Distance Learning Ethics: A Student Shows A Gun From His Home, And The School Freaks Out

“Look, Mom! Billy has a cool crossbow!”

In the first weeks of compelled distance learning in many school districts, schools encountered many issued that should have been anticipated but were not.

One student at Montgomery County, Maryland’s Albert Einstein High School horrified officials—I haven’t been able to determine what the students thought–by showing a gun. The gun was legally purchased’ the gun wasn’t loaded. No threats were made. Nonetheless , the school seemed to think that it had authority and leave to take action.

Montgomery County Public Schools Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala told local news media that the school system is not going to tolerate anything online they wouldn’t allow in the classroom.

“For any student of ours who thinks, ‘Oh because it’s online learning, there aren’t disciplinary actions they can take,’ and they actually have that wrong. And as we spelled out very clearly to our message to the community this morning,” said Onijala. Indeed, now the school system says it will be taking disciplinary action, though Montgomery County Police announced that they did not charge the 17-year-old  who displayed the weapon.

Gee, that’s comforting. Thanks, Big Brother! Exactly what would the police charge the student with? I don’t think the school has any basis to discipline the student either, and if I was the student’s parent, I would not accept any punishment at all from that source, or the police, of course. The option of punishments would be mine, because the offense occurred on my turf, the offense being  handling my gun. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, April 3, 2019: Morning Disillusionment And “Morning Joe”

Good morning!

Since this is an ethics blog, I guess I’ll have to confess that it’s really a lousy morning, since I was up until 1 AM watching the Red Sox lose to Oakland 1-0…

1. From the “Why do I bother?” Files. I’ve been complaining (too much, but it makes me feel better) about the precipitous fall in Ethics Alarms traffic  since the Trump Deranged fled the objective discussions here and Facebook decided to make it impossible to post anything I write. Yesterday, I returned to the periodic theme of teachers facing termination when their naked forms pop up on the web, including the controversial photo in question. Because of that post, and not any of the important Ethics Alarms commentary over the past 12 months that were significant and useful, the blog  had its highest traffic total in more than a year. None of the visitors had anything to say or constructive to offer, of course.

This is undoubtedly why Tucker Carlson’s website routinely includes tabloid style cheesecake features, like—let’s see what it is today—Ah! “Celebrate Amanda Bynes’ Birthday With Her Hottest Looks”! Bynes is a fallen ex-child and teen star who has been out of show-business for years because of emotional illness and drug problems.

Stay classy, Tucker.

2.  How constant political correctness immersion rots even superior brains: A case study. One of the smartest, sharpest, BS intolerant people I have ever known or ever will know just posted this approvingly on Facebook:

I am  depressed. These directives from a Montgomery County, MD sponsored community groups are largely idiotic, and like all word policing, efforts at thought and language control. My friend is a parent of two teens, but I would expect  her, of all people, to send them the lesson that they should never capitulate to this kind of sinister conditioning, which is what it is: “The Collective will tell you what you can and cannot say without sanction! Await further instructions.” Almost all of these are awkward, meaningless distinctions of the ” ‘colored people’ BAD, ‘people of color’ GOOD” variety. Continue reading

Are No Professions Safe From The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck? Now Even Restaurant Critics Have Gotten On Board!

circus-train-wreck

As a professional ethics specialist, I find the enthusiasm with which alleged professionals have used the election of Donald Trump to excuse their abandonment of such ethical values as fairness, responsibility, respect and citizenship deeply discouraging, and I am seriously considering becoming a beachcomber. I already knew that the journalism profession no longer could distinguish ethics from a hairy crab, so this wasn’t too surprising, nor was it too much of a shock that the New York Times has become a non-stop anti-Trump fear-fest and rant machine. Let’s see, in today’s edition alone  there is a hit piece on Trump advisor Steve Bannon called “Bannon’s Coriolanus Rewrite,” then  “Donald Trump’s Racial Ignorance,” “Where the Right Went Wrong,” (an amazing title, given the current balance of political power after Hillary’s botched campaign), “How the Truth Got Hacked,” “Is Democracy in Danger?” “Trump, the Russian Poodle,” and “Is This Collective Trauma?” The  last, I guess,  explains why mass trauma is inevitable for progressives, moderates and “Never Trump” Republicans when “the political order they long took for granted — defined by polarization, yes, but also by a commitment to basic principles of democracy and decency — is suddenly gone.”  One would almost wonder from that sentence which side of the political spectrum is calling for armed insurrection, pre-inaugural impeachment, and the overturning of the election results. The Times is also a showcase for columnists whose minds have snapped like dry branches in the wind,  causing them to leap manically onto the Trump Hysteria Express. Economist Paul Krugman has long been a hyper-partisan scold for whom fairness is alien territory, but this tweet was spectacularly vicious even for him:

“Thought: There was (rightly) a cloud of illegitimacy over Bush, dispelled (wrongly) by 9/11. Creates some interesting incentives for Trump.”

An ethical newspaper wouldn’t want someone capable of such a comment working for it.

Many broadcast journalists were stunningly unprofessional, indeed amateurish, on election night. Martha Raddatz choked up with emotion reporting Clinton’s loss; now there’s an objective reporter. Rachel Maddow described the evening as a “nightmare.”

Education has been racing journalism to the ethics barrel bottom for years, but I did not expect universities to send such intimidating messages to their students that they were expected to either be in mourning or on the verge of emotional breakdowns because the Democrats lost. Once, higher institutions of learning aimed to teach students critical thinking skills so they could make up their own minds regarding civic affairs. High school administrators and teachers also forgot their duties, and allowed students to skip school because, you know, TRUMP!!!!, and “ARRRGHHHHH!!!!”

Lawyers have lost their ethical bearings, of course, as have law professors, with perhaps the best example of the latter being the Georgetown Law Center adjunct who claims that the Constitution is unconstitutional, because following it will elect Donald Trump. My law alma mater isn’t faring too well in the train wreck: another professor, Paul Butler, argued that Supreme Court justices shouldn’t normally attack a President Elect, except when it’s Donald Trump.

Other academics have disgraced themselves. A prominent historian, for example, even resorted to making up history to provide an excuse for Democrats losing to such a horrible creature. Professor Larry Lessig of Harvard Law, who heads an ethics institute there, is encouraging electors to be “faithless,” as in “double-cross the voters who elected them.” Some ethics institute you have there, Harvard!

Artist, actors and show business professionals have debased themselves even more than usual, beginning with the Broadway cast of “Hamilton’s” breach of the Performer’s First Commandment: DON’T ABUSE THE AUDIENCE. They have even started turning on each other: Jon Voight, whose sin was that he expressed support for the man elected President, was booed at recent awards show by his fellow actors. Nice.

But as bad as this has been, I didn’t expect food critics to be corrupted. Continue reading

Proposition: It Is Unethical For Universities To Permit Or Engage In The Political Indoctrination Of Students Without Having Expressly Informed Students Of That Intention Before They Enrolled

brainwashing

As part of the post 2016 Presidential election freak-out, hundreds colleges and universities have crossed all lines of fairness, professionalism and objectivity by making it clear to students who did not find Hillary Clinton’s defeat motivation to consider an overdose of Seconal that they were skunks at the picnic. College deans and presidents sent out campus wide expressions of horror at Trump’s victory, like the Vassar president’s message I noted here. University of Arkansas’ Dean, Michael Schwartz, offered free counseling services to students who were dist ought following the “most upsetting, most painful, most disturbing election season of my lifetime.” The only previous occasion when the school offered counseling was after a student committed suicide.

A Yale professor sent this statement to his students:

yale-professor

Then there are the administrative efforts to make it clear that dissent from the approved, sensitive, politically correct, university-sancioned and of course obviously beyond question or rebuttal position that a group of racist deplorables elected the anti-Christ as POTUS.

At Edgewood College, students had been invited to express their feelings about the election by writing them on post-it-notes and placing them on a designated table. Clearly, it was expected that everyone would express anger, shock, despair or grief, but one such note read “Suck it up, pussies!” This, which I would call a very reasonable, if vulgarly expressed, reaction, was deemed a “hate crime” by college officials, who have asked police to investigate.

College Vice President Tony Chambers sent a letter to campus condemning this “act of cowardly hatred” and “intimidation.” He wrote:

A group of cross-functional college staff representing campus security, student conduct, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and diversity and inclusion measures convened Tuesday morning to discuss how to address the hateful message. This group determined that the message constituted a Hate Crime…

Continue reading

Short Takes As The Left’s Unethical Post-Election Freakout Continues

freakoutI admit it. I can’t keep up with all the progressive/Democrat/Hillary Corrupted/journalist and pundit freakouts over Donald Trump’s election, and I don’t want to. There is more to ethics and life than pointing out how completely so many have abandoned reason, fairness, proportion and their own previously stated principles because Donald Trump won the election. Well, that’s another beneficial effect of the result: Trump has inadvertently exposed how thin the veneer of decency and fairness was for a large number of institutions, occupations and individuals. Among the examples about which I could and probably should write complete posts, but won’t, are these:

New York Times columnist Charles Blow, he of the anti-Mormon slurs against Mitt Romney before the 2012 election. Remember how Rush Limbaugh was excoriated by journalists, progressives and Democrats for saying, after Obama’s election, that he hoped the new President would fail? Here is Blow, in my print Times this morning, declaring in advance his irrevocable hate:

I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather to speak up for truth and honor and inclusion. This isn’t just about you, but also about the moral compass of those who see you for who and what you are, and know the darkness you herald is only held at bay by the lights of truth….

So let me say this on Thanksgiving: I’m thankful to have this platform because as long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.I’m thankful that I have the endurance and can assume a posture that will never allow what you represent to ever be seen as everyday and ordinary. No, Mr. Trump, we will not all just get along. For as long as a threat to the state is the head of state, all citizens of good faith and national fidelity — and certainly this columnist — have an absolute obligation to meet you and your agenda with resistance at every turn.

This is the theme of the unethical response of the Angry Left—which increasingly appears to include everyone on the that side of the political spectrum. The double standard reigns. Conservatives should accept election results with grace and patriotism in the interests of national unity, but liberals can scream, protest, attack the system and claim fraud indefinitely. Republicans shouldn’t use fear as a political weapon, but Democrats can. Americans should give elected leaders a chance to  progress beyond the uncivil and excessive rhetoric on both sides during a campaign, with the exception of this President. Continue reading

From Missouri: Good Ethics Theory, Dumb Bill

Rep. Bart Korman, deep thinker...

Rep. Bart Korman, deep thinker...

A proposed bill, sponsored by Rep. Bart Korman, a Montgomery County Republican in the Missouri legislature, would require lobbyists who have sex with a Missouri lawmaker or a member of a lawmaker’s staff  to disclose it to the Missouri Ethics Commission. The bill defines sex between lobbyists and legislators as a gift, so  sexual relations would have to be included on monthly lobbyist gift disclosure forms.

In theory, the bill is ethically admirable. Lobbyists having sex with legislators is unethical, and vice-versa. It creates a conflict of interest for the legislator, creates an appearance of impropriety, suggests a quid pro quo arrangement, and either is or looks like the equivalent of a bribe. It is grossly unprofessional for both sex partners. It is unethical in every way.

The proposed law, however, is stupid and incompetent beyond belief or justification. It doesn’t even send an important message: everyone already knows that for lobbyists and elected officials to have sex is unethical. Lobbyists and legislators are already professionally obligated to report professional misconduct, by themselves and others. This is the ethical duty of disclosure and transparency. Why would any lobbyist so unethical as to have sex with a legislator he or she was supposed to lobby suddenly decide to abide by a law and disclose it, thus embarrassing his or her paramour? It makes as much sense to pass a law requiring burglars to report their break-ins and thefts, or to require tax cheats to list the money they hid on their last tax returns as income on the next one. Continue reading

In Maryland, Tempting Moral Luck And The Barn Door Phenomenon In A Free Range Kids Ethics Conflict

Lyon Sisters

Just months after suburban Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were cited by Montgomery County’s Child Protective Services for “unsubstantiated neglect” for allowing their children Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, to walk home from a park close to home, the defiant parents let their kids to do it again. Again, someone called 911 (anonymously), and again the children were picked up by police.

This time, the police took the Meitiv children to Child Protective Services headquarters and for some reason didn’t tell the parents, who, naturally enough, freaked out. Five and a half hours later the agitated children and frantic parents  were reunited. You can read about the initial incident from the mother’s perspective here; and obviously Lenore Skanazy is in full battle array on her “Free Range Kids Blog.” Columnists everywhere are rushing to their keyboards to write columns like this one, by the Washington Post’s Petula Devorak, titled “Why Are We Criminalizing Childhood Independence?”

The ethics of this issue are more complicated than simplistic “We used to walk around freely all the time when we were kids and it was more dangerous then than now” reminiscences are equipped to explore.

Analyzing this ethics conflict (“when two or more ethical principles are in opposition”)  screams out for the useful starting point for ethics analysis:

What’s going on here?

Before I answer, let’s get a couple of ethics verdicts out of the way: Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Montgomery County, Md. Police Chief Tom Manger

"Cops": Chaz Pando as the doomed perp; Nello DeBlasio as the hostage.

“Cops”: Chaz Pando as the doomed perp; Nello DeBlasio as the hostage.

My theater company is performing the 1976 Terry Curtis Fox drama “Cops” as we wind down this season after 20 years. I chose the show, and its companion piece in an evening called “Crime and Punishment in America,” William Saroyan’s classic one-act “Hello Out There,” in direct response to Ferguson, the growing controversy over police violence, the increased racial divide in the U.S. and the gun control debate. Both dramas, as cast, involve African American victims of violence in a law enforcement setting. “Cops,” in particular, features openly biased Chicago police (at least based on their choice of words) and the police execution of a disarmed and surrendering cop-shooter. As the lights fade, the police are discussing what their cover story should be.

I invited the Chief of Police in Montgomery County, Maryland, Tom Manger, to come to the production and field questions from the audience regarding its relevance to current controversies in Ferguson, New York City and across the nation. [Full disclosure: I have known Chief Manger and his wife for many years, and consider them friends] You might recognize him: he was a major figure in the apprehension of the D.C. Snipers, and has been seen and interviewed on the national news and on issue talk shows several times, most recently on CNN’s “State of the Nation” with Candy Crowley. Not only did Tom agree to come, but he let me schedule him twice, said the sessions could be videotaped, and that no question would be off limits.

The first of the talkbacks took place last week (I am moderating another this Sunday), and Tom was as good as his word—candid, blunt, open, and frank.  He was quizzed, hard, by our diverse, astute and always combative audience members about police training, police force diversity, bad cops, police who lie and cover-up misconduct, and racism in the ranks, as well as the details of specific shootings including the local one I have referred to here more than once, in which an unarmed white man, John Geer, was shot and killed by police as he stood in his doorway negotiating with them over a domestic dispute.

Since the episode in Ferguson, Chief Manger said, he has been meeting with community groups two or three evenings a week, doing everything he can to bolster community trust. Among his comments in response to questions: Continue reading

Comment of the Day #1: The Eventual Firing of Daniel Picca: Why Our Children Are Not Safe In Public School

child-endangerment

One aspect of Ethics Alarms that provides me with both satisfaction and pride is that participants in the events that sparked particular ethics commentaries sometimes comment on the posts, providing fascinating and useful perspective. Such a comment arrived yesterday, a heart-felt and wrenching testimony by a former student who was one of the many abused by teacher Daniel Picca, in Montgomery County (Maryland) schools. My post had focused on the fact that his proclivities were well known by 1995, yet it took school administrators until 17 years later to fire him.

I also note, ruefully, that the original post concluded by pointing out that the tendency of those in positions of authority to postpone confronting reality, to avoid confrontation and to rationalize inaction even in the face of undeniable peril to others was mirrored in the U.S.’s irresponsible approach to the conduct of the leadership in Syria and Iran. It was written in 2012.

Here is Sergio Madrid’s Comment of the Day on the post, The Eventual Firing of Daniel Picca: Why Our Children Are Not Safe In Public School:

As a former student, this is all true. I was too young to know it back then, but this man is a calculating monster. Reading this story does not surprise me one bit.

Back in the day (early 90′s – Rachel Carson Elementary), he had kids from my neighborhood help him come clean his classroom and we did challenges for candy. He had a closet FULL of candy. I can reflect that his “Picca Magical Dollars” was an excellent motivator in the classroom – it was also my neighborhood’s downfall for young boys at the time. The magical bucks were used to buy candy on Fridays (if we chose to spend our money) and that candy was the bait for young boys. We were too young to even know. After school, we would clean his classroom and he would have me sit on his lap. He would have me flex and he squeezed my muscles. I do remember one incident where he squeezed and did not let go. I squirmed in agony and would back and head butt him – busted his lip and he got up and yelled at me to leave his room and go home.

Too bad I’m late. I really wish I would have stepped up on this man. He IS a monster and let me tell you …. he single-handedly destroyed all my African American and Latino friends in 5th grade with his malicious words and style. They were targets from day one and NEVER recovered to be successful students in school. I still remember all this some 20-25 years later.

Although I do not know where he currently is, keep this man away from ANY schools with young children. If one person reads this – please understand it’s very real and true. I didn’t hide my real name. He was my 5th grade teacher. Real shame and sad to read these articles.

The Maryland Supreme Court Clearly Doesn’t Believe In Signature Significance

PeepingTom

But I do.

The Maryland Supreme Court just reinstated a Clayton W. Boulware, a Montgomery County attorney who had been suspended for six months after being convicted of covertly filming up the skirts of two women, one of whom was a minor, in a public place.  Boulware was suspended in September for six months with a three-year probationary period to follow the suspension.

In his defense, Boulware blamed his upskirt peeping on an “open relationship” with a younger woman, introducing him to a “swinging lifestyle” that included filming themselves having sex. But that relationship is over now, the court notes, so, hey, no problem.

The bar disciplinary board noted in its report to the court that it believed  a more lenient approach to punishing Boulware was called for because of those “mitigating circumstances.”  Lawyers are, as everyone knows, putty in the hands of swinging young women, and this always results in them shooting up other women’s skirts.

I feel like I am losing my mind. Continue reading