Teacher, blogger, deep thinker and Ethics Alarms combatant Rick Jones launched his annual Curmie Award last year, bestowed on the person or institution who most embarrasses the profession of education, on his superb blog, Curmudeon Central. Most of Rick’s Curmie nominees would have to be called ethics miscreants, and indeed several of them were featured on Ethics Alarms, so I asked Rick if I could present his nomination to the Ethics Alarms community and invite you to vote on this year’s winner. Here are Rick’s finalists, with his commentary and links to his posts about them. (Note: the link is the same with many of them, as several of the ultimate nominees were first exposed in the same, epic post. And you think I write long blog entries…) Rick writes of his criteria:
“I have tried to weigh a variety of factors: the egregiousness of the offense on its face, the extent to which it might be portentous of further bad things to come, any sense of particular injustice (punishment of the innocent or even of the heroic, for example), the degree to which the Curmie-worthy outrage might have been a spur-of-the-moment outburst rather than a deliberate act, any mitigating circumstances, whether the problem seems to have been appropriately addressed, whether the case looks a lot like a different nominee, etc.”
Now here are his nominees (in Rick’s words):
- School administrators at Geneva (IL) Middle School South, for asking intensely personal questions about a 13-year-old student’s sex life (without even notifying the girl’s parents), and demanding that she open her Facebook account for their inspection… all based on a rumor. In aggravation: the image of school administrators as voyeuristic bullies. In mitigation: the fact that the overwhelming majority of what we know comes from the girl’s mother, who might not be the most objective source.
- Authorities at Umatilla (FL) High School who punished a high school girl for protecting a mentally challenged student who was being bullied by a gaggle of mean girls on the school bus. Naturally, the actual bullies were unaffected. In aggravation: the girl did everything right. She appealed to the bus driver and to school authorities, and only intervened when they failed to do so. In mitigation: there are harsher punishments than not allowing a student to ride the bus to a different school than she attends.
- Griffith (IN) Public Schools for suspending a trio of 8th-grade girls for joking in a private Facebook conversation about which of their classmates they want to “kill.” In aggravation: the conversation was private, off-campus, unrelated to school, and obviously in jest (as an ACLU lawyer pointed out, “if you make a legitimate threat against someone, you don’t follow it up with an emoticon”). In mitigation: what if this was that one in a trillion moment when a joking threat was a disguise for a real one (the TSA excuse)?
- American University anthropologist Adrienne Pine, for breast-feeding a sickly infant in class, then going ballistic when asked about the episode by a student journalist. In aggravation: publishing the journalist’s name, failing to understand the basics of how reporting and editing works, generally being an asshat. In mitigation: at least an argument regarding some exigency to the breast-feeding per se.
- The euphemistically-termed brain trust at Northside ISD in San Antonio, for requiring Smart IDs that track student whereabouts at all times. The chip-implanted cards are required for everything from using the library to voting for Homecoming royalty. In aggravation: the IDs intrude into the privacy of good students while doing nothing to solve the problem they were intended to address. In mitigation: nothing but desperate whorishness… I’m not sure that counts.
- Authorities at Highland Middle School in Anderson, IN, for suspending and threatening to expel a quartet of 13-year-old boys who completely inadvertently stumbled upon a topless photograph of their teacher on a school-issued iPad. In aggravation: these are pubescent boys, handed a picture of a topless woman. Of course, they’re going to look. And it was a school iPad. In mitigation: it’s unlikely the boys were given permission to look through photo files; they’re still innocent of what they’re charged with, but perhaps not quite the victims they pretend to be.
- Kopachuk (WA) Middle School teacher John Rosi, for not only tolerating the bullying of a smaller boy by a dozen other kids, but actually joining in, and to the school administrators who gave him only a slap on the wrist. In aggravation: an apology letter that drips with sanctimony. In mitigation: the outside possibility that he really didn’t understand that this kind of “horseplay” isn’t really horseplay.
- Lillian Gomez, a teacher at Sunrise Elementary School in Kissimmee, Florida, for force-feeding crayons and Play-Doh soaked in hot sauce to autistic students to teach them not to put things in their mouths. In aggravation: Duh? You need aggravation?
Now go to Rick’s blog and cast your vote for the 2012 Curmie Award!