More Stupid School Administrators

The Rutherford Institute is suing a school in Greenbelt, Maryland after the vice principal threatened a 7th grader with punishment because she was reading her Bible while eating lunch in the school cafeteria. I just don't understand how a school administrator could be this stupid. Even if you don't know anything about the law, this is just plain common sense. This kind of nonsense just feeds into the religious right's persecution complex and makes the schools look like the bad guys.

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Well, Ed, as you so often urge in other instances, maybe it would be wise to wait for an account of this that doesn't come from only one side in the dispute. We don't know what the Asst. Principal actually did or said or [in either case] why. We have only so far the RI's summary account. Might be prudent to hear the otherside's version before leaping to a conclusion. It may be as the RI summarized it. But it also may not be.

Not that public school administrators can not sometimes be, and sometimes are, mind-numbingly dumb about matters of discipline. And other things.

By flatlander100 (not verified) on 02 Oct 2006 #permalink

Many school administrators - particularly in the higher grades - have a hideous tendancy to petty tyranny, which is exacerbated if not actively encouraged by the degree to which schools are expected to control how students behave and what they are exposed to socially.

I rather imagine any who has been in the public school system in the last two decades has got their share of 'stupid administrator' stories - mine personal favorite involves a pink and white polka-dot silk scarf tied in a big fluffy bow, which a school admin decided violated anti-gang dress codes.

Though incidents of administrative idiocy are far more likely to get publicity if they involve religion or sexuality, this is hardly new stuff. Which is really a rather shameful condition for public education to be in, in my opinion.

By PennyBright (not verified) on 02 Oct 2006 #permalink


The Rutherford Institute is actually one of the few religious right groups I take seriously. They've done a lot of solid work on church/state cases. If they are lying about what happened, I'll be very, very surprised. This isn't the ADF, where they put out absurd "declaration of independence banned from classroom" press releases.

'A parent in Houston, TX wants the school district to ban Fahrenheit 451'

I cant help but laugh every time someone wants to ban a book on censorship. Especialy when they say things like "Well, I havent read it but it's filth!"

Especially now that they might be thinking that they are banning Fahrenheit *9/11*!

Not necessarily suggesting they are lying. They are not Focus on the Family, after all. Merely that all we have so far is their summary account. One side in a legal action. That may in fact be all there is to tell, but until I hear something from the other side, I'd still avoid drawing categorical conclusions. That's all. Sometimes, parents blow things all out of proportion; sometimes students do. And sometimes student accounts of what happened, told to parents, produce anger, charges, etc that may not, on sober consideration, be sustainable. Any side in a legal action tends, as a rule, to present its most favorable "case" in summary description. If the asst. principle was as foolish as they charge, have at him. But I want to hear his account before I decide that.

By flatlander100 (not verified) on 02 Oct 2006 #permalink

Perhaps this suggests additional tactics for the good guys, say, actively, proactively campaigning for the approprite indivudal rights vis-a-vis religion in the public space. If we only show up in opposition when Christian conservatives try to do something, well...we could be smarter. Lots of options available.

Just a thought.

By SkookumPlanet (not verified) on 02 Oct 2006 #permalink

The ACLU already does so and always has, but the right conveniently ignores all of those cases (and often even lies about them). They're too perfect an enemy for fundraising purposes to ever let reality alter the demonization strategy.

I would geuss that the only reason that they don't work on more of these cases is that they don't get calls from that many people to take these cases. There are a lot of Christian legal groups that specialise in these kind of cases - why would they even think of calling the ACLU. Figure, the first the ACLU hears of these cases is when the rest of the public does.

I'm not clear if you were responding to me. In any case I meant doing so without any extant "case", just a general, marketing style campaign or "rights education" campaign by whomever. I guess I'm assuming the left has no counter messaging going to the audience that the right feeds minsinformation to about the left's views on this

The ACLU realities you mention I know about. That's a bit of a harder nut to crack.

By SkookumPlanet (not verified) on 02 Oct 2006 #permalink

Whenever I see or hear the "where was the ACLU" mantra, I respond (if I can) that the ACLU can't take a case to court unless a prospective plaintiff permits them to, and that perhaps the prospective plaintiff went to someone else first.

Another possibility is that this principal had been misled by religious wingnuts into believing that reading the Bible was against the law. This could have been an unintentional deception -- he only listens to the most vocal right-wing activists, they told him the Bible was illegal in this evil secularist society of ours, and he believed them and acted to cover his ass -- or an intentional provocation -- he knowingly started a fight to make Christians look "persecuted."

Yet another possibility is that he suspended the student for "reading" the Bible OUT LOUD and bothering other students.

There is a problem with this case. The board policy allows them to read the bible (among other books), allows them non-disruptive prayer, etc. There is no reason for a lawsuit, because the district isn't breaking any laws, all it has to do to make the suit null and void is to discipline the vp. He violated a board policy, he can be disciplined by simply saying "hey Bob, don't do it again," and they effectively have no case. They are making a mountain out of a mole hill.

By dogmeatIB (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink

But the school is apparently choosing not to do that. Even without the board policy, the guy is clearly violating the law, which means the board policy is pretty much irrelevant except as a recognition that even they know that his actions are illegal.

Well, you're talking two weeks since the incident. And it says the school, which isn't the board.

The board might not even have heard about it before their regular meeting (most states require monthly meetings). This wouldn't really qualify as an emergency, so a special emergency executive board couldn't be called, etc. They may not have been able to meet regarding this yet.

My point is that the district has a board approved policy regarding this that flies right in the face of what the administrator is doing. Unless they're idiots like Dover, this shouldn't go beyond the next board meeting. The only complication I see is if the parents/RI are demanding that the vp be fired, etc., then the district might fight (and rightfully so).

It's simple, what he did was stupid and wrong, not just in the constitutional sense, but in board policy (IE legal sense). He should be reprimanded within the district and, it's done. Unless there is more to the case, then this is really a non-issue. The board has a perfectly legal, constitutionally friendly, policy in place, he violated it. Reprimand him and move on.

By dogmeatIB (not verified) on 03 Oct 2006 #permalink