DETROIT -- Michigan high school teacher Jay McDowell says he didn't like where the discussion was going after a student told his classmates he didn't "accept gays."
So McDowell kicked the boy out of class for a day.
In return, the teacher was suspended for a day without pay for violating the student's free speech rights...
The Constitution of the United States, includes a Bill of Rights, which doesn’t grant rights to anybody, but assumes people have the rights and severely limits the government from infringing on those rights. The US Constitution is not politically correct and does not place the ideas and speech of some people’s values over the ideas and speech of others. Wanting to instill a value of “tolerance” does not give the government or any of its agents, the right to stifle speech they don’t approve. That is exactly what Jay McDowell did when he threw the student out of class because he didn’t like the “where the discussion was going.”
It is a shame that a teacher was so intolerant and thought he had the right to punish a student for exercising his right to free speech. What is good is that he was rightly reprimanded and punished proportionately.
Far too often do we see disproportionate punishment for "crimes." The reason for a fine or punishment is to deter future bad behavior and offer restitution to the victim. In this case Justice was served; the minimal punishment did both. It affirmed that student's right to free speech, it sent the message to other students that the school would protect their basic civil rights, and deterred not only the McDowell but other teachers from infringing on the rights of other students in the future. More severe punishment would have been counterproductive, costly, and unjust.
Compare that to the punishment another student received when she had a plastic butter knife in her lunch box. The typical punishment for that offence is expulsion from school for having a weapon. This zero tolerance nonsense is not proportionate to what reasonable people would not even consider a crime. Whereas McDowell, as an agent of the government, clearly violated the civil rights of the student, in the other case a powerless minor committed no crime. It seems the punishment associated with zero tolerance government rules for minors is to instill a fear, and belief that the government has the authority and right to force you to obey any rule or regulations they want, and failure to obey will be severely punished.
We must as citizens all try to hold our government accountable, even the petty tyrants in our public school systems. We can and did hold our government officials accountable as reported in the news this week in the story of a middle school boy who was ordered to remove an American Flag he put on his bike to honor veterans.
Thank God for the uproar of the American people. The uproar forced the California school board to reverse its decision. I read in one account where a US Soldier in Afghanistan called the school board to complain. It was absurd for the government agents to think that they can deny a boy his civil rights because others didn’t like his expression. This is the so called hecklers veto. The first action should have been to focus on those students who made threats, not take away the rights of the student who violated no laws, nor rules, nor rights of another. But the government now says that because your exercise of your civil rights may upset others, and those others may do criminal things, you are responsible for the criminal actions of people who don’t want you to express an opinion or idea they don’t like.
Friday, 12 Nov 2010, 5:05 PM EST
SACRAMENTO - A boy in California is now allowed to ride to school with an American flag. Earlier this week, a middle school told 13-year-old Cody Alicea to take the flag off his bike. He was carrying the flag to honor veterans, like his own grandfather. He had been riding his bike with the flag for about two months.
The school district says the boy was asked to remove the flag because some students complained about it and apparently made threats.
School officials worried students would come to school with flags from other countries, sparking racial tension and possible violence. . .
How did this country get to the government that thinks it can silence citizens who express non politically correct ideas? It is hard to fathom how and why we accept a government that punishes a child who is threatened rather than hold accountable those who do the threatening.
We are teaching our children that their rights are not important, and that the government can take them away at will, without due process, without proof, without cause, just because zero tolerance and other stupid school rules make it easier for the school to maintain order. Contrary to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law which says you have a right to defend yourself, the general rule in most schools that if you are caught fighting you are suspended. So if a high school bully with failing grades who doesn’t care about learning decides to pick on a good kid and the kid defends himself (or worse yet steps in to defend a smaller weaker kid from the bully), the victim (or defender) gets punished along with the bully. If you’re a white middle class kid, who’s only hope at college is an academic scholarship, then that 5 day suspension could cost you your GPA and thousands of dollars of scholarship funds and the bully gets what he wanted, out of school. The victim is assumed guilty and there is no due process, and no defense. The zero tolerance for fighting policy of most Florida schools punishes victims, and violates the civil rights of students. We are teaching our children: that they don’t have basic civil rights, that they must be cowards, they must never stand up for themselves or others, and meekly obey the government tyrants, or be punished. Regardless of what our Constitution says, our actions and the actions of our government are teaching our youth that the government does not protect individual civil rights, and that punishments are drastically disproportionate to the crime, if the crime is failure to obey the government.
This zero tolerance policy has but one purpose, to teach our children that they never have the right to use force for any reason and that the government (school) has a monopoly on the use of force, and that there are no limits to what authority can do. This zero tolerance policy also teaches that justice does not exist, and can be denied for the convenience of the authority. This is contrary to the US and Florida constitutions and laws but is exactly what the ruling elite what the public to believe. The idea that no individual has the right to use force for any reason is contrary to the Constitution, Declaration of Independents and even the Libertarian Party Platform; which states “The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights — life, liberty, and justly acquired property — against aggression. This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. . . . and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of selfdefense.”
There is a need for legitimate authority, our children should be taught to respect those in authority, and obey all legitimate requests of that authority, BUT they should also be taught there are limits to government authority, what those limits are, how to respectfully stand up to the illegitimate exercise of authority, and when if necessary to use force to defend themselves or others. As citizens and parents, we must stand up for the rights of our children against the tyrannical excess of authority. If we want our future to have liberty, not an all controlling socialist nanny state, then this is where we start. Educating our children and protecting their rights. If students now coming of age and future generations believe that only the government has a legitimate claim to the use of force, that the government can silence ideas and speech they don’t like, and that it can deny justice for convenience, then we are no longer the home of the free and the brave, but the home to slaves.
I’m encouraged by the national uproar that forced one small government school district to uphold the civil rights of one boy. That uproar should be happening in every school district across the country. We must end the systematic attacks on civil rights, end stupid zero tolerance rules and insist that our schools teach the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the true meaning of Liberty and Justice for all.