Saturday, December 03, 2005

Gay Student Suspended For Making Out At School

Those who know me know that I'm no supporter of PDA (that's public displays of affection) at school. I find some of it silly--the boy who "drops his girlfriend off" at each class, and kisses her when they depart. I usually don't say anything about such displays because they're minor and relatively inoffensive. But when two people are going at it in the halls, "lick[ing] each other’s tonsils and ears in public, like dogs do", in the parlance of one literary genius, I will insist that they stop. It's apparent that some teenagers (and adults, too, judging from what I sometimes see at the mall) are not yet able to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate public behavior.

So what to do when two lesbians make out at school? First off, Mr. or Ms. Administrator, if you don't stop the heteros, you'd better not stop the homos. Otherwise, you've got a lawsuit in the making.

So if the principal in this case is singling out the lesbians whilst letting the heteros continue to go at it, obviously the disparate treatment needs to be addressed, perhaps legally. But I get a different impression when I read the New York Times' story about the lawsuit. The Times' opening paragraph is:

In a case involving a California high school girl who was openly gay at school, a federal judge has ruled that the girl, Charlene Nguon, may proceed with a lawsuit charging that her privacy rights were violated when the principal called her mother and disclosed that she is gay.
So we're back to the privacy of teenagers. This is a topic I apparently just don't get. The girl has a privacy right not to have her parents know about behavior in which she's participating in public places??? That sounds shockingly like this situation at Penn (read it, it's funny).

The girl can make out in public with her girlfriend, and when she's suspended for it (rightly or wrongly), it's wrong for the principal to tell her mother who the girl was making out with? Let's come up with some other examples. "Your child was caught smoking pot in a car with four other students. Want to know who they are? Sorry, can't tell you!" "Your child was involved in a fight at school today. Want to know who with? Sorry, can't tell you!" I'm not saying that being a lesbian violates rules, but being involved in excessive PDA should violate some rules. And for the sake of this post, let's leave this particular story now and get more general. Also, in this more general case, let's assume that PDA is against the rules and such rules are enforced equitably.

In both this case and the Penn case mentioned above, it was a lack of discretion on the part of the participants which led to the supposed violation of privacy. I just don't understand this "privacy of teenagers" stuff. Again, help me understand the rules that schools have to play by:

1. Can't tell the parents the reason their daughter was suspended (kissing another girl at school, creating a disturbance). BTW, this points out why *all* PDA needs to addressed at schools, so there's no discrimination lawsuits.

2. Here in California, we can't tell the parents if a child chooses to leave school to go get an abortion.

3. As a teacher, I can't give a 17-yr-old with a headache an aspirin. They might get Reyes Syndrome and die.

So we trust teenagers to make some medical decisions for themselves (abortions) but not others (aspirin), and we don't trust them to drink alcohol. We must keep secrets from their parents, but expect the parents to be responsible for them and their actions. And we help the children keep secrets from their parents. Wow!

And I'm forced to agree with the comment about the topic posted on this blog:

One, I can't believe how people are so willing to put the burden on the school (as if they don't have enough to do), and how so quickly the case of someone making out during school morphs into a civil rights issue.

Charges of discrimination imply that kids have a right to make out in a public school. Sheesh. Couldn't we make learning any more difficult?

Two, we need more school policies on the matter? Is there no discretion left in public education, or does everything have to be a minsterial act, approved by board mtg?

Third, be careful of demonizing faceless parents and creating standards whereby their rights are diminished, lest you be the next parent who is not entitled to know what their child is doing.

I know, someone's going to bring up the tired old story "my friend told his parents and they threw him outta the house and burned what belongings he left behind and...." Anecdotal. And I refer you to the last line in the comment excerpted above.

If we want to hold parents responsible for their children, the school should not be keeping secrets from the parents. Nor should the school help the child keep secrets from the parents! This type of situation, my dear readers, is what happens when you trust government more than you trust parents.

And it's going to get worse.


Walter E. Wallis said...

Want to keep a secret? Don't do it in the middle of the street. There can be NO expectation of privacy for any public act.

Joan said...

I guess I am right on the right coast. I read your entries with interest every day. I am a recently retired teacher, a mother to a teacher and two principals, a sister to two teachers, and an aunt of a teacher. I also have several cousins who are teachers, so your topics are obviously of interest to me. Three of those above-mentioned teachers have active blogs. You might like to check out The Median Sib, Alone on a Limb, and Cozy Reader. My blog is Daddy's Roses.

Darren said...

I've been to both The Median Sib and Daddy's Roses. Looks like yours is a family of educators, Joan--good for you!

And I can't help but agree with Walter. Are school officials supposed to act in loco parentis to the degree that we keep secrets from the real parents? As a parent, I'm appalled.