Tuesday, March 24

Ah, Schooldays! The Friends, The Pep Rallies, The Strip-Searches...

ITEM: "Strip-Search of Girl Tests Limit of School Policy".

ITEM: "Racy Phone Images Can Haunt Teens". (N.B., Indianapolis Racist Star link, so it will disappear behind a Pay For Reprint wall in several hours, a policy which, so far at least, has had the unfortunate effect of keeping the paper afloat. Also, and as always, do not read the comments in the Racist Star, which are right there at the bottom of the page and require no clicking to link, particularly if you have recently eaten, have sensitive digestion generally, or are literate.)

YES, the savviest of Hoosier school administrators have tumbled onto the cryptic and deliciously dirty teen world of "sexting", which means the local media types they cultivate like a rosarian with a tender new hybrid are now hip to it as well. So we've had three public cases in five days, and all the local stations had to come up with graphics. It is the rare instance of public stupidity that nonetheless manages to contribute to the Arts.

In each instance the girls were underage and were reportedly filmed surreptitiously. One vid was making the rounds of John Marshall High School in Indianapolis, which led school officials to call in the girl's grandmother (her guardian) and show her the tape.

And here's the odd thing about that: I'm married to an IPS teacher, and I'm involved in local educational issues, and I never realized that public school officials have plenary powers which allow them to posses, and display, child pornography. I'm thinking we have a whole new avenue to help with school funding which is being underutilized.

[You'll note that, as always, the ubiquitous electronic gizmos which make all this possible get a free pass, especially in the wealthier districts, such as Carmel, which says it managed to reduce the problem by making it against the rules to have sexual materials in school (it wasn't before?), thereby avoiding hundreds of calls from the parents of thousands of Meghans and Joshuas who just had to have their cellphone/camera/text messenger/mp3 player/vibrator at hand at all times, in case of emergency.]

And this comes as the Arizona strip-search case nears its date with the rabid defenders of personal rights the current Court comprises. Presumably that one did not involve videotaping, since the equipment six years back was a lot bulkier. It did involve forcing thirteen-year-old Savana Redding to disrobe for a school nurse and a secretary--both of whom, I trust, have now completed their prison sentences and are fully rehabilitated--on the grounds that another student, caught with prescription ibuprofen, had (falsely) named her as the source. And all this apparently took place without so much as a phone call to the girl's parents, let alone any of the adults menacing this eighth-grader, this thirteen-year-old, showing the least sensitivity for her rights or the slightest compunction to inform her she had any, because they apparently thought she had none that weren't superseded by their own.

For fuck's sake, listen to what these people are saying now, six years and an Appeals court loss later, apparently secure in their belief that the Court will sanction anything remotely resembling brute authoritarian force. It raises the question of how John McCain manages to get re-elected in Arizona time and again despite the occasional bout of lucidity:

• the search was “not excessively intrusive in light of Redding’s age and sex and the nature of her suspected infraction.”

• In a sworn statement submitted in the case, Mr. Wilson [the vice-principal in charge of inmate relations] said he had good reason to suspect Ms Redding. She and other students had been unusually rowdy at a school dance a couple of months before, and members of the school staff thought they had smelled alcohol.

• The fact that she had a clean disciplinary record is irrelevant.

“Her assertion should not be misread to infer that she never broke school rules,” the district said of Ms. Redding in a brief, “only that she was never caught.” [emphasis mine; you can't expect the Times to highlight official insanity. I hope that, in the event the Court finds in Ms Redding's favor, the school is forced to adopt this as its official motto.]

Note that Ms Redding says she was never asked whether she had the pills before she was searched. The fact that she was being accused by a former friend was the sort of detail school officials needn't find out about until after a lawsuit is filed. Note, for fuck's sake, that school staff members thought they smelled alcohol on rowdy junior high students at a school function and did nothing.

LET'S part the beaded curtains of memory and step into my own high school days for a moment.

I had a standard white suburban 60s upbringing, which is to say that my parents started fighting when I was in fourth grade, separated in the fifth, divorced in the sixth, and my mom married an alcoholic salesman and moved us to a new district in the eighth. Sports were my social entrée; playing in garage bands was my real love. I tired quickly of the bullying Neanderthals who coached football and basketball; when I entered George S. Patton High I switched to track and cross-country, where the coach was a cool guy, an actual teacher (chemistry) instead of a drivers-ed functionary, and an early adopter of environmental concerns. I was no distance man, but I was a pretty fair quarter-to-half-miler, and qualified for the regionals in the latter my sophomore year. Then I got called into the athletic director's office, along with my best friend on the team.

"The state athletic commission passed a new rule. You can't run in state meets unless your hair is above your ears. You two get haircuts or you're off the team."

Now, neither of us exactly looked like Mark Farner at this point; more like George W. Bush in college. My buddy cut his hair. I drove over to my dad's apartment, bummed his Brylcream, and slicked mine back. It is, to this day, my most cherished memory of high school, when the AD called us back into his office and shook our hands for our compliance while I grinned back at him like a moron.

So we get to the stadium, and they call the race, and I go to line up; we're being seeded according to our qualifying times. And number one is a guy from a county school, the fastest half-miler in the state. And the guy has a Jewish Afro that Darnell Hillman would have been proud of.

So thanks, guys. Learning the vital lesson about trusting adults at such a young age has stood me in good stead ever since. Mere telling wouldn't have had near the impact.

And look: it's a lesson we need to re-learn. We jumped the rails a quarter-century ago. Abuse of power, by petty tyrants, cops, prosecutors, politicians, yes, even military heroes, is a constant, and serious, threat. Check the dissenting opinion from the Ninth:
Judge (Michael Daly) Hawkins concluded, “I do not think it was unreasonable for school officials, acting in good faith, to conduct the search in an effort to obviate a potential threat to the health and safety of their students.”

Now, I'll tell ya, I smoked my share of reefer in high school, and a couple of other kid's shares as well, and I still maintain that a far greater threat to my health and safety were the parallel bars in gym class. And I've had the occasional sweet, sweet illicitly-dispensed-in-violation-of-Federal-law prescription ibuprofen, which moderately dulled the pain in my knee for a time. I'm not sure how many would be required before you jumped off the junior high roof while imagining you could fly, or stared at the sun until your eyeballs melted, but a rough guess is "more than a thirteen-year-old girl could comfortably hide in her "underwear".

And, y'know, in a long and varied career I can't even recall ever having drunk enough that I'd've ordered the strip-searching of a girl barely in her teens and under my legal guardianship, or obeyed someone else's orders to do so, or rolled film of one having sex. They do have some shade in Arizona, right?


map106 said...

So who won the race?

Doghouse Riley said...

Oh, Mr. Big Hair, in like 1:57. I was sixth with a Brylcream-assisted 2.02.

Anonymous said...

The strip search case further boggles my already-boggled mind. The girl was suspected of having IBUPROFEN. This is not a mind-altering, mood-enhancing, or just-plain-fun drug. It dulls pain, that's all. I buy the generic OTC for economy's sake,and take it for my arthritis, two at a time if necessary. I can report no euphoria, no sensory distortion, no seeing God, not any of that stuff that is strictly illegal.

I don't expect any justice from the Alito court; it will probably let the strip search stand. Of course, the nine of them should be subjected to strip search on the mall. If they've got nothing to hide, why should they mind?

StringonaStick said...

You know, Ibuprofen is a gateway drug; eventually you'll be taking Aleve or -gasp- CELEBREX (the horror!) to get that same groovy pain-free feeling.

My left knee agrees with yours; I wish we could regrow cartilage.

map106 said...

Must have been the aerodynamic nature of his "do".

Christopher said...

What the fucking fuck is wrong with people?

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

I don't give a shit if she had a bong in her underwear, a teacher, a coach, a nurse, no one has the right to strip search a young woman.

If I had been told to disrobe by a junior high functionary, I would have told them, "no, and after you fuck yourself, you can call my momma cause I ain't coming back."

What in the holy hell is wrong with people? My husband and I don't have children. If I did they would be home schooled because while my husband and I were the very class president types, I would never want my child to suffer the humiliation of trying to decide which is more important, her soul or gaining the approval of people who aren't fit to speak to children.

wavydavy said...

Stupid is as stupid does. From the linked Indy Star article about "sexting":

after the girl involved in the sex act told police the video had been texted to her classmates

Just exactly how stupid do you have to be to not understand the distinction between text and video?

Anonymous said...

Didn't these school officials get the memo? It's 20 min. interogation under a bright spotlight, threaten w/ tray of torture implements, THEN the strip search.

cleter said...

How, exactly, are the telecommunications practices of teens any business of the school board? Was there some Bush-era policy giving school officials wire-tapping powers? Are we in the era of the Unitary Principal now?

Also, could I make a bunch of money exploiting this new problem by selling concerned parents (at grossly inflated prices) clunky, brick-like late-Nineties cell phones that do nothing but transmit voice communication, so their delicate children are spared the horror of sexting and dirty pictures?