I’m sorry to endanger the integrity of your head—mine may never be reassembled, by the looks of things—but here are two recent high school horror stories, one in Texas and one in Arizona, and they do not even involve sexual predators or kids being suspended for pretending to shoot someone with a finger gun.
I. The Two Dollar Bill
I’m going to just summarize this stunningly stupid story, and you can read the details here. 13-year-old eighth grader Danesiah Neal, a student at Fort Bend Independent School District’s Christa McAuliffe Middle School, attempted to pay for her lunch one day with a two-dollar bill given to her by her grandmother. The lunch lady had never seen a $2 bill, so she alerted the school administrators, who called the police. THEY had apparently never seen a $2 bill, and told the girl that she was being investigated for counterfeiting, a felony, as the school allowed this idiocy to unfold. They called the grandmother, and told her she was under investigation too.
A campus officer traced the bill to where granny got it, a 7-11, and then cleverly traced the bill to…THE BANK, which informed these officious, incompetent morons that the two is a genuine piece of currency, and has been in circulation since 1862.
The school and police returned the bill, and nobody apologized to the child or the family.
Stupid, ignorant and reckless pseudo-professionals like this are not qualified to teach anyone, and the failure of all parties responsible to grovel an apology and swear never to abuse a student like this again shows they don’t even know how ignorant and incompetent they are.
II. The Yearbook Flash
Believe it or not, this one is even worse.
On a dare from a friend, high school football player Hunter Osborn briefly flashed his naughty bits in the team photo. Because nobody noticed—lets skip the jokes, shall we?—the photo was published in the school yearbook. Months went by before anyone picked up on the gag. Never mind that the photo was so small that the indiscretion was virtually invisible to the naked eye: Osborn was arrested and charged with 69 counts of indecent exposure.
There is comfort, as I scrape my brains off the ceiling, to know that Jonathan Turley’s head exploded over this too. The usually calm and unflappable law professor blogger was uncharacteristically upset. He wrote in part:
The matter in Arizona is another chilling example of officials, police, and prosecutors showing no judgment or perspective in dealing with a prank…Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands put the blame on the students…and says that “The district is dismayed by the actions of the students involved in the photograph. Their behavior does not reflect the values of Red Mountain High School or Mesa Public Schools.” Really, how about the “dismay” over treating a prank like it is the equivalent to a serial rape or a homicide? What type of values prompt adults to ruin the life of some dumb kid who commits a prank in a yearbook picture? The draconian values reflected in this response are far more chilling than the juvenile actions of this student.
Osborn did not select the photo for the yearbook, which occurred due to the lack of supervision and review at the school. …Did he deserve punishment? Of course. Suspend him or demand payment for the printing of new yearbooks. Instead the school and the police believe that criminal charges are warranted. It sounds like the school was embarrassed by its own failure to see the problem and everyone then decided to crush this student (and ruin his life) over a prank…
[W]hat is most disturbing is that…there is little effort to hold the adults at the school and the police department accountable for this ridiculous over-reaction. This is a stupid kid in high school. He was wrong but he is a teenager. We are adults. We are supposed to have a sense of perspective and even understanding. That does not mean that we do not punish teenagers for moronic acts but we are also supposed to balance our response with understanding and restraint…Osborne deserves to be disciplined at school but so do these school officials, police, and prosecutors who took an embarrassing prank and force it to an absurd and grotesque conclusion.
I believe Turley’s diagnosis was correct about the school scapegoating the student to obscure the staff’s lack of diligence and oversight. Why wasn’t the Yearbook photo vetted by a supervisor? Wasn’t any teacher or school official watching the photo session? There was a time, not so long ago when the streaking fad was in full swing, that virtually every athletic event had some naked kid running across the field on a dare. Those streakers got detention. Osborne may end up a registered sex offender.
I can’t say “most objectionable of all,” because nothing could be more objectionable than using the law to crush a student for a badly-thought out joke that hurt nobody, but the, uh, key feature in the crime is undetectable, bringing to mind an old law school limerick illustrating the maxim, De minimis non curat lex (The law does not concern itself with trifles). It went..
There once was a lawyer named Rex
With diminutive organs for sex.
When charged with exposure
He said, with composure
“De minimis non curat lex”
Maybe Hunter should hire Rex to defend him. The argument’s a winner.
Meanwhile, our education system is entrusted to fools and autocrats, and lies in ruins.
UPDATE: The charges were dropped after all 69 “victims” refused to back them.
Double Pointer: Res Ipsa Loquitur