So It Has Come To This: Criminalizing Burps In Middle School

At  Cleveland Middle School in Albuquerque, a persistent class clown, age 13, kept burping in class, followed by the usual titters from his classmates.

I was in class with one of these characters in the 8th grade, and I must admit, his burp was something: loud, long, low, and seemingly inexhaustible. He was yanked out of class, he was sent to detention, his parents were called, he was suspended, and eventually, without too much conflict, he learned to cut it out. (They never caught the guy who shouted “HOG!” in a raucous voice during study hall.) Apparently this method was beyond the abilities of the  Cleveland Middle School staff to execute.

The teacher, Ms. Mines-Hornbeck, called the police, who arrested and eventually cuffed the boy. Principal Susan LaBarge and Assistant Principal Ann Holmes  not only suspended him for the rest of the school year, but allowed the criminal justice process to proceed, with the boy being processed for the charge of  violating a New Mexico statute, N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-20-13(D), that reads…

No person shall willfully interfere with the educational process of any public or private school by committing, threatening to commit or inciting others to commit any act which would disrupt, impair, interfere with or obstruct the lawful mission, processes, procedures or functions of a public or private school.

That’s right: arrest and criminal prosecution for burping in class.

None of the staff at the school, apparently, had an ethics alarm go off that induced them to point out that the year long suspension was an unethically harsh punishment, and the criminal charge was tantamount to child abuse. I remember that in the fourth grade at Parmenter School in Arlington, Mass, my friend Timmy Russell was moved to leap to his feet during a math lesson and do a ten second imitation of Elvis singing “Hound Dog.” Everyone laughed, including the teacher. Then, that burst of childish energy over, she went on with the lesson, because she was a confident professional.

In New Mexico, 2016, Timmy would have broken the law. Continue reading

From The”On The Other Hand” Files: Before You Are Too Hard On Feminists Who Arrive At College Resenting Men, Read This…

Street harassment sign There is are good reasons why many women come to think of all men as potential predators.

Valerie Steighner authored a powerful essay titled “My 11-Year-Old Daughter Just Got Catcalled for the First Time and I Don’t Know How To Teach Her to Protect Herself From Predators.” Please read it. Here’s an excerpt:

She is 11 years old. She just graduated from elementary school and still plays with small plastic animals. And now along with vocab words, I have to teach her how to protect herself from disgusting men.

I told her that what that man did is called catcalling and catcalling is aggressive behavior and the best action is to ignore it. Usually, men that are willing to yell slurs about you and your body, if provoked, can be unpredictable and dangerous; it’s best to keep walking; don’t make eye contact and stand tall. 

I felt so defeated as the words came out of my mouth. Basically, there is nothing we can do, but pretend it’s not happening….Obviously, I was sexually active all through my twenties, but there is a difference from being what others want and finding what you need…The predator lives everywhere. He lives on our streets, in our grocery stores, on our billboards and in our malls. He constantly reminds us what our value is and where we belong. How do I teach her to catch him, see him and to protect herself from him?  How do I teach her that her body is not a source of shame but a source of power and strength? How do I teach her to hear the predator’s words to know what they mean and still stand tall and confident? How do I teach her to protect herself and still be open?

It sucks. It sucks that this has to happen to my daughter in 6th grade. It sucks that it’s only the beginning. It sucks that she has to learn about her body in the context of men noticing it. 

What also sucks is that the problem is a failure of ethics and civilization to move fast enough. Men are programmed to want sex and to procreate, and once upon a time in America the kind of conduct a disgusting 50-year old focused on the writer’s barely pubescent daughter was a cultural norm. In some places, it still is. Women had no other function but to find a man, have his children and make the home run smoothly, and not finding a man was, in some settings, a catastrophe. In the American West, a woman in her thirties who was uneducated and unmarried was very likely to end up a prostitute: it was the single largest occupation for unmarried women. When so many women are whores, men get in the habit of treating women as whores, and women who don’t want that fate will provide positive reinforcement to flirtations that are really harassment and disrespect. [You can find the many Ethics Alarms posts related to this topic here]

Old habits supported by hormones, traditions and bad role models—like, say, Jack Kennedy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump–will die hard or not die at all. In many ways, the culture still supports the ugly behavior Steighner’s daughter experienced. Many ways.  For example, in a current Geico commercial, the Gecko shows his trophy accompanied by that briefly popular song “Whoomp! There it is!,”  which is essentially street harassment in song form. You will also hear it in sporst stadiums. Continue reading

If They Threw Elliot In Jail For Kissing Erika Eleniak, What Would Have Happened To E.T.?

In a memorable scene in “E.T.,” young hero Elliot (Henry Thomas), intoxicated by his psychic link to his marooned space alien pal, loses impulse control during Middle School science class and, while E.T. watches John Wayne’s passionate kiss with Maureen O’Hara in “The Quite Man,” embraces the class heart-throb—played by barely pubescent “Baywatch” babe-to-be Erika Eleniak!

Erika

— and gives her a passionate smooch.

If Spielberg’s classic premiered today, this scene might be condemned as sexual assault by feminists, who would insist that Elliot should have been charged. Is that really fair? Rational? Sane?

At  Pikesville (Maryland) Middle School, a 13-year-old boy has been charged with second-degree assault for kissing a 14-year-old girl on a dare. Police were called to the scene by the school, undoubtedly influenced by the current sexual assault freak-out on college campuses. (The proper response of an ethical and well-led police force, by the way, would be “Don’t waste our time.”) Continue reading