Posts tagged as:

schools

It’s being litigated contentiously in a Florida courtroom. After the lad got a D in an Honors algebra class and his family filed extensive protests, the school transferred him to an easier class. That generated a new grievance in turn: “He’s just not being challenged,” the “mathlete”‘s lawyer-father says now. [Orlando Sentinel]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on October 17, 2013

  • Opponents, including U.S. Department of Justice, go after school choice programs in court [Jason Bedrick, more]
  • Study finds bullying programs may have opposite from intended effect. Why, next they’ll tell us D.A.R.E. is a flop at curbing drug use. Oh wait [CBS Dallas]
  • National Association of the Deaf files lawsuit against Maryland, seeking captioning at sporting events [WaPo]
  • “NYC will spend $29 million on salaries, benefits of educators it can’t fire” [NY Daily News] [NY Times]
  • Gotta-cover-yourself incident and accident reports clog the classroom day with paper [Ted Frank, Point of Law]
  • “IRBs and mission creep” [Dave Hoffman, Prawfs, earlier]
  • Boy who drew cartoonish bomb at home suspended, reinstated [Fox Carolina, Free-Range Kids]

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Webster, N.Y.: “The family of a former Webster Thomas hockey player has sued the school district and hockey coach for keeping him at the junior varsity level for four years ‘in spite of his advanced skills.’” [Justin Murphy, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle]

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“Officials at Weber Middle School in Port Washington are worried that students are getting hurt during recess. Thus, they have instituted a ban on footballs, baseballs, lacrosse balls, or anything that might hurt someone on school grounds. … some parents said it is really about liability and lawsuits.” [CBS New York] More: Lowering the Bar.

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“Security is a legitimate concern — especially where children are concerned. And parents naturally slip into terror mode whenever a possible threat to their child arises. But Canadian schools now take the cake when it comes to hitting DEFCON 1 whenever a kid gets off at the wrong stop or spots a peanut in the lunch room.” [National Post]

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Some students in Oregon apparently thought it would be funny to create Facebook and Twitter accounts posing as an assistant principal at the middle school, and “allegedly posted materials, including some which were obscene, that caused his reputation to be diminished. He brought suit against defendants and their parents, alleging claims under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and for defamation and negligent supervision.” Dismissing the lawsuit, the court cited precedent that violation of websites’ terms of use does not constitute a CFAA violation, and added as to the racketeering charge: “Congress did not intend to target the misguided attempts at retribution by juvenile middle school students against an assistant principal in enacting RICO.” [Venkat Balasubramani, Eric Goldman's Technology & Marketing Law Blog; Matot v. CH (PDF), U.S. District Court, Oregon]

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Guns roundup

by Walter Olson on September 16, 2013

  • On Tuesday, Sen. Dick Durbin convenes hearing intended to bash “Stand Your Ground,” ALEC, and anyone associated with either; keep an eye on the testimony of my Cato colleague Ilya Shapiro who may prove more than a match [Sun-Times, Tuccille, Keating; background; hearing now postponed] Accuracy problems dog Coalition to Stop Gun Violence on SYG [John Hinderaker, PowerLine] Demagoguing Lane, Belton slayings is no way to “balance” media skew on Martin/Zimmerman [Ann Althouse]
  • Following “finger-gun” episode at another Maryland school: “Gun gesture leads to suspension for Calvert sixth-grader” [WaPo, earlier] Why a mom changed her mind on letting kid play with toy guns [C. Gross-Loh, The Atlantic]
  • Advocacy play-by-play: “A how-to book on inciting a moral panic” [James Taranto]
  • If you think gun liberties are shrinking overall in America, check out this map [Volokh] “Illinois Supreme Court: Second Amendment Protects Carrying Outside the Home” [Volokh] “Chicago abolishes gun registry in place since 1968″ [Reuters]
  • Forthcoming Nicholas Johnson book “Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms” [Law and Liberty]
  • Database cross-checks put California on slippery slope confiscation-wise [Steven Greenhut]
  • Cato amicus brief: Supreme Court should clarify that the Second Amendment “protects more than the right to keep a gun in one’s home.” [Shapiro, Cato; Woollard v. Gallagher, Maryland]

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Allison Benedikt is a bad person. Not bad like murderer bad — but bad like asking-actual-families-to-ignore-their-love-of-their-children-in-pursuit-of-her-ideology bad. So, pretty bad. I’m just judgmental.

Explanation here. To avoid sending more traffic to what is already shaping up as one of the year’s prime troll linkbait articles, here’s Benedikt’s already-notorious leadoff paragraph:

You are a bad person if you send your children to private school. Not bad like murderer bad—but bad like ruining-one-of-our-nation’s-most-essential-institutions-in-order-to-get-what’s-best-for-your-kid bad. So, pretty bad.

It has been proposed that this is all actually a brilliant Swiftian satire. I doubt it, though, since Benedikt is the managing editor of Slate’s DoubleX, which is to humorless leftism what rural Australia is to bauxite. As far as whether the view outlined here is on some unheard-of fringe, few contemporary writers on education have been as widely praised or assigned as Jonathan Kozol, whose views Benedikt appears to track pretty closely. See Alex Tabarrok’s very pertinent comparison to the question of whether it was moral to escape from the former East Germany.

My guess: all the mirthless laughs are unintended. More: Ken at Popehat, Jason Bedrick/Cato, Ross Douthat (“Everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”).

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August 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 29, 2013

If a private employer tried to pull this kind of thing I expect there’d be an outcry:

Glendale school officials have hired a Hermosa Beach company to monitor and analyze public social media posts, saying the service will help them step in when students are in danger of harming themselves or others.

And with a private employer, you’d be there by your own choice.

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People can’t stop gawking at this Manhattan couple’s lawsuit against a $39,000/year private school. The lad in question was in kindergarten: “On one occasion, plaintiffs’ 5-year-old son was relegated to the role of ‘door-holder’ and ordered to hold the door for all of the other students.” Mr. and Mrs. Heinemann also say they got stuck with an unplanned $50,000 winning “bid” for a finger painting at a charity auction, and are additionally suing for the cost of continuing to employ their child’s $60,000/year chauffeur, “whose job they want to save.” [New York Post]

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Texas: “Two students say [their federally protected service-animal] rights were violated when the Denison Independent School District ordered them to remove the caps and gowns their service dogs were wearing for graduation…. ‘It’s not that he’s graduating, because he’s not; I’m aware of that,’ [Ms. Brashier] said.” [WFAA]

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“Paying to Learn Nothing = Legal; Paying Nothing to Learn = Illegal” [Andrew Coulson, Cato, contrasting internship ruling with the general lack of a legal or political remedy against educational institutions should you "go into serious debt [but] learn nothing of value”; more on the absence of “educational malpractice” relief; earlier here, etc.]

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Schools roundup

by Walter Olson on June 17, 2013

  • Chilling one side of a debate? American Federation of Teachers arm-twists board members to quit groups critical of union contracts (including the Manhattan Institute, with which I used to be affiliated) [New York Post, Bloomberg, Ira Stoll]
  • “Third Circuit Finds Schools Aren’t Liable for Bullies” [Fed Soc Blog]
  • Case dismissed in Marshall University student’s suit over exceedingly undignified bottle-rocket stunt [West Virginia Record]
  • Free pass for harming students? Realistic policy call? Both? Courts frown on “educational malpractice” claims vs. schools, teachers [Illinois State Bar Association; Beck]
  • Brookings has very poor reviews for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s student loan plan [Matthew Chingos and Beth Akers; Megan McArdle]
  • 1,200 sign Harvard petition assailing academic freedom in Jason Richwine case [Boston Globe]
  • College selection of commencement speakers: political spectrum’s so skewed that even moderate GOPer Bob Zoellick’s a no-go [Bainbridge]
  • The Common Good online forum on risk and legal fear in schools, in which I’m a participant, continues for another day or two.

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I’ve now done a second post in Common Good’s symposium on education and fear of liability. Among the topics I discuss: assumption of risk, statutes of limitations, sovereign immunity, and the need for some more organized way of advocating the interests of public service entities against excessive or impractical liability demands. You can read it here.

I’m a participant in an online forum put on by Common Good this week about the age of zero tolerance for aspirin pills, bans on games of “tag,” and broken-thermometer lockdowns. From their description:

We entrust our children to teachers and principals with the expectation that they will be both educated and protected from harm. When, inevitably, incidents happen — especially when those incidents are tragic and well-publicized — communities often press for stricter rules and procedures. School administrations have reacted to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School with extreme protectiveness; one school suspended a six-year-old for “pointing his finger like a gun and saying ‘pow,’” while another suspended two boys for playing cops and robbers.

Also featured: Lenore Skenazy, Frederick Hess, Megan Rosker, and Nancy McDermott. From my contribution:

When they “err on the side of safety” in absurd ways, schools reflect trends in the wider society. … Already, by ten years ago, British commentator Jenny Cunningham could write that “A significant body of research evidence now indicates that there has been a drastic decline in children’s outdoor activity and unsupervised play. For example, it has been calculated that the free play range of children — the radius around the home to which children can roam alone — has, for nine-year-olds in the UK, shrunk to a ninth of what it was in 1970. Perhaps most damaging is that a climate has been created in which all unsupervised play is regarded as high risk, and parents or teachers who allow it are seen as irresponsible.” Cunningham notes that families now tend to see the risks of being hit by traffic or (far less likely) abducted by strangers as ruling out outdoor play. “Yet, despite the increasing levels of worry, in reality children have never been safer.” Sound familiar?

I go on to mention CPSIA, the wildly overreaching 2008 law regulating children’s products in the name of safety, and the proliferation of requirements that innocuous everyday chemicals be accompanied by material-safety-sheet paperwork. My conclusion: “If these are the trends in the outside society, how likely is it that schools will be able to resist?” (cross-posted from Cato at Liberty)

The Colorado Supreme Court, wisely resisting a national campaign of school funding litigation, has turned down a lawsuit arguing that the state is obliged under its constitution to step up school spending. [Denver Post, KDVR, opinion in State v. Lobato]

I’ve got a post up at Cato at Liberty about the Colorado decision, noting that although school finance litigators make a lot of noise about educational quality, they are actually on a mission of “control —specifically, transferring control over spending from voters and their representatives to litigators whose loyalty is to a mix of ideologues and interest groups sharing a wish for higher spending.” I quote from a section on school finance litigation that I wound up cutting from my book Schools for Misrule about the enormous impact such suits have had in other states:

Vast sums have been redistributed as a result. Lawmakers in Kentucky enacted more than a billion dollars in tax hikes. New Jersey adopted its first income tax. Kansas lawmakers levied an additional $755 million in taxes after the state’s high court in peremptory fashion ordered them to double their spending on schools.

The results have been at best mixed: while some states to come under court order have improved their educational performance, many others have stagnated or fallen into new crisis. Colorado is fortunate not to join their ranks. (& reprint: Complete Colorado)

P.S. From a Colorado Springs Gazette report, Jul. 31, 2011:

“Putting more money into a broken system won’t get a better results. There are improvements that could be made without money,” says Deputy Attorney General Geoffrey Blue. …

He points to a Cato Institute study that showed spending on education across the country has skyrocketed but test scores didn’t improve.

“That would mean that potentially every cent of the state budget would be shifted over to K-12 education,” says Blue, who heads the office’s legal policy and government affairs.

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Ervin Mears Jr. has sued in Camden County, claiming his son Mawusimensah Mears, a sophomore, was kicked off the track team on the grounds of unexcused absences from practice. “‘Participation in extracurricular activities is a right,’ Mears said. Not allowing his son to participate constitutes bullying, harassment, and an ‘abusive school environment’ in which the sophomore’s rights to due process and freedom of speech were impeded, the suit says.” He wants $40 million. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

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