Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United States

When Students Become Informers 325

Posted by JonKatz
from the -making-schools-unsafe-for-democracy- dept.
Student informing, encouraged and epidemic in American schools before, but especially after the Columbine killings, is an irrational, anti-democratic practice that upends the natural order of life among young people. And new technologies, from 800 numbers to e-mail, makes informing easier than ever. Consider a story in the Los Angeles Times this week focusing on this question: When a student helps a school investigate threats, who pays if the informant is sued? The question isn't rhetorical. (Read more).

The parents of a teenage girl, a high school freshmen in Lancaster, California, are facing $40,000 in legal bills because their kid did what school officials all across America have been urging kids to do for years: tell school officials if she saw or heard anything suspicous.

She did, quoting a classmate as saying: "We want to kill people; we're sick of them." (If I or anyone reading this called the police everytime we came across that comment online, a lot of teenage boys would be in jail.) She said the boy later threatened her for reporting his remarks.

He was immediately charged with making terrorist threats and intimidating a witness, and a juvenile court judge ordered him to serve six months' probation, according to the Times. But courts overturned his expulsion as unconstitutional and unjustified, and the boy and his parents then sued his accuser, her parents, school and Los Angeles county officials. The charges, said his suit, made him the object of ridicule, hatred and distrust.

A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge threw out his suit, but not before the girl's family had spent $40,000 in legal fees defending her. The school, which asked her to inform, refused to represent her after she did. So now her parents are suing them to recoup their losses.

Now, school and county officials are squabbling about whether they are obliged to pay her legal costs or not. In considering the implications of student informing, one has only to think about the fear, anger, and humiliation, the court, school and legal time expended, and the overall cost and implications of this single remark. Then multiply it by millions of kids informing on millions of other kids, as is now seemingly national educational policy.

School officials in California are arguing that it's going to be tough to get informers if schools won't defend them. You bet. But it's unclear whether insurance companies will pay such claims. The Times quotes the director of the Education Legal Alliance of the California School Board Association as saying schools do not have a responsibility to shield or indemnify students in that kind of situation. There's a legal difference between students and employees, said the official. That raises free speech issues on both sides of the student informing issue: kids who say stupid or ill-considered things are treated as terrorists, and kids who think they are doing the right thing aren't protected with they speak out either.

That suggests that neither of these high school freshmen should have landed in the position they did. Both deserve sympathy. As repugnant as informing is to many (me included), kids are told over and over that it's their job to protect themselves and their friends from dangerous peers, by turning them in. Adolescent boys have been saying offensive, profoundly stupid things -- even hateful ones -- forever, as everybody online knows. Are schools really creating safer environments, or instead institutions in which speech of all kinds is unsafe?

Turning kids into informers is viscerally anti-democratic. Student informing has been a hallmark of the worst political systems on record, whatever political labels have been attached to them, by bringing out the worst in human foibles, from fear to unchecked malice. Now it's easier than ever to turn a classmate in -- just make an anonymous call to an 800 number or, better yet, turn somebody in by e-mail. The target usually never gets to confront his accuser, unlike the student in California.

There's also the question of proportion. If a high school freshman expresses a desire to kill somebody, isn't there any educational response or remedy short of arrest for terrorism?

The story illustrates the dreadful position both of these people have been put in by the insane response to the Columbine tragedy. In a sense, the girl was doing what she's been asked to do. The boy -- there was never any evidence he planned to harm or kill anyone -- is threatened with jail for allegedly making a remark that would, in other times, be considered stupid or worthy of some suspension time.

In the months after Columbine, students all over America were asked to become informers by law enforcement authorities and educators. Companies like the Pinkerton Corp. under contract to state and local governments, even created sites like WaveAmerica.com, which urges kids to report the errant behavior of their friends and classmates, and provides toll free numbers manned round-the-clock by people who take and store reported information in a computerized system.

The chilling implications of student informing on social ties, civil liberties and free speech went largely unremarked-upon by the popular media in the national hysteria that followed the Columbine killings; by most parents, and by the people who really ought to have known better, educators themselves. Civil libertarians did sound repeated alarms, but they were ignored.

Definitions of dangerous behavior are wildly subjective and complex, and kids often had a tough time distinguishing between run-of-the-mill obnoxious and posturing behavior, and truly dangerous behavior worthy of being reported to the police. Trained psychologists disagree about symptoms and behavioral warning signs.

Lost in the Columbine mob scene was the fact that violent incidents in schools are rare in America, and getting more so by the year. Gamers, oddballs, Goths and geeks, kids who are bored, angry, alienated, or individualistic are naturally particular targets for kids-turned-informers. Anybody who's different or doesn't conform -- or who is angry -- can seem dangerous, especially given the wildly varying criteria applied in different schools.

Online, teenagers flame each other and everybody else all the time. If they do it in school, they can -- and do -- end up in jail.

But the bottom line seems as clear as it was after Columbine. It's the job of parents, educators and psychologists to watch our for and anticipate dangerous behavior. It should rarely be a legal or law enforcement issue, and it ought never to be the job of kids, students or classmates.

The message to kids isn't that schools are safer, but for everybody is to watch not only what they say, but what they hear.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

When Students Become Informers

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They would pay at least as much attention to controling the jocks who routinely beat and rob other students. Actual assault and robbery are apparently OK with the adults who run the schools - but threats to the system rate an informant network. Oh well, at least the kids are learning first hand what it means to be an American.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    except that i'm one of "those radical free-speechers" who thinks the first 10 amendments are more important than anything else in our country, the safety of people included -- for where there is no freedom there is no safety.

    Tell the kid that these phrases spark fear in a "post columbine world". If the kid is reasonable, he will stop or watch how he expresses himself. If he is not, then you start with detention, then suspension, then expulsion, THEN involve the law.
    Or, if the kid chooses to place her faith in the wisdom of Amendment One, she will say, "Excuse me?!? You're telling me that I can't tell someone else that I hate them and would be quite happy if they were to die? Well... in that case, Esteemed Principal and Board Members, I hate you all and would be quite pleased with your immediate demise ."

    Of course, we've already established that humans under 18 possess no rights, so I guess we can indeed punish them for their feelings.

    However, every attempt has to be made to educate the administrators, the parents AND the kids about what effect words have on people.
    yes, for example, the words of freedom contained in the Declaration of Independence have a very powerful effect on people -- they remind people that freedom is the most precious state, deserving of the utmost protections.

    Personally, I'd rather get to know an angry kid than a happy one. 'Cause if you're not angry about something you're either dead, blind, or evil.

    i am not an angry girl [danah.org]
    but it seems like i've got everyone fooled
    every time i say something they find hard to hear
    they chalk it up to my anger
    and never to their own fear

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I agree everyday kids say "I'm going to kill you" etc. Most students know that this is not to be taken seriously. When athorities start to encourage and put a halo around turning people in for comments like above, kids and thier parents think they are protected. In reality kids are cruel and will stop at no end to make some little freshmans life a living hell.
    The job of deciding whether a student is dangerous should be left to adults that way kids lives aren't screwed up because athorities want to be lazy about their job.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the same schools where such literary pillars as "The Crucible", "1984" and "A Brave New World" are being cranked out of the learn-o-matic, we find the quintessence of irony in the Salem-esque peer-on-peer informing reigning king. It isn't something to fret over, my friends, it is something to savor. It is rare to find such profoundly macabre beauty in the school system that has evolved here, and I intend to keep what beauty there as I may. Certianly, it spells the doom for the ideals of our nation, but at least we will make a grand corpse... American Nero...
  • I don't htink that I would want my child to have even one "counseling" session with the school shrink. And as a parent my childs health care "including mental health" should be under my control.
  • That's no solution, and for us, that'd be a rather difficult proposition - since our right to bear arms is codified as part of the Bill of Rights (Amendment 2 to the Constitution).

    Besides, how would you know that no one has guns, even in whatever country you live in? How can you guarantee that? If you're dealing with someone who intends to commit a crime anyway, then do you REALLY think that, if they want a gun, they're going to care about the fact that the method they used to get it, or the possession of it, is illegal? I rather doubt it.

    Everyone comes up with "fixes" that on the surface, give the impression that something's being done, but the fact is, no one is fixing the real problem. The real problem isn't the guns - it's the people.
    _____
  • I saw the story (on a link from Blue's to foxnews.com), and I laughed my ass off. Yes, it was a chicken strip, and the kid (8 years old, I believe the article said - second/third grade age) pointed it at a teacher, and said "bang bang bang" or "pow pow pow" or something to that effect. The whole crux of the issue there was the (IMO moronic) "zero-tolerance" policy that the school was using as an excuse for this. They considered it a weapon.

    As others have said, these zero-tolerance policies discourage the punishment fitting the crime - punish everyone, if the "crime" can even be remotely thrown into one of a small set of categories, instead of considering per situation the proper punishment. I understand principals and educators are busy - but the answer is either more people or better ways of dealing with the problems - not brain-dead rules that eliminate the thought process.
    _____
  • This is NOT Albania.

    Children should not be jailed for careless comments. You're trying to manufacture a legal standard that would be considered absurd for adults.

    Also, you're just trying to cover up SYMPTOMS rather than going after the real problem. You're not even trying to FIX the symptoms of the problem.

    This is the real world here, not a Crime and Punishment fantasyland. Society will have to deal with your insistence on needlessly driving marginal elements of society into deeper isolation.

    IOW, this is the shit that CAUSED Columbine.
  • The only thing that kids of today put their efforts into is dealing drugs, getting alcohol and committing crimes. Have you ever lived in one of our cities? The kids there do nothing apart from hang around doing these things, because they've never had any discipline or a good schooling system that encourages team sports and other activities.

    I think you should get to know some teenagers. For every drug addict/drunk/criminal in public schools today, there are 10 trying to keep their heads down and get through school. The two high schools my sister attended are a good example (one of which I also went to, 6 years before). The large public one had a surprisingly low instance of both violence and drug and alcohol abuse. (It wasn't such a good place to learn in, but... ::shrug::) The second one had practically none at all. It was a private school, which she paid most of the tution *herself*, from having saved most of her money from part-time jobs before and during her senior year, when she attended there. My graduating class and hers only had one alcohol-related death each, and in both cases, it wasn't the students' faults - both were hit by other drunk drivers, while being stone sober themselves.

    My sister also worked to pay her own way through an AAS in nursing, and is working for her BSN now too. I'm acquainted with a teenage boy who works two jobs, one as an engineering assistant at the SO's company, and he's going to be able to pay the slack his college scholarship won't cover. Think kids are all lazy today?

    les
  • She did, quoting a classmate as saying: "We want to kill people; we're sick of them." (If I or anyone reading this called the police everytime we came across that comment online, a lot of teenage boys would be in jail.) She said the boy later threatened her for reporting his remarks.

    A lot of teenage boys ARE in jail (or more likely, prison). Actually a hell or a lot of teenage boys are in prison.

    What may have blinded Katz is that these hundreds of thousands of teenage boys in prison are not what you call... white. In the U.S., being black or hispanic, male, and teenaged is effectively enough to put you in prison, quite absent anything else except cops who don't like you (and cops do not like black teenage boys, by their nature).

    Katz' concern is good... but their are even larger ones being ablated.

  • Wait'll they start using strong encryption and hiding messages in images/chat sites to plot their attacks... Oh wait, that was Tuesday's story...
  • Are the schools are going to take the responsibility of protecting there informents. Since the school are taking the role as police they must also take on the role in protecting thier sources. Now this child did what the school ask her to do. The suit agianst the child is stupid becuase she told the truth it is what the school did with the information that is the problem.
  • "Student informing...is an irrational, anti-democratic practice"

    Puh-lease!

    Are you educated, Katz, or do you just play a liberal arts major on Slashdot?

    --
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't think these lawsuits are silly or trivial. The family of the girl is suing the school because she did what they told her to do, and they lost $40,000. So the family says the school is responsible for the consequences of their instructions. That seems perfectly reasonable to me.
  • The problem with "loser pays" is that it makes large companies untouchable.

    They already are for the most part. The only way anyone can afford to sue a larg corp is if they are so obviously liable that a lawyer is willing to accept a percentage of the award as his sole fee. Even then, you have to be able to afford a lot of time off from work.

    It's really a seperate problem. Court (civil or criminal) costs a lot more than many people have. This is especially true in cases of civil suits against a much wealthier opponant (like an individual vs. a corperate).

    I imagine that there's not a single silver bullet. A good start would be a grand jury system for civil suits. The plaintiff must convince a civil grand jury that their suit has merit before they can even contact the intended defendant. That jury can either let the suit go forward, remove some defendants from the suit, limit the damages sought, or throw the whole thing out.

    As for the corperate vs individual, I don't know what will fix that without bankrupting the whole system or providing individuals with woefully sub-standard representation (much like criminal defendants get now).

  • There's no illness called anorexia.

    Actually, there are TWO illnesses called anorexia. There's anorexia nervosa which is believed to be psychological in origin and there's a physical form which can derive from a number of causes including nerve damage, long term conditioning or using too much speed for too long.

    The nervosa variety is way over diagnosed (IMHO) especially by ameteurs, but it is a genuine illness that can progress to death by self-starvation. When connected w/ bullemia, one of the problems is that regurgitation becomes an involuntary response to consumption of food. No amount of not being silly and eating food seems to help that w/o other therapies

    Modern society seems to need all of these conditions to justify the appaling lack of self-control which is now the norm. How can anyone rationally argue that there's an illness which makes people miserable in winter? But no, it's "quick, get the drugs!", as if pumping chemicals into your bloodstream is the solution to anything.

    Apparently, it is a response to limited exposure to strong light (more specifically, the hormonal response of the pineal to that light). It too is real. The treatment of choice is regular exposure to full spectrum artificial lights during winter, not drugs. How rational is it to call something a crock (to paraphrase) without even bothering to find out what the prevailing theories are and evaluating them first?

    I might also point out that the vast majority of western medicine (and much eastern and western folk medicine as well) involves "pumping chemicals into your bloodstream". Of course, technically, eating also falls into that category (unless you're also convinced that food is not composed of chemicals).

  • The School's really don't have much of a choice in the matter. If they encourage people to inform, they get the above mentioned result. If they DON'T, then they face lawsuits for not taking proper precautions to ensure the safety of the students.

    That's a big part of the problem. You can sue anybody for anything at any time these days. If you sue enough people (groundlessly) there's a fair chance that the civil court 'lotto' will pay off.

    Perhaps the best answer for schools is to do the best that they can. If they get sued for some nonsense, tell the parents who are suing: "FINE! We will give you every penny that the school has, and shut down for the year. We will tell EVERYONE exactly why their kids have no school to go to. We will name names. ENJOY!".

    The only problem is that some schools deserve to get sued for outrageous behaviour. What it comes back to is that court and lawyers have become so expensive and capricious that effectivly, we don't have a system to redress grievances and establish liability anymore. It's much more of a 'richest and least ethical wins' system.

  • Security in schools is bad. Talk about an oppressive environment... it's no wonder children are screwed up. Security isn't the way to fix much deeper social problems.
  • I think Zero-Tolerance is needed, if somebody does something severe enough (i.e. brings a gun or heroin/cocaine/whatever to school).

    What's needed is a Common Sense(TM) Policy. I read of a school that expelled a kid who brought a fingernail clippers to school, claiming it could be used as a weapon. Every incident should be reviewed on a case by case basis. If I was a school administrator where something like that happened, I'd fire the teacher/principal that expelled the kid.
  • The NY Times Sunday magazine has an <A HREF="http://www.nytimes.com/library/magazine/home /20010204mag-legalman.html"> article </A>
    on this phenomenom.
    The author claims the less class structure in society,
    the more laws take over. Thats the price.

  • Hear hear. Someone mod this up.

    Though it is not that private schools "could" choose to be different. It is that at least some would so choose, to try to get a competitive advantage.

  • I don't have too much of a problem with the accuser being sued. People should be held acountable for their actions, and the option to sue someone who commits slander/libel should remain.

    The real problem with the example given, is that $40,000 was spent in defense, on a case that was eventually thrown out. It should not cost that much to defend.

    We need to get defense cost down sometime, so that if some asshole who I quote decides to sue me for libel, or some megacorp decides to intimidate/outspend me in order to get their way, I can withstand the attack without having to be rich.

    Note: I really mean we need to get the costs down. I don't mean that the cost should be shifted to another party (e.g. the government (i.e. everyone)).

    $40000 is just a ridiculous amount of money for something that should be extremely simple. The defense should essentially be, "Prosecutor, put up or shut up." If it costs $40000 to hire a legal expert to speak those words (in the correct language of course), then we have a serious flaw in the legal system.

    The common wisdom is that only fools represent themselves in court. We need to change the conditions that are causing that wisdom to be true. We need to make legal representation and consultation into useless luxuries rather than requirements.

    In my arrogant and not-so-humble, but uninformed opinion, doing this should be pretty easy: just simplify the law. If all people are expected to obey the law, then it shouldn't take years of specialized education and experience in order to understand the law. I'm not so much in favor of shooting all the lawyers, as in am in favor of making them obsolete.

    If you take away the $40000 figure, and instead, the accuser only spent $4, then this wouldn't have been much of a story.


    ---
  • flatpack,
    As the father of a young son myself, I spend a bit of time reflecting on the example I set for him.

    Would you like your son to emulate your behavior?

    How would your wife feel about seeing you dump on a young woman who readily admitted that she has struggled with emotional problems?

    Why not spend time developing personal character and demonstrating a life of compassion and concern for others instead of simply tearing them down? You'll get along with others better and as a positive side-effect, you'll like yourself better, too.

    Or would you have your son grow up to be as cynical and venom-filled as you?

    I pray that this is not the case.

    Regards,
    anomaly

    God loves you and longs for relationship with you. For more information about this, contact me at tom underscore cooper at bigfoot dot com
  • The solution to this is that if the loser's costs are less than the winner's, the loser doesn't pay any more than his own costs. So if you sue Microsoft (or they sue you) and you lose, your legal bill will at most double. To this add some rules to keep the actual cost honest, and it eliminates the majority of objections to 'loser pays'.

    ---
  • high-powered assault rifle

    That little bit generally proves you don't know much about guns. "Assault rifles" are not "high powered", and "High Powered" rifles are not "assault rifles".

    It is not surprising that most people don't know the difference, as the media either doesn't know either, or intentionally misinforms people in order to create sensationalist scary stories.

    "High powered" rifles are almost always bolt actions, although there are a few semi-autos. There is a little bit of variance on opinion as to how much power a cartridge has to have in order to be considered "high power", but many people consider, for example .30-06 to be on the lower end of the "high power" range. Rifles that fire cartidges in this class are not be at all practical for full-auto use in a shoulder fired rifle, as they have too much recoil to be controllable. Not only that, but the cartridges themselves would be too heavy to carry sufficent numbers for sustained fire in an individual weapon and would require box magazines that would be of unweildy size for carry by individual soldiers. Also it takes a big, heavy rifle to take the beating that a high powered cartridge dishes out, and that isn't compatible with the purposes of an "assault rifle".

    "Assault rifles" generally fire medium to low powered cartridges such as 5.56x45 (a.k.a 5.56 NATO or .223 Remington) or 7.62x39 Russian or the newer 5.45x39 Russian. They use low powered cartridges because capacity and low weight are more important than power, plus they need to be controllable in rapid fire.

    and if you take me that seriously, heh, well then, i'll just have to kill you too :)

    Well, I don't take you seriously, but this really isn't the kind of thing that people should joke about, as well as it isn't good to perpetuate the disinformation of the media.

  • Sheesh. They don't make any effort at all to get it right, do they?

    It sure seems like they don't. Unfortunately I think journalistic integrity is about as endangered these days as the bill of rights.

    Maybe that is a little cynical. I suppose one shouldn't ascribe to malice what can be explained by stupidity, but it is awfully tempting to do so.

  • I like the concept that I friend of mine and I had while driving home from an SCA event:

    In the case of person A suing person B, then person A has to put up the amount that they are suing for, and pay out if they lose. This seems ridiculous only if you don't know how court cases work in reality:

    Most of these cases are being done by lawyers for free. If they lose, they pay a few hundred in court costs. If they win, they get thousands, sometimes over a million, in fees.

    If they have to pony up the amount they are demanding (and it will be provided through organizations that will spring up like the existing insurance companies or bail bondsman), then they will only take realistic cases that they stand to win (that have a good premise), and won't request ludicrous sums on money (in the millions). If they consistantly take cases on bad premises, then the bondsmen who provide the money will not let them continue.

    Sure, there are big holes if you envision certain cases, but our current system has a horrible case of dysentary, and we are hemmoraging through our legal system. I think this basic concept is fairly sound, and just needs a few tweaks. Comments?

    --
    Evan

  • You're forgetting that lawyers have to earn a living too, whether you like it or not. [...] You may not like lawyers, but you need to remember that most of them work very hard, whether they win the case or lose it.

    For all you know, I'm an attorney. In fact, I am not, however, I sysadmined the Public Defender's network for a few years and have nothing but respect for our legal system: most people involved are honestly looking for justice.

    A legitimate tort lawsuit is not something that a lawyer can prepare in an a day

    And I have nothing wrong with a "legitimate tort lawsuit". It is the frivilous "hey, we might win, and I won't charge you unless we do" lawsuits that are causing a problem. Along with ludicrous demands (liability of millions of dollars for selling a knife that someone "didn't realize was sharp and could cut them"), the system has gotten lopsided.

    I don't see a problem with realistic and vital lawsuits - I've seen footage of cops kicking the crap out of someone who was passive and just horrifically "stoned" out of his mind, which later turned out to be a bad reaction to a newly prescribed asthma medication. The man was beat and suffered a serious concussion and several broken bones. Hell, yes, the law should support the man.

    On the flip side, there is *no* check or balance on frivilous or unnecessary lawsuits. A bus in the area was in an accident - the camera recorded fourteen people jumping in *after* the accident and complaining of back and neck pain. They took it to court, despite knowing the footage of the bus video camera existed, and demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars for suffering. That's the result of free attorneys working on a long shot chance.

    Check and balances - that is how our government works.

    --
    Evan

  • The Bill of Rights: void where prohibited by law

    Common Sense: Void, prohibited by lawyers

    I'm beginning to think that "loser pays" and penalties for frivolous lawsuits are looking like a better idea with every passing day. . .

    It's either that, or implement the Shakespeare Solution:

    First thing we do, we kill all the lawyers...

  • If you read this story [denverpost.com], you'll note that just today police announced the arrest of three high school boys in Ft. Collins, Colorado (an hour or two north of Denver) for planning a "second Columbine", which is what a number of girls reported them saying. In this case it sounds somewhat bad - the kids had some diagrams of the school, a number of guns, and a propane tank ready to go (though I'm not sure from reading the article how much of those items the kids really had gathered together rather than just having them laying around the house).

    I agree with other posters that there neds to be some sense of context that remarks are taken in - but I'd also say that if students really felt in danger, they should be able to report it without having to worry about getting sued.
  • The problem with "loser pays" is that it makes large companies untouchable. ... If you sue Microsoft and lose, you're instantly six digits in debt because they put a team of fifteen highly paid corporate lawyers on the job. ... And the beauty of it is that your hometown lawyer never had a chance against a mob of the best corporate lawyers in the country. They already stall as long as possible to drive up your legal expenses; a loser-pays system just makes it harder to get justice.

    First of all, either 15 lawyers work on the case or they don't. You can't have it both ways.

    Second, they can only sue me into bankruptcy once. The current system penalizes you no matter how good your case is. Under a loser pays system, I can convince some high-powered lawyers to work for me on a contigency basis when going after a rich, powerful entity such as Microsoft. The lawyer just wants to get paid. He knows that he can charge more to Microsoft and actually get it.

    Third, loser pays dimishes the payoff of frivolous suits since more people would be willing to fight them. Instead of chasing class actions suits, powerful lawyers will be chasing the people that large companies did wrong. "Heh", the lawyers will say, "let me help you get what you deserve from that evil corporation."

    The only thing that the current system does is insure that a wronged individual never gets his/her just deserts since any award they recieve in court immediately goes to pay off the lawyers (reference: Rodney King, that woman accusing Clinton of sexual harassment)

  • One more thing...
    The courts will become much more efficient once loser pays is implemented. Most cases can be decided up front if both lawyers would just be honest. The problem is that they want to go to court in order to try to convince a judge to give them just a little bit more than they deserve (or to try to work the other side into bankruptcy). With loser pay, the side on the right has no reason to quit, the wrong side knows it, and will settle out of court before running up ridiculous legal fees.

  • If I told my parents about something my brother did, I would get in more trouble than my brother. Same for him if he told on me.

    I'm glad it was like that. My parents, my mom especially, taught us the important social skill of not being a tattle.

    Even as an adult, I dare you to try that kind of crap in your (as long as it's sane) workplace. You will be hated, and not just by the the person you told on. The person you told would probably hate you, too.

    It was made clear from high where I work that crap like that would not be appreciated.

    Of course, if you wanted to make sure that everybody wouldn't work together and fear you and each other instead, you'd run your company like these schools. Seems like a great way to avoid any sort of revolt, don't you think?
  • We abhor students who turn in their fellow students for illegal acts (after all, the police can only be involved if a law is alledgedly broken), yet we condemn adults who aid criminals by refusing contact police when they are knowledgable about a crime. Should we be praising the communities whose code of silence allows crime to flourish?

    Of course not (well, _I_ don't think so...). In other words, the problem is with the law itself, not the students response to it. Informing about known crimes is considered good citizenship and possibly even necessary to a functioning society. Instead of attempting to promote the code of silence that allows any number of illegal acts to go unreported, we should look at adjusting the laws to take into account situation and youth.

  • by prizog (42097)
    Yes, I agree with you that schools are more dangerous for queer kids. Yes, this is wrong. Yes, teachers often don't give a shit. This is wrong too. My main point was that kids cannot buy guns with which to defend themselves.
  • by prizog (42097)
    OK, kids can't buy guns or carry them. The point was that they can't legally use them as SB intended. Was it wrong for you to carry the gun? Maybe. If you were a kid like some kids I know, yes. If you were a kid like my brother, probably not.

  • by prizog (42097)
    "I'm part of a persecuted minority in this country due to my sexual orientation, but I'll take my .45 over hate-crime legistlation any day of the week."

    Kids can't own guns. You wouldn't want them to. I'm all for individual rights and personal responsibility, but kids don't have responsibility. (Not that I believe an arbitrary age cut-off is a good thing - that's a separate issue).

    If I were still in HS, and I were threatened on account of my sexual orientation or for any other reason, you can bet I would tell a teacher. That's what they're there for. School is a place for learning, where you ought to be able feel safe, concentrate on classes, etc. Not everything people say should be taken seriously, but most people can tell the difference. If you don't feel safe, you're not going to be able to focus fully on school - and you ought not to be required to live like that. So, if you want to solve it with your .45, that's fine for you (an adult). But, a kid doesn't have that option. Even if they did, a kid did have a .45, still might prefer not to use it (as a threat), since the other guy might have a bazooka.

  • That's absurd -- if somebody said he was going to burn down the school would you relax because nobody has matches?
    /.
  • My tax money goes for public schools and only public schools. Making babies is expensive and parents should know that before they start fucking around. If they can't afford to send their kids to the good schools, then don't make the babies. Its that simple.

    I'm not about to make the public schools worse by drainging away a large percentage of their funds and turn them into non-functional holding cells for stupid kids. The current situation mixes good students in with a few bad and the result is that most kids end up out of school being able to read and do some semi-useful work. If some of the current plans go through, there will be a huge divide between schools as well as a class divide and it will result in a massive increase in stupid people roaming the streets. These stuipd people are a liability to me and I'm not going to stand for my tax money making it worse. You want to send your kid to a private school, fine but keep me and my money out of it.

  • First, a history lesson:

    If you are fortunate enough to be a legitimate United States citizen, the chances are very good that you aren't working a regular job at a younger age than 14 or so. With a very small handful of exceptions, that is the youngest a minor can be and hold a job in the state I live in, and I've lived in states that had 16 as the age.

    Contrast this with the child factory workers of 100-150 years ago. 'nuff said, I hope, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, look it up.

    Now, a bowl of Reality Chex:

    First of all, not all kids use illegal drugs.
    Not all kids that try drugs become habitual users (stupid-ass DARE propoganda to the contrary!)
    Not all users of drugs are dealers of drugs.
    Not all users/dealers of drugs are utterly devoid of other interests or even morals.

    Kids on sports teams use drugs, sometimes. When I was in high school, they certainly drank like a school of fish, which is illegal for high school students. :P

    And it's the kids who ARE doing things other than typical high school b.s. (Big Deal Sports *or* drugs and such) that are getting kicked around by the Thought Police. A close friend of mine had the misfortune to be student teaching when Columbine hit. The world lost an excellent teacher because he refused to make a career out of turning in his own kind. He has long hair, a black trenchcoat, and used to play Riff Raff in our local RHPS. *sigh*

  • The justification may have been different, but what about all those medieval teenage girls who became nuns and starved themselves, and sometimes ended up saints for it?

    Same thing, different context: fear of sensual pleasure, as signified by food and sex, and pride in the ability to deny oneself these things. Taking control of one's body when the rest of life seems to be out of control. Et cetera.

    Just because we didn't have the same term for something doesn't mean the thing didn't exist.


  • When I was in high school, and my best friend and I tried to report someone who had made a series of threats of rape (to us, and to at least five other girls we knew about), we were not believed. We were told he was just flirting. (Yeah, sure, being thrown up against the wall with the words "I'm going to fuck you before I graduate if it kills us both!" is just flirting...NOT!) In fact, the perpetrator of the aforementioned threats was informed that I had "told" on him, and followed me around for several weeks threatening my life. Needless to say, I did NOT turn THAT in to the school administration!

    Then again, when one student stole two lollipops out of another student's locker (mostly because the stealing student was pissed that the hoarding student had bought all the blue raspberry lollipops from the local convenience stores and was selling them for ten times their original cost), the hoarding student's mom pressed criminal charges against the stealing student. For 20 cents worth of lollipops that her son was selling in violation of school rules!

    I guess it depends on who you are. The would-be rapist was a senior football and basketball player, member of several extra-curricular activities, and one of the tiny handful of non-white students (I could literally count on two hands the number of non-white students in grades 7-12 when I was there), so if all else failed he could always play the race discrimination card. And that would work because there were some horrible instances of racial intolerance too, at least one of which involved the siblings of the would-be rapist.

    The thief (talk about petty larceny, yes I know it's really "petit" larceny) was a seventh-grade nobody stealing from another seventh-grade nobody.

    Go figure.

  • That's a very good point.

    Given some of the stuff that went on at my high school and when I first went to college, I think that at the time, things were too far in the other direction.

    Second year at college (in an allegedly supervised early-admission program). A whole series of obscene and threatening phone calls late at night. Several of 'em taped on my machine. A voice I was pretty sure I recognized, especially as it screamed "You should be dead, you fucking dyke!" I knew one of my floormates was making the calls. I had no proof that the resident director would accept. I didn't think the brat was actually going to kill me, but it made life pretty uncomfortable for me for quite a while.

    And then there was the high school senior football player with a taste for very young girls at my high school that I've posted about elsewhere on this thread...I wish someone would have done something about HIM when he was throwing my twelve-year-old at the time best friend against a wall and threatening her with rape.

    They never manage to target the right people, somehow....

  • If you get rid of the teacher's unions, there's a very easy way to force out political dissidents (especially those who speak out against this sort of garbage) for alleged "incompetence" -- stick them with all the low-achieving kids, and penalize them because their classroom's ranking on percentile-based tests is so low.

    The real problem with the quality of teachers today is the women's movement. (And yes, I am a woman and consider myself a feminist - hold your flames, please!) Teaching used to be a career for the handful of women that wanted a career, and for the handful of men that really wanted to be involved in education. Teaching, now, attracts a lot of "traditional" females who have no other idea of what they might want to do with their life. The non-traditional women who were in classrooms in the past are now going into the fields that are now nice enough to be open to them.

    Teaching also attracts a lot of control freaks who want to prove that they're smarter than the kids they teach, unfortunately. :(

  • Yes, school counselors tend to do more harm than good.

    I was forcibly sent to one after pulling an admittedly silly stunt that indirectly led to two other girls (people I barely even knew!) getting into a fistfight.

    She did severe damage to my mechanisms for coping with the insane environment that was my high school, and she also broke confidentiality on me twice (once it led to weeks of death threats from someone 5 years older and much larger than I was; the other time, it nearly destroyed a friendship).

    She also liked to convince people they didn't have the brains for honors courses, even when they did....

    Fortunately, she never made THAT mistake with me!
  • A decent troll on your part, but not good enough. It's still obvious.

    If perhaps you threw less "catch phrases" in there it might have gotten by. Your bit of fiction is /too/ believable.

    thank you, pull through.
  • Student informing, encouraged and epidemic in American schools since well before the Columbine killings, is an irrational, anti-democratic practice that SNIP

    I guess it would be better (err, more democratic?) if students got together and voted to suspend each other, instead of reporting kids who appear to have severe problems? If someone threatens to kill somebody, I'm sure as hell going to at least report him to someone in a position of authority. If you don't like it, don't make empty threats in public.

    Now, I agree that the authorities got carried away in this case, and I think the kid is perfectly within his rights to sue over it. But I don't agree that reporting potential killers in any way threatens my constitutional rights.
  • The problem is that usually the ZT policy implies broadness of crime in addition to severity of punishment. It's great for board members who need to assure panicky parents that yes, they are leaping everytime somebody says "Boo!".

    ZT policies often treat a device as a weapon if it *could* be used as one, regardless if it would make sense to. For instance, were I a high school student, I doubt that many schools would appreciate my having a "Ranger"-model Victorinox knife in my pack (which, incidentally, is completely opaque -- another policy violation in some schools) -- despite the fact that I'd be STUPID to use it as a weapon, since it lacks a *locking* blade (and therefore the risk of slicing off my own fingers, should it be used as a weapon, would be unacceptably high). But many administrators would, no doubt, act regardless of that little detail; it's certainly a lot more menacing than a nail file.
  • Hold on a second there! Many of the comments I've read suggest that the student who was sued was _wrong_ to tell school officials what she overheard in a public area. What? If she heard something that disturbed her or scared her, she absolutely has the right to talk to someone about it. I don't mind the arguement over whether or not the school overreacted, but I whole heartedly disagree with the suggestion that the student should not be allowed to talk about something that disturbed her, no matter how trivial the matter may seem to you.

    If there's any "guilt" in this case, it lies with the school that perhaps overreacted and the parents of the "dangerous" student who decided to sue the so-called informant.

    And as far as schools turning student into informants goes, it's been happening for years. Students have routinely been told to "tell a teacher" if someone is abusing them or threatening them. Anyone have a problem with that? The problem here is not one of students talking about other students or even their parents, it's a question of how those comments are pursued. It's up to the adults in the matter to make the call between the need for a counselor and the need for the justice system.

    RC
  • Lot's of things have changed since I was in high school. Not only did we never have "tattletales", there are many more paranoid rules to contend with these days.

    My nephew just started high school in the U.S. after moving here from another country. My god, but that rule book was fat. When I was in HS we had smoking area - anywhere outside was OK, too. I didn't, and don't smoke, but I never had a problem with it. He comes from a country most kids his age smoke, including him. He's not allowed to smoke in my house, but he can go out back, for for a walk, and no problem. Not only can't you smoke AT ALL on campus (and neither can the teachers), but you are not even allowed to carry a pack a cigarettes - not even one cigarette, unlit!

    A lighter? No way - considered a weapon, he can face expulsion. He wore his baseball cap on the first day - oops, big mistake. There's an hour between the time he gets picked up at the bus stop until first class - so he took his walkman. Confiscated the second he got off the bus.

    While we were waiting, and I was thumbing through the rule book, I asked the secretary "this isn't one of those places they throw you out of for taking an asprin, is it?" I was joking - expecting the logical answer "of course not", but received "Oh, they're very serious about drugs here. Yes, he will be suspended if they catch him with anything."

    So a lot has changed. It's very difficult, because it seems that, while the majority of "tips" are ridiculous, some actually work - you never know if these kids might actually carry out some of their threats, but when you raid the house and find homemade bombs, maps of the school, and lists of people to "take out," I think there's enough certaintly to assume someone is dangerous.

    How to handle this situation, though? I don't know. It is someone's civic duty to let authorities know of potential criminal behavior. I've called the cops on drunk drivers a few times myself. But if the authorities screw up - i.e. they investigate and take the wrong actions, then I don't believe the girl or her parents were liable for anything. And they weren't, the money is to recoup lawyers fees - I'd say there is a case for counter suing the boy and his family, but it is difficult. It's hard to say that kids should just never say anything - people get put in very difficult situations. If they say something, they can get in trouble, and if they don't, people may be hurt, or worse, and they may still get in trouble when it was found out they knew.

    It's not as clear cut as "don't tell."
    ----------

  • I think studies have indeed shown that the drug problem is worse and more widespread in the subburbs.
    ----------
  • Lemme tell you another side of the argument ... at my university there is a guy who's crazy as anything ... he's the real deal, wears a thick raincoat 24/7 (even in california weather), talks to himself, makes gestures at everybody, sometimes just strange gestures, othertimes threatning ones....he just does generally strange stuff ... Riding his bicycle past people hackling, and he's always pointing at something ...

    If you accept my supposition that the guy is dangerous, the amusing part of the story is theres nothing that can be done about him. Being a crazy bastard isn't a crime -- we have to wait until he brings a gun to school ...

    My point is -- even when you've found "the wackos" there 'taint much that can be done about it!

  • As far as I understand it (IANAL) the way it works here in the UK is that in a civil suit you can apply for 'costs' if you win the case. It is then up to the Judge to decide how much of the winners costs will be paid by the loser, from 0 to 100%.
    The judges are normally pretty good on this - 100% is quite common if they decide the case was clear-cut but a pyrhhic victory of 0% isn't unknown either, if the judge has more of a clue than the jury...
    ----
  • This whole "snitch" business is yet another attempt by school boards across America to absolve themselves of any and all culpability by making students and teachers responsible for reporting any and all threats. In this way, a school board can make the claim that it is in no way responsible that little Johnny shot up the school because nobody every reported that little Johnny threatened to do so.

    I'm reminded of what Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) wrote: "God created the Idiot for practice. After that he created the School Board."

  • I have no idea why they would choose that name. Didn't they ever see that ABC afterschool special about "The Wave"?
  • you cant have it anonymous, that opens up even more room for suits and overturning. A person has the right to confront their accuser, and even if the school/police use the tip as a starting point for an investigation...many judges will throw it out if the starting point is tainted. THROW OUT EVERYTHING. Thats why anonymous tips, dont really work.
  • I like the concept that I friend of mine and I had while driving home from an SCA event:

    When I read that line I was sure what followed would have something to do with trial-by-combat...
    --

  • How can anyone rationally argue that there's an illness which makes people miserable in winter? But no, it's "quick, get the drugs!"

    I assume you're talking about seasonal affectation disorder, which has a chemical basis. And the favored treatment for it is light therapy, not drugs.

    as if pumping chemicals into your bloodstream is the solution to anything.

    I take it you don't believe in antibiotics or vaccines? Insulin shots for diabetics? Or do you think that the brain is some magical entity that doesn't follow biochemical laws like every other organ?

    As for competition, it's healthy in making sure that people don't end up without any kind of spirit at all. Without some form of it, children will end up shiftless and lazy, which is pretty much what we're beginning to see today.

    Give me a break. People have been saying that "shiftless and lazy" remark for millenia. If it were true we'd all be immobile by now. Look at the facts; nowadays people work harder than their parents and grandparents did. More children are working at a younger age. More people put in 7 day work weeks. More college students work part- and full-time.
    --
  • follow these easy steps:
    (1) go to Radio Shack and buy one of those voice disguise toys
    (2) find a pay phone in the shopping mall
    (3) at 9:00 PM, call your High School's answering machine and leave an anonymous paniced message stating that you saw a boy with a whole bunch of guns 'n stuff telling his friends how he was gonna blow up his WHOLE SCHOOL!
    (4) Name yourself as the boy in question.
    (5) get suspended the next morning
    (6) sue your school for damages

    happy days!
  • I totally agree with your analysis of the over-exageration of a childs actions.

    I live in Orlando, FL, and was listen to the radio the other day while they discussed an EIGHT year old boy who, during lunch, picked up a breaded chicken finger, pointed it at a class mate, and said "Bang, Bang".

    Consequentially, the boy was suspended from school for three days.

    Now, if this were anything other than a small child being not just ignorant of his actions, but actually commiting them in the name of fun, there would be a problem. So if I see some neighborhood children down the street playing cops and robbers, or cowboys and indians, or any one of those infamous childhood games, I should immediately alert the authorities because they are "possibly" going to actually harm someone from it? I'm sorry, but we've just taken this whole worrisome scenario to another level.

    Revelations 0:0 - The beginning of the end.

  • I think that we need to have some sort of guaranteed legal representation for civil cases just as we do for criminal cases. That way, if you get sued by someone or some corporation, you have at least SOME kind of legal representation that you don't have to pay for.

    Naturally if you have the money you may wish to buy a better lawyer. But since our system really lets you wreck someone with civil suits, there needs to be some kind of protection when suits are filed in aggression.
  • The difficulty of the current situation is that there are appropriate times to inform, which are blurred, and there are certain levels of responsibilty missing in our system.

    The real difficulty is that we've had 40+ years to breed a pathetic excuse for a public education system that actually just exists to enforce the classist aspirations of the elite. Crabs in a bucket will climb over each other in an attempt to escape, but simply pull each other down. Administrators are paid to enforce this model and tell school boards that they have to accept it.

    Schools are steadily growing worse at over reacting to everything, from aspirin to normal adolescent boundary testing that is essential to our growth as independent adults. Students, in many schools, are viewed more as enemies than pupils, and certainly not partners in their own education experience. How anyone learns in these schools is a mystery to me.

    John Taylor Gatto has a lot to say on this subject. I heartily recommend "Dumbing Us Down", for anyone who wants the perspective of someone on the inside. I also recommend "The Underground History of American Education", which is his own essay about what he sees as the factors that have led to this mess.

    And why is it the students job to snich?

    Ask the Nazis in the 30's. But it comes down to finding all the people who are different and don't fit in the model. Some of them are free thinkers and many of them are dark skinned. I'm white and I know how racist the system was -designed- to be.

    Parents should, but don't far too often, take active roles in their children's lives. Teachers are so overburdened in most districts and so underpaid, that they are incapable of knowing their students well enough to understand them. Policies in many places create artificial divisions between teacher and student a between the students themselves.

    Again, this is how the system is designed. Isolated kids from families. Isolate teachers through burdensome regulations. Keep everybody apart, lie to them when you gather them together, and demonize the opposition. Kinda like Al Gore and the Democrats do.

    High school is a destructive enough time in many peoples lives already. TO further alienate those already on the fringe by these over-reactionary policies is just inviting more Columbines....

    There are no mysteries here, people. Knee jerk defense of the system and more money isn't going to fix this mess. Kids are suffering. Education reform, NOW.

  • Personally, I think the fact that the courts have accepted the family's lawsuit against the school is proof that the system works.

    Schools will drop this bad policy when they realize that they could be ultimately responsible for the costs of any damages done to the students as a result of the policy.

    So, if the suit pans out, the eeeevil court system will have solved the "student profiling" issue within a couple years of going into effect, while Jon's brand of "activism" (i.e. writing lots of on-line columns complaining about it) might never have produced any results.

  • ...every HS student you know, and tell them to pass around. THAT'll teach those bozos.

  • Thank you for pointing these out. The clinical term is mass hysteria, and the colloquial term is witchhunt, which you point out. A more recent, better documented, and with chilling aftereffects that are still being felt is McCarthyism--the witchhunt for communists. Warped Factors by Walter Koenig (Checkov on Star Trek, Bester on B5) has a superb first-hand account of this era (but the book is a little boring). Bottom line: we never learn.

    ----------------------
  • Actually, I think you're wrong. I think that schools are becoming paranoid parents, afraid of what their students are seemingly capable of, and leaping at any possible solution to a problem that they don't really know how to handle.

    I saw this a couple of years ago in my own high school... they kept a list of people who were 'likely' to cause harm to their peers, or act out violently against teachers or staff. The mentality that this exposes is one of utter fear... instead of looking at the facts, and realising that incidences of school violence are extremely rare, they're going on the assumption that there is at least one 'dangerous person' in every school, possibly more, and whether or not said persons ever have shown evidence of violence tendencies, they should be watched extra-carefully. How, then, do most of these non-violent types end up on the 'list'? Well, naturally, 'the-boy-next-door' isn't the most likely candidate, so, perhaps even subconsciously, the 'wierdos' wind up being watched, not only by teachers, but now, apparently, by their own mistrustful peers.

    With the 'rash' of school violence in the past few years (read: the 'rash of school violence in middle-class white areas), school boards and lawmakers are going hog-wild with rules and legislation that in past days would be considered conservative fringe, laughable, or even outrageous. They're made into veritable media events, with each and every moralist telling us the horrible wrongs of society that have caused these horrible catastrophes. Random violence happens every day in poorer areas of cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, etc., but it doesn't make the news, because it isn't news... at least anymore.

    We all know the tune by now:

    "Another gang killing in South-Central L.A.? Well, that's a shame, but it's not like we're running out of poor black kids from the ghetto... but when a middle class school in Colorado gets shot up by a couple of heavy-metal fringe Goths, well, that's the boy-next-door who's getting shot at... as American as apple pie."

    When people who aren't used to violence suddenly get exposed to it, they get scared, and then their peers get scared, and everyone overreacts. We all know that having students inform on one another is reminiscent of McCarthyism... it's dangerous and I think that this kind of stuff is the knee-jerk reaction of an institution that is terrified of an over-blown problem, and is struggling to find ways of dealing with something that they don't have any control over. Preparedness is one thing... having a plan of contingency in case of such a problem is one thing... but having anonymous accusations is quite another, and we all ought to know the difference. Shame on everyone trying to get away with this. You're buying into a Stalin-esque paranoia.

    ---

  • I am not a robot, like you would like me to be. I have a mind, and whats more, I have feelings and emotions that sway and control my body.

    Indeed you do, and from the sounds of it, it's a desparate craving for the attention and approval that you never got from your parents. I'm sure you're a hit with the boys aren't you?

    Anorexia is not a rational thing, and I, I freely admit, am not a rational girl. Many of my boyfriends have said that that is my most charming feature!

    LOL! I bet they do. When men of your age see a girl who so desparately wants to be popular, they know they're in for a good time! Girls like you don't seem to realise that the approval of others is not any way to make yourself feel better, and because of this you'll do anything to make yourself feel wanted.

    There's a word for that you know.

    But you want to make me a robot, and presumably you would choose one for a wife. Well, I suggest you marry that plastic blow up doll in your cupboard, because you won't get a girl like me, or any girl of spirit!

    Unfortunately for you, you're jumping to conclusions, which is a bad thing to do. I am quite happily married with a young son thank you, and my wife is a lovely, intelligent woman who knows what her place in life is and doesn't have any of your issues.

    As for spirit, yes I bet you've got "spunk" in bucketfulls.

    Not for you perhaps, but I am female. I am judged solely on my looks. I am convinced that it is my looks that have got me my job, my green card and my boyfriend. My looks are an important tool. And intelligent people use all the tools at their disposal!

    And when you've only got one tool, it doesn't take any intelligence to realise it's all you can use.

    I can see that you don't fit into this category though.

    No, I don't fit into your category at all. And thank God for that!

  • You have no idea how it hurts me to hear that said. Are you saying that the pain I suffered, the anguish, was all a figment of my imagination? I can assure you it is not invented.

    Pain is in the mind, and in your case it was your mind that invented it all. And why? Because you weren't intelligent or strong enough to realise that self-worth does not come from being a carbon copy of Brittany Spears or whichever slut was the icon at that time.

    I come from a good looking family, and we have always placed a huge value on looks, especially my mother (the main reason I moved to America). This meant that when I was young and impressionable, and bombarded by media images, I had a false bodymap, and I always though I was fat, even though my weight fell to less than 50 pounds at one stage.

    Indeed, it sounds as though your parents shouldn't have been allowed to breed at all, what with their wonderfully modern attitude to their children. Whilst I'm not a fan of eugenics, some people just shouldn't be allowed to breed.

    I can assure you that what I went through is not a fiction. It was the most scarring experiance of my life.

    And by that statement you convince me your life has been shallow, and that you are nothing but a callow youth with much to learn. Worrying about being fat is not a huge issue in the grand scheme of things, no matter how much it may traumatise your middle-class teenage life.

    And drugs helped me a lot, even the recreational ones. Frankly, I just don't understand cynical people like you flatpack.

    Cynical? Not really, just experianced.

    I can take the flames and the jealousy, and the awful emails and sexual suggestions, but this is too much.

    Jealousy? Of a child like you? Bwahahahaha. I think not :)

  • Give me a break. People have been saying that "shiftless and lazy" remark for millenia. If it were true we'd all be immobile by now. Look at the facts; nowadays people work harder than their parents and grandparents did. More children are working at a younger age. More people put in 7 day work weeks. More college students work part- and full-time.

    The only thing that kids of today put their efforts into is dealing drugs, getting alcohol and committing crimes. Have you ever lived in one of our cities? The kids there do nothing apart from hang around doing these things, because they've never had any discipline or a good schooling system that encourages team sports and other activities.

    We need to move back from the current view that competition is bad, because all it's doing is giving kids nothing better to do than hanging around getting involved in crime.

  • ...and its especially bad karma to get shot. They don't have a Federal witness protetion program for the fun of it, you know. So, do the right thing, and lose everything you ever worked for in life, friends, family, jobs, your very identity. Or, if you want to stay who you are, risk getting shot down on the street one day out of the blue. And its even worse for those who don't qualify for protection. Yup, they didn't think I was in enough danger, even though when Spike McKiller gets out on parole due to overcrowding, he'l be knocking on my door to say 'hi'.

    I don't advocate doing nothing in all cases, but the previous poster has a point, and in the the end, you have to weigh the consequences very carefully, beause they are huge and permanent.

    -={(Astynax)}=-
  • And how many see the irony in the name of Pinkertons program, in light of the movie "The Wave", about a class experiment that ends up in pupils snitching on each other in the worst possible fascist style?

    The "WaveAmerica" name couldn't have been more appropriately chosen. If you don't know about "The Wave" (the novel), this article provides a good summary [blackplasma.net]. Blue-Eyed [newsreel.org] is also a good resource to inform kids about other totalitarianism practices.

    -Marcel

  • When I went to school, we had a name for these kids... "Tattletales". I can think of many, many instances in which someone "told" on someone else, simply to get them in trouble. In some cases, the tattler was punished when his tales were proven to have no basis in reality. The fact that they're now government-sponsored, largely unaccountable, and their words are accepted as divine providence scares the hell out of me.
  • The perfect solution to this would be to not charge the kid for uttering those words. First would be to talk to the kid and have the parents involved. Tell the kid that these phrases spark fear in a "post columbine world". If the kid is reasonable, he will stop or watch how he expresses himself. If he is not, then you start with detention, then suspension, then expulsion, THEN involve the law. All the while the kids parents are part of this process. There is no need to have the authorities involved so soon. Having the police and the court system involved so soon only leads to situations like this. This is a simple solution but it is not always easy. There are poor school administrators, bad parents, and even bad kids. However, every attempt has to be made to educate the administrators, the parents AND the kids about what effect words have on people.
  • And DARE has been proven time and again to be a totally worthless program. But because the police receive funding for it, no one will DARE say anything about it.

  • Which is why if you're ever involved in an investigation, you say "I don't know and even if I did I wouldn't tell you."

    That is the *stupidest* advice I've ever heard. Turning in someone for smoking behind the gym is one (bad) thing. Turning in someone who is making threats on others' lives is a completely different thing.

    To give the police no information when you've got some, you are allowing a criminal to walk. If your best friend was shot, hell if you saw some stranger get shot, and you knew who did it, you wouldn't tell the police? What kind of stupid-ass idiot are you? You are implicitely condoning the criminal's action by not helping the police apprehend him.

    It's bad karma to harbor criminals. It's bad karma to not help seek counseling for troubled friends.

    Dancin Santa
  • You have no idea how it hurts me to hear that said. Are you saying that the pain I suffered, the anguish, was all a figment of my imagination? I can assure you it is not invented.

    I come from a good looking family, and we have always placed a huge value on looks, especially my mother (the main reason I moved to America). This meant that when I was young and impressionable, and bombarded by media images, I had a false bodymap, and I always though I was fat, even though my weight fell to less than 50 pounds at one stage.

    I can assure you that what I went through is not a fiction. It was the most scarring experiance of my life.

    And drugs helped me a lot, even the recreational ones. Frankly, I just don't understand cynical people like you flatpack.

    Its people like you that make me think about leaving this forum, and make me wonder about the evilness of human nature.

    I can take the flames and the jealousy, and the awful emails and sexual suggestions, but this is too much.

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

  • There is a huge difference between an adult making a very specific statement about intending to kill someone at a specific time, and a kid saying something like "I want you all to die", or "I'll kill you if you tell anyone". Almost anyone will have said something like the latter, and almost noone goes through with it.

    The question is where do you draw the line? And why do people ignore that school related violence was on a downturn before these measures started popping up? And why do people believe that a child is qualified to see the signals of another kid being dangerous?

    The main danger isn't the kid who go around saying they're going to kill someone. The danger lie in kids that are deeply psychologically disturbed. Sometimes the two intersect, often it doesn't.

    Have anyone actually checked whether there is a larger intersection between those who say they'll kill and those who do it, than between say, those that play football and those who kill?

    No. Because it's so much easier to just assume that anyone who is "different", or anyone that is careless about what they say, is dangerous.

    And another issue is what they'll be asked to report next?

    What will the school officials, without any psychological training, or actual verification procedures in place, decide may be "contributing factors" to violence?

    It isn't that far fetched that someone may start thinking about requesting kids to report religious beliefs (because they're scared shitless about kids flirting with satanism), music interest (ohhh, those scary heavy metal and death metal people), political affiliations (those dangerous anarchists and other political extremists, on both sides of the spectrum are surely likely to be plotting politically motivated killings - kids these days), etc.

    Or maybe they'll ask them to report their classmates parents? Because of course they affect their kids, and before you know it they've turned them into killers...

    How long before parents starts seeing the parallels to Hitlerjugend?

    And how many see the irony in the name of Pinkertons program, in light of the movie "The Wave", about a class experiment that ends up in pupils snitching on each other in the worst possible fascist style?

    This is a very slippery slope.

  • I hit submit too fast... $40,000 to defend their child, then suing to be reimbursed, then what? More suits?
  • I still feel that how my school administration handled an aleged bomb threat from one of the students (we won't mention who *coughsmecoughs*)was the best way to handle such an incident.

    The student in question held the nickname "Unabomber" throughout most of his highschool career. Most all of the student body would joke with this student about his reclusive tendancies as well as pull pranks on the student. This joking came to a head when the student in question brought a camera case aboard the bus during his senior year. A few peers joked with him about the contents of the case, and the student went along with the joking...even going so far to come up with a general and false list of comments along with a proposed location of where it was to be placed. Too all student's involved it was assumed that the Joke was understood.

    Later on in the day, the administration went to work on an anonomous tip, even interupting the Principal and Vice Principal during a seinior assembly. The administration went on to pull all known parties involved into the office and interview them heavily. The incidents were gone through, as well as the student's locker was inspected as well as the alleged "Bomb" inpected to be found to be a valid LOADED camera. (I lost a good roll of film doing all of this..er..ahem *the student* lost a good roll of film.)

    After the all clear was given and the student was found innocent, the administration then discussed "Public Relations" with the students involved to, and I quote the Vice Principal, "Diffuse all rumors that may have spawned from the investigation and that the tipper may have started, no pun intended." In otherwords, deny everything pertaining to it using tact.

    The rumor never lived past the first day and the rest of the year went on without any even. The students involved still joked about it for the rest of the year, but never in the public's ear. We never did find out who the anonomous tipper was, however, after calmly talking to other students and geting convincing answers, we have concluded that it was most likely the bus driver that decided to do the school a public service...and interupted a decent assembly to get my ass out of classes. The whole ordeal lasted roughly 4 of the six hours.

    ----
    Windoze....WINDOZE?? weee dun neeed nooo schtinkin windoze!!!!

  • ...but isn't school a place to learn what you need to learn in order to find your place in the world? And isn't the social interaction that is forced upon students supposed to be a way to figure out how to deal with the many different (and sometimes difficult) social situations one might encounter later in life?

    Realize that these are kids that are still developing their skills, social behavior, and trying to figure out how they fit in with the rest of the planet's population. What these kids need to understand is that it's ok to be different. That's what makes the world a stronger place. What the school administrators need to understand is that these are kids that need guidance in their lives. Easier said than done, I know.

    Things like this won't get better, though. Most HS administrations are politically based, not focusing on helping future generations develop into functional members of society.

    And, yes, threats of all kinds have been a part of growing up for almost everyone. Of course it needs to be dealt with. But I don't think that it's the administration's duty to shelter each and every student from each other. That would be counter-productive in their social development.

    Despite what many people (espeically many school administrators) would like to believe, kids don't change from generation to generation. Kids will always form social groups that clash with other social groups. That's just human nature. You need to keep the individual acts of violence in check so that things don't get out of hand. But these kids really need to learn how to deal with their peers without too much outside interference. It's all part of the learning process.
  • by SoftwareJanitor (15983) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:37AM (#446796)
    One thing that will likely become a problem is that people can very easily use informant channels, particularly those that are anonymous like 800 numbers or email to harrass people they don't like. All they have to do is make an accusation against someone and then wait for overzealous officials to tear into that person. Given zero tolerance policies and the general lack of critical investigation into the accuracy of accusations, this could cause a lot of innocent people grief. Even if officials do take time to investigate properly and the innocent are exonnerated, many people will continue to doubt, fear and distrust them for a considerable period after that. And in the schools, guilty until proven innocent is the norm, not the other way around. Sometimes even being proven innocent isn't good enough, especially if it looks like an official goofed. They will often refuse to rescind punishment in order to save face for themselves. Not to mention that the standard for "guilty beyond a reasonable doubt" doesn't seem to figure into school decisions. Kids are considered guilty unless a school official's opinion is that they are innocent beyond any doubt. Kids don't get the option of a trial by their peers either. Schools usually operate as the worst kind of kangaroo court.

  • by Shoeboy (16224) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:26AM (#446797) Homepage
    This is hardly a new issue.
    There have been tattletales for as long as there have been authority figures.
    The way to deal with them is simple - stand back and let their bad karma catch up with them.
    People really do reap what they sow. It's a law of nature. Reporting things like an individual blowing off steam or smoking behing the school building is simply asking for the universe to pay you back with interest.
    Which is why if you're ever involved in an investigation, you say "I don't know and even if I did I wouldn't tell you."
    If you don't, others will fail to respect you and you will fail to respect yourself. And you aren't helping anyone by informing - authorities are under no obligation to protect you, and even if they try, they won't be very effective.
    It's up to you to protect yourself - that's why we have the second ammendment in this country.
    I'm part of a persecuted minority in this country due to my sexual orientation, but I'll take my .45 over hate-crime legistlation any day of the week.
    --Shoeboy
  • by Dunedain (16942) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @09:49AM (#446798) Homepage
    I'm not at all convinced that school psychologists and counselors are the right people to be dealing with this. I'll admit to a degree of bias from my own unpleasant experiences with school counselor types, but perhaps that same experience will convince others they're not the right people to have this sort of control:

    A fellow student at my high school felt intimidated by me and a handful of friends; we made no secret of the fact that we thought her GPA was padded with easy classes, and that hard classes were avoided so as to keep that sacred GPA high. We never sought her out, never said anything obscene or even really questionable, but she complained that she was being harassed. A school counselor called several of us, separately, into her office. We weren't told what we were being accused of, or by whom, but were expected to recount every guilty stain on our consciences until they found what they were looking for.

    Even after the counselors had slipped her name, we were not allowed outside help (even a phone call to our parents). The right to counsel, limits on self-incrimination, the right to confront the accused, the right to competent defense, the right to an impartial judge (arbiter, whatever) -- all of these go away in a "counseling" setting.

    What happened in that room almost did add a speed bump to my career; a guidance counselor unhappy with how things were going tried to have my college recommendations revoked. Fortunately, it failed.

    The penalties of the legal system may be, at present, being used out of scale to childrens' offenses, but the protections and safeguards of the legal system are absolutely necessary; even more for children than for adults.

    I think a more appropriate response -- rather than pulling the cases out of the legal system -- is to appropriately deal with the two problems of cases which are brought to harass, and punishments which are administered for being charged. Punishments, or repurcussions of any form, have to wait until a trial's done. Cases brought fraudulently or to harass need to be thrown out quickly, and severely punished. Between these two, we could build a real system which protects the accuser and the accused, which keeps the innocent safe and makes sure only the guilty are punished.

    I hear the accuser in that case is now, as am I, happily graduated from college and building a life for herself. I doubt she ever intended anything like the scene which resulted.

    All of this was years pre-Columbine.

  • by aberoham (30074) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:33AM (#446799) Homepage
    Lancaster California, from my (detached) view, seems to be a town full of iodine seeking crank junkies and intolerant white-folk --

    NAZI GANG CALLED KEY PLAYER IN DRUG TRADE [mapinc.org]
    California town sees rash of hate crime [sltrib.com]
    Grammy Min discuesses trial for not keeping records on crystal iodine sales [cnn.com]

    I could be wrong in my opinion, but I find it kind of fitting that Katz would choose an incident in Lancaster to examplify the blight of school informants ...
  • by Kintanon (65528) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @12:23PM (#446800) Homepage Journal
    Personally I am eagerly awaiting the first incident in which someone is stabbed with a regular, plain, number 2 pencil. So we can watch the schools react to that. They can't very well ban regular #2 pencils. They've already banned mechanical pencils and in some cases pens because the casing can be used to build some rather fierce projectile weapons. Are we going to be reduced to doing our HS homework in Crayon?

    Kintanon
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:53AM (#446801) Homepage
    Lurking behind the obvious "these rules are stupid" issue are a couple of important issues:
    • School choice. The public school and taxation system financially constrains parents to send their children to these schools. Private schools could choose to have less insane policies regarding informants, non-prescription medications, and good samaritans.
    • Tort reform. The real solution here is to make the boy's parents pay for the lawsuit directed against the girl's parents -- automatically -- to discourage frivolous lawsuits. Note: the lawsuit against the school was not frivolous, but the lawsuit against the girl's parents was.
    So really, there are at least three ways this incident was atrocious: the school's informant rules, the lack of school choice, and the lack of tort reform. Try not to confuse them.
  • by 11thangel (103409) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:21AM (#446802) Homepage
    The School's really don't have much of a choice in the matter. If they encourage people to inform, they get the above mentioned result. If they DON'T, then they face lawsuits for not taking proper precautions to ensure the safety of the students. It's a catch 22. I think the best possible way to do it would be to make it anonymous, to avoid the above result, but that leaves the open hole for pranks to get people in serious trouble. I can't see any "perfect" solution to this, but I don't think that the current system has failed completely. (and in relation to a comment i saw as i was clicking reply, yes, no matter what the outcome, the lawyers get rich off of it.)
  • The difference in the psychology between Stalin and America regarding this phenomenon is that the belief and therefore the motivation that this is the way a citizen improves his lot in life has been transferred from a motivation to help the State (Stalin) to one that helps - what? - I'm grasping at straws here, because it doesn't feel like the motivation to turn in a fellow student is to, um, 'please' (for lack of a better word) the Institution, played in this case by the school.

    Here is what I am saying: in Stalinist Russia comrades were explicitly directed to turn over their peers to the State in order to protect the State. In modern America we turn people over to the cops to protect what we believe is our own interests - our freedom from terrorists, if you will.

    I believe that this connection is artificially created by an hysterical media. And the behavioral reinforcement comes from within by officials who are swept up in this hysteria. Hotter heads are prevailing because good citizens are compelled to "do something" about this "big problem".

    Of course, media attention only fans the flames, creating more copycat kids who shoot up their classmates; it only increases our paranoia, anxiety, and alienation from our (their) peers; it only adds to the stress of getting through the day. It does not help the situation in the least, because there is no problem that can be 'fixed' in a rational manner. So, I guess I have answered my own question: children turn in their peers in response to, and to serve, ultimately, the media!

    The Media plays the role of the Stalinist State in this instance. But the media appears soo innocent!

    On a lighter note: This clearly points out the need for School Vouchers and reduced Gun Control. Hey, if the rolling blackout problem can point out the need to rape the pristine Arctic Wilderness, then any logic goes...

    {I like Jon Katz, too, man, but not that much... :) }
  • by tethal91 (263165) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:31AM (#446804) Homepage
    Students informing on one another and their eldersis the stuff of chilling novels and shameful history. The difficulty of the current situation is that there are appropriate times to inform, which are blurred, and there are certain levels of responsibilty missing in our system. Schools are steadily growing worse at over reacting to everything, from aspirin to normal adolescent boundary testing that is essential to our growth as independent adults. Students, in many schools, are viewed more as enemies than pupils, and certainly not partners in their own education experience. How anyone learns in these schools is a mystery to me. And why is it the students job to snich? Parents should, but don't far too often, take active roles in their children's lives. Teachers are so overburdened in most districts and so underpaid, that they are incapable of knowing their students well enough to understand them. Policies in many places create artificial divisions between teacher and student a between the students themselves. High school is a destructive enough time in many peoples lives already. TO further alienate those already on the fringe by these over-reactionary policies is just inviting more Columbines....
  • by rark (15224) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @10:59AM (#446805)
    Here's the real question, though: Do you really think he's a threat? Not 'is he odd?' many people are harmlessly odd. Geeks are a mild varient of this. Autistic people are an extreme varient. I have some neurological weirdity (passed on to my kid, who doens't live with me, so I doubt it's psychological at this point) that's been diagnosed as many things (including autism) and I definetly act odd. I talk to myself, a lot. Not necesarily 'normal' conversation (which many people do from time to time, at least) but random words or noises (hence my name, as 'rark' is a commonly used sound for me). I move strangely, and can occasionally be found rocking or spinning or otherwise engaging in behavior that is definetly uncommon in human adults and seems to unsettle those around me. I wear 'odd' clothes, esspecially when I'm stressed, because I'm super-sensitive to the way fabrics feel against me, and the feel of certain fabrics rubbing my skin or rubbing together is much better (very calming) or much worse (chills up my spine/fingernails on a blackboard) than any 'normal' person would know from personal experience. Maybe his raincoat gives him a feeling of security -- pressure on his skin, or maybe just that no one can see his body. Maybe he can't control the talking to himself (I can't -- I can suppress it for a little bit, but if I get distracted then it's all over). Maybe the pointing is so that he can 'get his bearings' (I tilt my head over for a similar effect). Maybe he 'gestures' because he has to be able to move to talk (I'm like this..I can't talk when I'm sitting still, I have to rock and move my arms to make words)

    You said he makes 'threatening' gestures -- are they clearly threatening, or is it possible that because you (and others) already see him as a threat you're interperating movement that in other people woudln't alarm you as threatening? If they are, does he know that they are? Except for those gestures, nothing else you said would lead me to believe that he was a danger, though he certainly does sound like an odd character.

    I should note here that I am probably the nicest person you could ever meet. I go out of my way not to hurt people, and to help people when I can. If anything, my greatest challenge is to not let other people ride roughshod over me. I have really lousy social skills (in part because I have severe language issues, I'm not sure how much of it is 'other stuff' -- not taking in information like other humans, and esspecially not taking in language correctly, from birth, is a pretty big speedbump in trying to learn social skills) and tend to be more trusting than possibly I should, but the other choice is to be too paranoid -- there's no reasonable 'middle ground' here for me. I can't 'read' people like most people can. I do many things that are similar to the guy and people find me similarly 'creepy' -- something that irks me. I know what it's like to fear things, and while I know logically that I have more fear than the 'average' person, it pains me to know that I'm 'causing' some level of fear in other people. I'm not looking to be everyone's friend -- I'm intensely shy and being with other humans, even those I like a lot and who like me, is exteremely tiring for me. But I do wish that people woudln't automatically go 'She's acting differently, I'm scared of her now'.

    To bring this back to the original topic, these behaviors are ones that were actively discouraged (i.e. punished) when I was in school. The teachers enlisted the help of other students to find when I was doing 'bizzare' things (like walking on the sides of my feet or rocking or moving my head around oddly) and so the other students discovered that they could get brownie points for 'getting the weird kid in trouble' -- I didn't need any more help in being socially isolated.

    So my only real point here is that the 'whackos' are already seen as a threat by society and schools even when their not. You're a thinking individual. Please don't compound the problem.

  • The only thing that kids of today put their efforts into is dealing drugs, getting alcohol and committing crimes. Have you ever lived in one of our cities? The kids there do nothing apart from hang around doing these things, because they've never had any discipline or a good schooling system that encourages team sports and other activities.

    I was born and raised in New York City. Neither I nor my friends dealt drugs, binged on alcohol, or committed crimes (it's been my experience that the most screwed-up kids come from the suburbs) I had an excellent schooling that didn't emphasize team sports, and I never participated in them. I thought they were silly, and I still do. Competition has its place, but it's not some magical cure-all for society's problems.
    --
  • by Hairy_Potter (219096) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @07:11AM (#446807) Homepage
    Why not encourage students to rat out their parents for suspicious activities as well? This would certainly create a much safer home environment for government-educated students. You could create a special law enforcement unit just for this purpose. Just for kicks, we could call them the "Thought Police".

    DARE, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, is notorious for brain washing school children into turning in their parents.
  • by shinji1911 (238955) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:30AM (#446808)
    Asking for citizens to turn other citizens in reeks of fascism and repressive Soviet rule under Stalin.

    If the incident is sufficiently noteworthy, people will _automatically_ turn others in -- there needs be no urging.

    As for anonymous: you pointed out the problems of such a system -- even less accountability than we have now. This is no small prank here. We're talking about a 'tipoff' that can send a kid to jail for six months, or more. Think that geek's ever going to Harvard, no matter what his grades? I think not. Want an anonymous tipping system? I don't.

    As for not 'encouraging' people to inform -- the approach should be no 'active' encouragement, and stringent face-to-face meetings between the accused and the accuser, and then a decision should be made. And if the accuser is shown to be in bad faith, then there should be a significant punishment for abuse of the system. (Intent to harm other person using government funds and resources..., yadda yadda)

    That's the only possible way that we can be back to normal. Otherwise, this thing will just spiral out of control.
  • by TheWhiteOtaku (266508) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:23AM (#446809) Homepage
    I would imagine that knowing your friends could turn you into the Thought Police would make anyone extremely paranoid.

    Teens will no longer trust their friends with anything that could be used against them. Wouldn't this make violent people even more paranoid and anti-social? Paranoia and social isolation were some of the things that caused Columbine. These programs don't get to the problem's cause at all, and are sure failures.

  • by sjames (1099) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @07:51AM (#446810) Homepage

    It's all a matter of context.

    Now, lets' say the CEO does something I don't like, and I say, off the cuff, "Geez, I'd like to take that bastard out". Probably harmless. But still, it should be investigated, or at LEAST given a cursory examination!

    Apparently, if you were a student in school rather than an employee in a company, you would be taken to the principal, suspended on the spot, arrested, and questioned. AT LEAST. Quite possably, you'd do time for that 'terroristic threat'. Sound fair?

    The student who blew the whistle, in this case, did precisely what she was supposed to do. She heard a threat with no context and reported it. Did the school overreact? Perhaps. Should the school have been sued? Maybe. Should she? Hell no. For one, it prevents her right to free speech as well. For two, she was providing credible, correct information about a possibly dangerous situation to someone in a position to do something about it.

    An overheard comment with no context is WORTHLESS in evaluating a threat. Only the truly paranoid will treat it as anything else. Otherwise, it becomes IMPOSSABLE to safely talk about a role playing game (or any sort of tournament, especially something like assasin or paintball). How is that NOT a violation of free speech (schools are part of the government, so free speech definatly applies).

    As far as the student goes, she did what she was told to do by an authority figure that she's supposed to trust. SHE (her parents) should sue the school (as they are) for telling her to do something that landed her in court. No matter how hard they try, schools are going to have to take responsability for their actions and inactions just like the rest of us.

    What America needs to own up to (especially it's courts) is that sometimes bad things happen, and there's nobody to blame. In others, the person to blame dies or has no money. Neither of these conditions make it acceptable to use a lawyer like a shotgun to try collecting money from everyone within a 100 mile radius. Sometimes when someone does something,bad things happen, and nobody could have reasonably predicted the bad outcome.

    In the end, what is crucial here is to remember that anything you say can be overheard and misinterpreted. If you don't mean it, don't say it. It is easier said than done, but is the best way to prevent problems like this one.

    What if you DO mean it, but only figurativly? Have we lost the right to speak figurativly? Are we so (clinically) paranoid now that we can't be expected to apply context and common sense to what we overhear? How long will it be before saying "I'm going to beat you! (at checkers)" becomes a felony?

  • by Masem (1171) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @07:04AM (#446811)
    This is a strong case, as well as many others of recent, that put faults at the Zero-Tolerence against (something) implemented at many schools. Some others that I've read about was the 6-yr old boy, when hearing the school bus pull up, ran naked to the front window from the bath (where his mom was trying to keep him as he was sick), and because a few girls on the bus saw it, he was punished for sexual harassment; a young teenager suspended for having a Tweety 6" long keychain, in voilation of the school's ban on any weapons including chains that could be used to choken ppl; and several cases where prescription drugs were taken away from students when they needed them (some requiring medical attention afterwards) as the school has a zero-drug policy.

    Zero-tolerence does not work -- there is no ground for common sense and specifics of the case, and in some cases, enforcement can vary depending on whom is doing the enforcement -- what's to stop a teacher saying that a flip-comb couldn't be used as a weapon? In addition, zero-tolerence does not allot for those brain-fart mistakes that result from the hecetic morning (a good example, thankfully not z-tolerence enforced, is that I need to wear safety shoes in my workplace, I did happen to forget these one day, and wore tennis shoes - forturnately, nothing bad came of it, as I stayed out of the hazardous areas).

    I think with this, and with failures of the 3-strikes law for convinctions in CA (with the example of a guy getting significant number of years for stealing some candy on his 3rd conviction), is going to push away zero-tolerence policies, and go back to at least some sensable way to determine guilt before placing judgement. It can punish those that has no intent to commit a crime, and cost millions in lawsuits as seen here. If the school did have in place the informent program but took steps to make sure that students weren't tossing around random blame nor to fully investigate the effects, then none of the lawsuits would have happened, and the student that was blamed would have not had been expelled in the first place.

  • by Angst Badger (8636) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:44AM (#446812)
    I'm beginning to think that "loser pays" and penalties for frivolous lawsuits are looking like a better idea with every passing day. . .

    The problem with "loser pays" is that it makes large companies untouchable. If your next-door neighbor screws you and you sue him and lose, it costs you a few thousand dollars. If you sue Microsoft and lose, you're instantly six digits in debt because they put a team of fifteen highly paid corporate lawyers on the job. Oh sure, maybe one of them actually did any work on it, but because he walked past the other fourteen in the hall and said hello to them, they'll bill for it. And the beauty of it is that your hometown lawyer never had a chance against a mob of the best corporate lawyers in the country. They already stall as long as possible to drive up your legal expenses; a loser-pays system just makes it harder to get justice.

    In the actual case under discussion, the boy's family has every right to sue for defamation. That being said, I don't think the girl's family ought to pick up the tab because by being recruited as an informer, she was basically acting as an agent or employee of the school district.

    --

  • If anyone says "I'm going to kill people here",
    should we just ignore it? Laugh it off? Pretend
    it never happened? Hell no!
    I agree, to a certain extent, that adolescents AND
    adults say things they don't mean. Investigations
    do need to take this into account.
    To presume, however, that the solution to this
    problem lies with students(or anyone else) ignoring
    everything they hear is patently absurd! What if,
    for instance, I was to say "I will kill the CEO of my
    company this Thursday at four." Would it be absurd
    for one of my coworkers to report me? Of course
    not! This is a legitimate threat. Now, lets' say the
    CEO does something I don't like, and I say, off the
    cuff, "Geez, I'd like to take that bastard out".
    Probably harmless. But still, it should be
    investigated, or at LEAST given a cursory examination!

    Threatening others, while certainly easy to do, and a
    way to let off steam, is not acceptable, under any
    circumstances. This is not the sort of thing that
    can be argued is harmless to others. If this student
    had been serious, the safety of the whole school
    was at stake.

    The student who blew the whistle, in this case,
    did precisely what she was supposed to do. She
    heard a threat with no context and reported it.
    Did the school overreact? Perhaps. Should the
    school have been sued? Maybe. Should she? Hell no.
    For one, it prevents her right to free speech as
    well. For two, she was providing credible, correct
    information about a possibly dangerous situation
    to someone in a position to do something about it.

    In the end, what is crucial here is to remember
    that anything you say can be overheard and
    misinterpreted. If you don't mean it, don't say it.
    It is easier said than done, but is the best way
    to prevent problems like this one.

    (My apologies for the odd formatting. Posting through
    lynx will do that to you.)
  • by pongo000 (97357) on Thursday February 08, 2001 @06:30AM (#446814)
    Lucid article from Katz, that is.

    This whole "snitch" business is yet another attempt by school boards across America to absolve themselves of any and all culpability by making students and teachers responsible for reporting any and all threats. In this way, a school board can make the claim that it is in no way responsible that little Johnny shot up the school because nobody every reported that little Johnny threatened to do so.

    This is very much like "zero tolerance": Force zero tolerance policies so that school boards and other administrators never have to open them up to responsibility by doing the wrong thing. It's a no-brainer for them: Everybody is treated like the criminal they are, so nobody can sue for disparate treatment.

    Parents need to take the initiative and teach their children the difference between a "real" threat ("See this AK-47? I'm gonna blow some jocks away") and a "perceived threat" ("I wish I could kill every student in this fucked-up place"). All too often, vague or unspecified threats are being taken way too seriously by school officials -- again, it all boils down to school administrators not wanting to have to shoulder any blame in the event they actually use an intelligent decision-making process to separate the wackos from the disenfranchised. It's much easier just to assume every student is a criminal, especially for intellectually-challenged school boards.

  • One way to possibly keep the lawyers out of it would to take the punishments out of the criminal justice system (a count of terrorism for an overheard comment?) and where it belongs, in the hands of school psycologists and counselors.

    Anonymous tips should start a counseling cycle, which can be as short as one session, to determine whether a kid is serious, or is was just stupid. When possible, these early sessions should be removed from permanent records, to reduce the negative affects and allow kids to occasionally make mistakes.

    Despite Columbine, it is still safer for kids to be in school than outside. Making the random comments of adolesents grounds for criminal charges is unreasonable and unforgivable. It fosters an "us against them" mentality, and further isolates borderline cases. It sounds like the ideas of politicians or insane school boards (zero-tolerance policies), rather than rational ideas from those who know kids best, who work with them every school day.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents

Working...