- Many states have liberalized rules on family homeschooling, now comes the backlash from proponents of tighter regulation [NY Times]
- Kansas Supreme Court decrees higher school spending, estimated taxpayer cost upwards of $500 million [Greg Weiner, Law and Liberty, Wichita Eagle; earlier] After all, judicially directed school munificence worked so well in nearby Kansas City, Missouri [via @David_Boaz]
- Scaring ourselves to death: the insanity of school active shooter drills [Radley Balko]
- University of Virginia’s resistance to assault hoax weaker than Duke’s, possibly because pressure on skeptics to shut up has intensified [KC Johnson/Stuart Taylor, Jr./Real Clear Politics] Hans Bader on curious provisions of feds’ settlement with Harvard [Examiner, earlier]
- “Oklahoma court declines to order [high school] football game replayed for blown call” [Paul Cassell, more]
- Ohio judge rules principals, superintendent open to being sued personally over school shooting [Insurance Journal]
- “Wow. How fun is this? A merry go round welded stationary. So kids don’t get hurt. Way to go, New York!” [Lenore Skenazy]
Should we cheer or boo when outspoken professors at state universities become the target of public records demands filed by antagonists seeking their emails and correspondence? As we had occasion to note during the Douglas Laycock controversy in May and June, there’s plenty of inconsistency on this question on both left and right. Some who cheer FOIA requests when aimed at scholars supportive of the environmental and labor movements, for example, later deplore them as harassment when the tables are turned, and vice versa.
If there’s any group you might expect to take a consistent position on these questions, it’s the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), its members being prospective targets of such requests and thus at the very center of the issue. So what’s their opinion?
In 2011, when politically liberal University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon was the target of a FOIA request by state Republicans, AAUP sent a strongly worded letter on its letterhead denouncing the move as a threat to academic freedom. The group likewise came to the defense of environmentalists targeted by conservatives.
This spring, an AAUP document on “Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications” (see pp. 12-14) was moderately critical of FOIA requests targeting University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus and his journal editor over a much-criticized study providing social conservatives with ammunition against changes in family law favorable toward gays. Since no one suspects the AAUP’s leadership of sympathy with the content of Regnerus’s work, this suggested that the skepticism toward FOIA might be founded on principle.
Not long afterward, however, when prominent (and politically unclassifiable) University of Virginia law professor Doug Laycock came under FOIA attack from gay rights activists who disapproved of his courtroom work on religious liberties, the AAUP was quoted in the press talking in a more vague and reticent way of “balance” and saying it weighs in on particular controversies rather than taking general stands.
Now turn to the University of Kansas, where Art Hall, executive director of the Center for Applied Economics at Kansas University’s business school is under FOIA attack, accused of being too close to the free-market economics favored by donors from the Koch family of Wichita (who have also given much support over the years to the Cato Institute, which publishes this site). So what do you know? The state AAUP chapter is actually leading the charge against Hall, its members have raised funds to support the public records demand, and its state president vocally insists that there’s no danger whatsoever to academic freedom in allowing, as a group once put it, “fleeting, often casual e-mail exchanges among scholars to be opened to inspection by groups bent on political attack.”
You might start to wonder whether the AAUP is going to hold to any consistent position at all beyond the convenience of the moment. (& George Leef, Phi Beta Cons; reprinted at Minding the Campus) Update: Judge halts process to review proposed email release [Will Creeley, FIRE]
Kansas: “A federal jury Tuesday awarded a former McPherson police officer who was found sleeping on duty almost $1 million in wages and damages. Matthew B. Michaels alleged the city violated his civil rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act and the Kansas Wage Payment Act. He was fired from the McPherson Police Department in July 2012. Michaels said he was discriminated against because of a sleep apnea disability.” [McPherson Sentinel]
- “Tenured Wisconsin Prof Sues Former Student Over Online Comments on Her Teaching” [Caron/TaxProf]
- Recent Paul Alan Levy profile: “The web bully’s worst enemy” [Washingtonian] HHS signals it won’t pursue case against blogger [Levy, earlier] Arizona Yelp case angle [Scott Greenfield]
- Get your ideas out of town: threats against hotel “have escalated to include death threats, physical violence against our staff and other guests” [Deadline Detroit; “men’s rights movement” conference]
- UK police investigate Baptist church after “burn in Hell” sign reported as “hate incident” [Secular Right]
- Please don’t give him ideas: “Should it be against the law to criticize Harry Reid?” [Trevor Burrus, Boston Herald]
- “MAP: The places where blasphemy could get you punished” [Washington Post]
- Only three states – Wisconsin, Michigan, and Kansas — have laws inviting vengeful secret John Doe probes [Ilya Shapiro, earlier]
The Kansas Board of Regents has adopted a broad new policy barring employees, including faculty, from “improper use of social media,” which include content that “impairs … harmony among co-workers” or is “contrary to the best interests of the university,” with some narrow exceptions such as “academic instruction within the instructor’s area of expertise (emphasis added)” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, among other groups, have argued that the new policy “authorizes punishment for constitutionally protected speech, and … leaves professors unsure of what speech a university might sanction them for,” the result being a chilling effect on both free speech and academic freedom [FIRE, NPR]. The policy was adopted at the behest of critics of one professor’s controversial anti-gun tweet, and Charles C.W. Cooke at NRO says conservative regents should have been among the first to realize that professor-muzzling is not the way to respond.
KSU’s Dan Warner did a series of posters (Creative Commons permissions) skewering the new policy, including the one above; more on that here.
- Shakedowns as speech? “Patent trolls are getting First Amendment protection for their demand letters” [ABA Journal]
- Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp decries press attention to $5K settlement over son’s bike mishap [Hutchinson News, more]
- NY Times covers story of copyright takedown on Marx-Engels works and mentions my Cato Institute post;
- After Pfizer’s attempt to expatriate itself for tax reasons, which other big companies with high overseas earnings might be next? [Washington Post]
- I’m quoted on rethinking of divorce law [Jennifer Hickey, Newsmax]
- Language Log quotes our post last year re: “La trahison des woncs”
- Shameless ad from UFCW, union that reps employees at Pennsylvania state stores, insists that grocery-store beer sales must be forbidden For the Children [PennLive, Tim Cavanaugh, Jacob Sullum; on factual controversy, MediaTrackers]
- By convention the business/defense side isn’t fond of jury trial while plaintiff’s side sings its praises, but Louisiana fight might turn that image on its head [Hayride, sequel at TortsProf (measure fails)]
- Generous tort law, modern industrial economy, doing away with principle of limited liability: pick (at most) two of three [Megan McArdle]
- Fallacies about Stella Liebeck McDonald’s hot coffee case go on and on, which means correctives need to keep coming too [Jim Dedman, DRI]
- Interaction of products liability with workplace injury often provides multiple bites at compensation apple, overdue for reform [Michael Krauss]
- Ford Motor is among most recent seeking to pull back the curtain on asbestos bankruptcy shenanigans [Daniel Fisher; related, Washington Examiner] “Page after page he sits on the straw man’s chest, punching him in the face” [David Oliver on expert affidavit in asbestos case]
- Kansas moves to raise med-mal caps as directed by state supreme court, rebuffs business requests for collateral source rule reform [Kansas Medical Society]
- Let’s hope so: “More stringent pleading for class actions?” [Matthew J.B. Lawrence via Andrew Trask, Class Strategist]
- “Cops or soldiers? America’s police have become too militarized” [The Economist survey and related editorial] Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) introduces bill to rein in police militarization [Radley Balko]
- “Connecticut City Will Have to Re-Hire Cop Fired for Premature Decision to Use Deadly Force” [Ed Krayewski, Reason]
- “No, legalizing medical marijuana doesn’t lead to crime, according to actual crime stats” [Emily Badger, WaPo] New Marijuana Law Policy and Reform blog from Doug Berman of Ohio State;
- “While their agency minders weren’t looking, the Border Patrol has developed a substantial excessive force problem.” [Dara Lind, Vox]
- “Los Angeles Cops Argue All Cars in L.A. Are Under Investigation” [Jennifer Lynch, EFF/Gizmodo]
- Kansas family spent $25K establishing that loose tea leaves, hydroponic gear were reasons for SWAT raid on their home [KSHB, Radley Balko]
- “Kids Doing Time For What’s Not a Crime: The Over-Incarceration of Status Offenders” [Marc Levin and Derek Cohen, Texas Public Policy Foundation, PDF] More: Balko.
- Oklahoma attorney general goes to court claiming private litigant manipulation of endangered/threatened species petition process [Lowell Rothschild & Kevin Ewing; NPR “State Impact”; Oklahoman, auto-plays ad video; press release, Oklahoma AG E. Scott Pruitt; ESA Watch site from oil riggers; more on the topic]
- New Yorker mag backs tale of frogs/atrazine researcher who claims conspiracy. Someone’s gonna wind up embarrassed [Jon Entine]
- Does gas company lease of subsurface rights entitle it to seek injunction excluding protesters from ground level? [Paul Alan Levy]
- California: “Abusive Coastal Agency Demands Even More Power” [Steven Greenhut]
- Mr. Harris, you embarrass: “recreational burning of wood is unethical and should be illegal” [Sam Harris from 2012]
- Harrisburg Patriot-News series on flood insurance [TortsProf, R Street Institute on recent bill]
- Kansas, Louisiana, and Indiana named top states on property rights freedoms [Mercatus]
Andrew Ujifusa at Education Week (“Kansas Ruling Fuels Debate on Adequacy of Funding”) quotes me:
But the union’s solution of significantly higher funding for schools isn’t the obvious or correct one to Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Cato Institute. In a March 10 blog post on the website of the libertarian think tank, Mr. Olson said that Kansas’ finance fight is just one piece of a larger strategy that seeks to “seize control of school funding” through the courts.
In the process, he argued in a subsequent interview, that movement is subverting representative democracy by ignoring what state legislators decide on K-12 funding.
“I see it as a way in which the educational establishment uses litigation to entrench itself against supervision by other branches of government and voters interested in cutting budgets,” Mr. Olson said.
I go on to discuss California’s Serrano v. Priest and its unexpected consequence, voters’ limitation of property taxes through Proposition 13. And this from Ben Wilterdink at American Legislator on the latest ruling:
Kansas has faced this problem before. In 2005 the State Supreme Court ordered Kansas to spend more on education. Kansas lawmakers complied, but now the Court is again ordering more spending. Kansas already spends more than 50 percent of its budget on K-12 education, and if this ruling stands, it will be forced to spend 62 percent of its budget on education. All of this is despite the fact that when measured against regional per-pupil spending, Kansas is funding education quite well.
Earlier here, etc.
Related: Steve Malanga on school finance lawsuits and other “positive-rights” litigation at state supreme courts [City Journal]