I'm not exactly sure when it happened but sometime in the last ten or fifteen years, schools have morphed from educator to parent/police agency. Like the proverbial frog in the pot of water, this didn't happen overnight. Schools in this country slowl turned up the heat a little at a time until eventually they had the kids and their parents right where they wanted them and nobody even realized it until it was too late. I don't have to ask why, rather I'm sure it began the moment parents stopped being parents and forced the schools to take over raising their children. After all, that's how zero tolerance came to be. In the old days, teachers used their best judgment to decide how to handle a situation but somewhere along the way came the idea of zero tolerance which essentially took the responsibility for rational common-sense decision making away from the teachers and replaced it with across-the-board black and white policies without regard or each unique situation. As we all know, zero tolerance is easier because it requires no thought and no accountability for one's actions.
Now on to the reason I'm pissed off today. This story about the violation of a twelve year old girl's Constitutional rights at Minnewaska Area Middle School in Minnesota angers me.
School officials took it upon itself to force a child to give up her facebook and email passwords so they could get into her private account and view posts she'd put up on her facebook wall. The first post was allegedly saying she hated one of the hall monitors. After she was punished for that, she posted again on her facebook asking who turned her in and used a curse word, after which she was punished again by the school, for that offense. The third punishment from the school came after another child's guardian complained to the school that this child allegedly talked about sex on facebook with the guardian's child.
Let it be known that none of the facebook posts were threatening or violent in nature and it should be noted that the posts were made from her own private computer in her parents home. Also, the child's parents were not contacted in advance for permission to enter her facebook and email accounts. Essentially a child made posts from her own private computer to her own private facebook account and the school, not the parents, punished her for it.
According to the article I linked to, "The girl was called to a meeting with a deputy sheriff, school counselor and an unidentified school employee, the court documents states."
A deputy sheriff? For non-threatening, harmless facebook posts? Are you serious? Think about it, when you were twelve years old, would have cracked under pressure from a cop? Yeah I think you and I both would have cracked in a heartbeat.
The First Amendment protects all Americans, not just adults in regards to free speech. So what if that kid hates her hall monitor? It's her right to hate her and the hall monitor will just have to suck it up. You can't be liked by everyone. Did the kid say she wanted to kill her? No. She said she hated her. Hell I hated a lot of people when I was twelve years old, thank goodness I'm not twelve now, because with as many people I hated, they would've locked my ass up for life.
The Fourth Amendment protects all Americans, not just adults, from unreasonable search. The school officials had no business intimidating this child (especially using police to do it) into releasing her password and entering her account. If they thought the student had said something threatening, they had a responsibility to contact law enforcement authorities and the parents. Neither was done because there was no suspicion of threats. If they were upset by the child's actions, the parents should have been contacted and any discipline in this case should have been left to the parents, not the school.
If Facebook had existed when I was twelve years old in 1980 and I had talked about something inappropriate with another kid while using it, the parent of that child would have called my parents, had a discussion and I would have been punished by my parents. In those days the schools had better things to do like educate me and the rest of my generation, they didn't have time to police what I did at home or worry about whether or not I hated one or all of my teachers, hall monitors or whoever. Hell, I could hate the entire school if I wanted to, so long as I shut my mouth and did my classwork, my teachers were happy. (In fact when I was in fifth grade, I called my sister's fourth-grade teacher a red-headed witch and not to her face, but someone heard me and reported it. My parents were promptly notified by school officials and my mom washed my mouth out with soap when I got home from school that day. Now while the taste of Irish Spring still haunts me to this day, the school did the right thing, as did my mom.)
In 2012 it seems we live in a police state. You can't send your kid to school because instead of getting an education they're going to be hauled to the principal's office, threatened and intimidated, and then disciplined for things they say or do at home. Doesn't the school system in this country have anything better to do? We've got kids in high school who can't read above a fourth-grade level and they can't do enough simple math to get into a local community college and we're worried about them writing on facebook that they hate their hall monitors?
I'm waiting for the day when schools begin requiring students to report their parents activities at home. Maybe then people will start to take notice of the seriousness of this situation.
Gone are the days when kids didn't have to worry about the government trampling all over their Constitutional rights. Forget the notion of your kids learning about freedom and liberty when they get to college because they need to understand it now. Parents need to sit their kids down at a reasonable age and explain to them their rights and what it means to live in a free nation. Kids need to understand the importance of those rights and the sacrifices made to defend them. Parents need to explain to their kids what to do if school officials or anyone else attempt to intimidate, threaten or harass them. No child should ever have to be subject to something like this and any kind of questioning should require a parent present at all times.
Last I checked the Constitution applies to all Americans, not just those 18 and over. Since there are individuals working in our public school system who have forgotten that, it's up to the rest of us to remind them.