"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

It Takes Balls

Historically, schools have been ground zero for playing out the battles taking place in the world of grown ups. But, in a recent story taking place a few miles from New York City, both young and old Christian warriors are taking on 16-year-old Mathew LaClair who still believes that the U.S. Constitution should protect public school students from being told they that if they do not believe in Jesus they "belong in hell,"and that there is no scientific basis for evolution, and that dinosaurs were on Noah's ark.

The story was reported widely in the press a few months ago, but since Mathew recorded a popular history teacher and disseminated the tape outside the school district, he has received death threats and has been bullied by fellow students who don't understand why this is a big deal. Meanwhile, the school has since instituted a new policy that requires students to get permission from the administration, teachers and classmates to tape a teacher.
On the other side of this battle are the American Civil Liberties Union, the People for the American Way Foundation, and a partner from a large Manhattan law firm who are threatening to sue the Kearny Board of Education if their complaints are not resolved.
Since Matthew turned over the tapes to school officials, his family and supporters said, he has been the target of harassment and a death threat from fellow students and “retaliation” by school officials who have treated him, not the teacher, as the problem.
The retaliation, they say, includes the district’s policy banning students from recording what is said in class without a teacher’s permission and officials’ refusal to punish students who have harassed Matthew. Matthew and his parents, Paul and Debra LaClair, are demanding an apology to Matthew and public correction of some of Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in class.

The LaClairs filed a torts claim notice on Feb. 13 against the school board, Mr. Paszkiewicz and other school officials. Such a claim is required before a lawsuit can be filed in New Jersey. “The school created a climate in which the students in the school community held resentment for Matthew,” said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the A.C.L.U. in New Jersey. She said Kearny High School had “violated the spirit and the letter of freedom of religion and the First Amendment.”
Meanwhile, on another battlefront, librarians are keeping children "scrotum free" and safe from the dark porn of the Newberry Award winning book The Higher Power of Lucky, a children's book. The story is about a dog that gets bit by a rattlesnake on his scrotum. Apparently, it has parents in an uproar and the Department of Education and Miss Margaret likely haven't been this outraged since they launched their war against Buster the Bunny.
From the New York Times:
The inclusion of the word has shocked some school librarians, who have pledged to ban the book from elementary schools, and reopened the debate over what constitutes acceptable content in children’s books. The controversy was first reported by Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine.
On electronic mailing lists like
Librarian.net, dozens of literary blogs and pages on the social-networking site LiveJournal, teachers, authors and school librarians took sides over the book. Librarians from all over the country, including Missoula, Mont.; upstate New York; Central Pennsylvania; and Portland, Ore., weighed in, questioning the role of the librarian when selecting — or censoring, some argued — literature for children.
With all those balls being thrown around, it's likely someone is going to get hurt.

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