Ethics Hero: Sterling Karrenstein

mobile_phone_cameraAt West Iredell High School in Statesville, North Carolina, student Sterling Karrenstein witnessed a resource officer using a taser to subdue a fellow student who punched the officer in the face. As he documented the incident on  his cell phone, school staff attempted to stop Sterling, demanding that he hand over the phone and even attempting to take it from him. He refused. The school principal apparently later told Sterling that being on school property eliminated his right to record events.


At least someone knows what is in the First Amendment. Obviously Sterling didn’t learn it at West Iredell High School, but Ethics Alarms salutes him for insisting on his rights as a citizen despite being pressured to do otherwise by incompetent authority figures.

If it is not disrupting class, infringing on the privacy of others or otherwise violating school policy, taking photos or video is a fully protected right.

This does not mean, it is important to note, that tasering a student who punched him was necessarily wrongful conduct by the officer.


Pointer: Tim LaVier

6 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: Sterling Karrenstein

  1. Sounds like it might be time for this school to disallow the carrying of cell phones by students, which I believe IS permissible, as long as it’s spelled out in the handbook.

    • Hmm, if it’s put in only to hide illegal acts or other screw-ups by teachers and staff, that doesn’t seem a good idea. It used to be much harder to prove stuff before vid and image capture. Also a cell for older kids seems a safety/communication issue too. I think some kind of check-in before and after school will have issues with loss. Leaving them at home all day doesn’t help. I’m old enough that finding both a pay phone and change to call for a parental pickup in a nearly empty school was creepy and not as safe. I think for older kids that boat has sailed, not having a phone is not viable unless they never to go out after school for sports, clubs, jobs, or volunteering.

      • I am also old enough to remember the days of needing to find a phone and change to call my parents should I find myself stranded. My parents solved that problem quite handily by telling me not to find myself in that situation to begin with, because they would not pick me up. the prospect of spending the night in an empty school could work wonders.

        I do not like the idea of teachers being subject to photography or recording when dealing with unruly students. I remember in 7th grade when one of my teachers said something to the effect that he would strike a student who was misbehaving if if he did not pipe down and behave, and upon being told that that would result in a lawsuit, told the Defiant student in no uncertain terms that he would strike him right in the face and then let his father sue him. that said, most parents in those days would probably congratulate the teacher rather than sue him.

        • I’d like to see teachers recording the conduct of kids at inner-city schools, to show how absurd California’s new bill requiring more equitable disciplining among it’s various student demographics is.

        • “most parents in those days would probably congratulate the teacher rather than sue him.” Given that most parents, these days, have little or no idea HOW to BE parents, that is, at best, doubtful.

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