a school district, I started to give students an option--you're late to class, for example, do a dozen push-ups or I'll assign an hour of after-school detention, which is the officially-sanctioned penalty. That's worked for me for years.
Nearly three years after the incident, Fresno Unified teachers Michelle Coyne and Joshua Gehris are on trial in Fresno Superior Court, accused in a civil trial of humiliating the fourth-grader, a 9-year-old girl.
OK, so the parents in the above-linked article didn't like their daughter's having to do push-ups. I can see that. But they've gone so far over the top here, with a lawsuit, that the whole situation has become ludicrous.
Not everyone in Fresno is stupid, though:
The trial in Judge Donald Black’s courtroom is expected to take two weeks. Testimony is expected to be highly charged — because in two days of jury selection potential jurors voiced strong feelings about today’s youth and discipline in schools.Am I supposed to take seriously the implication that one set of push-ups can mentally scar a student? And that's what we're talking about here, a one-time penalty.
Some of them said children today lack respect for teachers and need to be disciplined.
“A teacher’s job is hard enough,” one potential juror said. Other potential jurors recalled being disciplined in school decades ago — and said the mental scars remains with them today.
I know what let's do, though. Let's crank the stupidity up to 11:
After the incident, Helsel said, the girl began seeing a therapist who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder and an anxiety disorder. Because of the incident, the girl’s emotions jump from sad and being withdrawn to angry with frequent outbursts, Helsel said.That really angers me. I know people with PTSD. I'm related to people with PTSD. To suggest that having a student do push-ups in 4th grade can cause PTSD is a slap in the face to people with real PTSD. They may as well be claiming that she felt violated and, in essence, was raped.
But Berger said the district hired a doctor to examine the girl. The expert agreed the girl suffers from anxiety, but the disorder is not traced to the Jan. 21, 2016 incident, Berger said. The girl does not suffer from PTSD, Berger said, because she was not involved in a life-threatening episode.
I'll grant that, if true, the following could give me some cause for concern:
After the pushups, the girl was ordered to do leg lifts, planks and other exercises, Helsel said.Might have taken it too far, if that's true. But there's so much hyperbole in the story, how can you take seriously anything said by the girl's attorney?
“Gehris will say he made her do the exercises for five to seven minutes,” Helsel told the jury. “But to her, it felt like a lifetime.”A lifetime? Quit being a drama queen.
The attorney even wants to claim that it wasn't the girl's fault that she was talking in class. Of course it wasn't, it never is.
If the teacher went too far, then that should have been addressed 3 years ago--and probably was. A lawsuit? Over push-ups? That's just one more sign of a sickness in our culture.