Two Public School Educators Duke It Out In Class: What’s Going On Here?


I’m sorry! Wrong video.

What I meant to put up was this…

This was a student cell phone video of the fight that broke out, in class, in front of students, at Stone Mountain Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia, last week. The combatants were a  teacher and a paraprofessional, both of whom have  been fired and arrested.

After the fight was finally broken up, students say school officials came into the classroom, went through their cell phones and made them delete any evidence of it.

“Nobody apologized they just came in and were like who videotaped this and stuff like that,” a student said.  “I think they were trying to push it under the rug so nobody would know about it and the school’s reputation wouldn’t be messed up.”

The school issued the usual statements—you can guess what it said, the usual boilerplate about such conduct being unacceptable and not comporting with the school system’s values. I don’t care what it said. Nobody is sure what the fight was about: I don’t care about that either.

What I want to know is the starting point for most ethics analysis: What’s going on here?…or in this case, what the HELL is going on here?

  • I’ve never heard of anything like this happening before. Has it happened before? How can it happen?

How can a school system employ one, never mind two, alleged educational professionals who would be any more likely to behave this way than they would wear an armadillo for a hat?

  • Can the reaching profession, especially in the public schools, nurture any worse professional standards? This is the fabled public school system that Betsy DeVos is called a menace for wanting to over-haul?

I know that it is only one incident, but just as the United Airlines abuse of a passenger it had no right to bump signals that the airline industry’s service standards are spiraling out of control, this horrific display in the Stone Mountain Middle School suggests a sick culture in and outside of education.

  • On my local news channel, they told us that the two pugilists were suspended but were still employed “pending an investigation,” which made me laugh out loud. How about watching the video? Nevertheless, there needs to be an investigation—of the school, the administration, recruitment and hiring practices, management and oversight, the culture of the school system, and more, like where do women in the teaching profession learn to throw punches like that?

Well, from teachers, parents and role models like them, I guess.

In Kansas, A High School Ethics Train Wreck: An Unqualified Principal, Unethical Students, And A False And Dangerous Lesson About Consequentialism

Why are these students smiling sweetly? Because they sent the message to their teachers to be wary; after all, there’s a lot of dirt on the internet…


Seemingly every one is cheering the Pittsburg High School (Kansas) students on the school paper who investigated their newly hired principal, found her credentials to be dubious, and forced her to resigned from her $93,000-a-year job. You can read the story here and here.

For the purposes of Ethics Alarms, I’m not interested in the principal at all. What matters here is that journalists, teachers, TV talking heads and everyone else commenting on the story are proving themselves ignorant of basic ethical principles, like the fact that conduct that happens to result in something desirable doesn’t make the conduct appropriate if it wasn’t ethical at the outset, aka “consequentialism leads to bad lessons and bad ethics,” and “the ends justifies the means.”

From the article:

“Pittsburg journalism adviser Emily Smith said she is “very proud” of her students. “They were not out to get anyone to resign or to get anyone fired. They worked very hard to uncover the truth.”

Emily Smith is too incompetent and ethically confused to advise aspiring student journalists or any other students. The students “wanted be assured that she was qualified and had the proper credentials,” according to the student editor of the paper. That’s not their job, their duty, or their business. They aren’t journalists; they are students learning about journalism. Determining if the new principal was qualified was entirely the responsibility of the the Pittsburg Board of Education, which botched its job and approved hiring the principal at its meeting March 6. That the students did the due diligence the Board failed to do is being used as cover by the Board: Everything worked out because of these great students, who we have educated so well!

Wrong. Unbelievably wrong. Dangerously wrong.

What’s going on here? Continue reading

Unethical Quote Of The Week: Law Firm DLA Piper

“After our own due diligence and a thorough review of the facts, the firm decided to give great weight to the total body of Lee’s work over his 25-plus years as a lawyer. Lee [Smolen] is a well-respected attorney who has learned from his experience and taken all the necessary steps to move forward as a productive member of our team.”

—-A statement by mega-law firm DLA Piper at the time of its hiring of attorney Lee Smolen in February, 2013. Smolen had recently resigned from his previous firm because, we now know, he was under investigation for unethical conduct. This week, he was formally accused of bilking his former firm and its clients with inflated and inappropriate expenses.

You know, I have no idea why I chose this photo to accompany this post. Just seemed appropriate, somehow...

You know, I have no idea why I chose this photo to accompany this post. Just seemed appropriate, somehow…

What would possess a major law firm to make a bone-headed, Ethics Dunce decision like this? According to accounts, before the Piper firm made its commitment, Smolen “tearfully” explained all or some of his transgressions to the firm’s partners, transgressions which amounted to cheating  his fellow partners at his previous firm and fraudulently charging a client for expenses that were either inflated or that had nothing to do with the client’s needs.

He swore that he had learned his lesson, and would never do anything similar again, but look: even if he was sincere, what he had done is a cardinal sin for lawyers, virtually always leading to serious punishment and often disbarment. A lawyer who knows of such conduct is required by the bar ethics rules of all but a couple of states to report it to  bar disciplinary authorities as “a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer.” How could a law firm justify taking on a new law partner after acquiring the same knowledge that would have obligated it to report the man, if he weren’t under investigation already? Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week

“Client will not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason.”

Job posting for a “qualified engineer”at an anonymous electronics company in Angleton, Texas, placed on The People Place, a  recruiting website for the telecommunications, aerospace/defense and engineering industries.

A Huffington Post article by Laura Bassett properly condemns this hiring requirement as offensive, irresponsible, cruel and unfair during a recession, when there is widespread unemployment. The practice would also be offensive, irresponsible, cruel and unfair during an economic boom or an eclipse of the sun. Bassett interviewed a human resources representative for Benchmark industries, which follows the same hiring policies, and its rational was this: Continue reading