Unethical School Disciplinary Decision of the Year: Highland Middle School, Anderson, Indiana

This story just can’t be true as reported—can it? Please, please, let it be a hoax!— but every source confirms it, so I am awarding an early Ethics Alarms 2012 Award for the Unethical Disciplinary Decision of the Year to the addled, ethically-inert and incompetent administrators of the Highland Middle School of Anderson, Indiana. I am doing this now, instead of late December, when the rest of the awards are handed out, because no school, anywhere, could make a more unjust and outright stupid disciplinary ruling, this year, or any year.

By the way, this horrifying tale is a rare “Naked Teacher Principle”-“No-Tolerance”  policy hybrid. And what do you get when you cross these two? Jaw-dropping, blood-pressure-spiking incompetence! Imagine: Continue reading

More School Bullying…As In Schools Bullying Students

What the hell kept you?

From an ACLU complaint recently filed in the Northern District of Indiana:

“The plaintiffs in this case are all 14-year-old girls, proceeding by their initials, who were previously enrolled as eighth graders at Griffith Middle School, which is operated by Griffith Public Schools. In late January, they engaged in a lengthy conversation on http:// http://www.facebook.com-through the comments section of one of their personal pages after school from their personal computers. This conversation spanned numerous subjects, from the pain of cutting oneself while shaving to the girls’ friendship, before turning to a discussion of which of their classmates they would kill if they had the chance. At all times, the conversation was purely in jest and could not have been interpreted seriously, as is evidenced by the girls’ repeated use of “emoticons,” by their use of abbreviations indicative of humor, and by the nature and tone of the conversation. The girls were simply engaged in teenage banter.Nonetheless, on January 26, 2012, all three (3) girls were suspended from school for ten (10) days as a result of this conversation, and they were ultimately expelled for the remainder of their eighth grade year. This disciplinary action occurred because they had supposedly violated a provision of the student handbook prohibiting bullying, harassment, and intimidation, even though no statement in the conversation-nor the conversation as a whole–constituted a “true threat.” Additionally, the conversation did not cause any disruption to the educational environment or to school activities, nor was it foreseeable that it would.”

Glory be and Halleluiah! Continue reading

Legal/Ethical Train Wreck in Indiana: The Case of the Poisoned Fetus

Mother, failed suicide, accused murderer, and ethics train wreck engineer.

If there are logical and ethical holes in a law, you can count on a case eventually coming along that will make them obvious and painful. Thus it is that the the case of Bei Bei Shuai, a Chinese immigrant living in Indiana, was concocted by the vengeful Gods of Inconsistency to highlight some of the legal problems in two notorious ethical gray areas, abortion and suicide. I’m not going to even try to solve the mess. It’s hard enough to describe it.

Suicide is illegal in Indiana, but attempted suicide is not. In Indiana, as in most jurisdictions, however, if one’s unsuccessful  suicide kills another by accident, that could be prosecuted as manslaughter, through the doctrine of transferred intent. In the case of Shuai, she drank poison, ostensibly to kill herself. But she also wrote a note saying that she was “taking the baby.” Of course, when a pregnant woman kills herself, that usually suggests that she understands that her act will kill her unborn child as well.  Perhaps she was trying to kill herself and wasn’t considering the baby. Perhaps she was trying to kill the baby, and not herself. Perhaps she was trying to kill both herself and her child.

What happened, however, is that she lived. The baby was born, but died shortly thereafter as a consequence, prosecutors say, of the poison Shuai swallowed. Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse

Time to reconsider the Greek Gods...because the oldest theories are the best theories.

Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse is responsible for Senate Bill 89, recently passed by the Indiana Senate, which would allow schools to teach “creation science” — the oxymoron that really means “The Bible” —as an alternative to the scientific Theory of Evolution. Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court specifically outlawed this fundamentalist aganda in the 1987 court decision Edwards v. Aguillard. Kruse however, thinks that the bill could lead to a court challenge, and a Supreme Court reversal. “This is a different Supreme Court,” he has said. “This Supreme Court could rule differently.”

It isn’t that different, Senator. They all have law degrees, they’ve all read the Constitution,they’ve all seen “Jurassic Park.” They all have IQs above freezing, unlike…well, never mind. By the way, Kruse is a Republican, as if you hadn’t guessed. Continue reading

Unethical Lawsuit Blame Games: The Eric Johnson Murder-Suicide

...I'm just going to blame you.

This is the kind of case that should never be brought to trial. It isn’t frivolous: I can see the theory of damages prevailing before a jury. It is just an unethical lawsuit. It is the kind of suit that attempts to exploit sympathy for the victims of a tragedy by using the court system to shift some of the burden from those victims to an innocent party. The strategy can work; it often does, in fact. It neatly uses human nature and the power of rationalization to reach a result that feels like justice, but is really the opposite.  This time, fortunately, the strategy failed.

Beth Johnson filed a wrongful-death lawsuit after her estranged husband Eric flew a private plane into her mother’s house, killing himself and their 8-year-old daughter, the only passenger. The suit against Eric’s flight instructor as well as the commissioners of Lawrence County (Indiana) and the county board of aviation commissioners alleged that they negligently allowed Eric, a student pilot, to fly solo. Continue reading

Strange Ethics: Another Indiana Prosecutor Jumps the Rails

"Ward, I'm worried about the Hoosier.."

There’s a wonderful Charles Addams cartoon that shows a bunch of hobos and bums lying around Greek columns under a college reunion “Welcome Alumni!” banner. One of the disheveled alums says, “I used to think it was me, but maybe this school is just no damn good.”

In light of a second Indiana prosecutor losing his job over making outrageous suggestions about how Wisconsin’s Gov. Walker should handle his labor battles, I’m beginning to wonder about Indiana’s training of its various government attorneys.

First, as discussed here, an Assistant Attorney General went on twitter and suggested that Walker use “live ammunition” on union demonstrators.

Now a deputy prosecutor in Johnson County named Carlos Lam has resigned after conduct far worse than that. At least Jeff Cox, the tweeter, was probably joking. Lam sent a serious  email to Walker suggesting that the governor—I’m not making this up—set up a fake attack on himself to attract public sympathy, writing… Continue reading

When Satire Is No Excuse: The Jeff Cox Affair

Now if Cox came to work like this, I take it all back...

Indiana deputy attorney general Jeff Cox tweeted “use live ammunition” in response to a tweet by progressive magazine Mother Jones that riot police had been ordered to remove union supporters from the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison. Mother Jones published the tweet as evidence of what it believes is the predominant conservative mindset, and the progressive blogosphere was soon using his tweet as a rallying cry.

Cox was fired Wednesday. Quite correctly, too. Continue reading