Off the Record: School discipline sure has changed

Off the Record

This week the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up a case that probably shouldn’t have been in the court system in the first place.

Back in 2011, a 13-year-old student in Albuquerque, N.M. got himself in trouble by deliberately belching in physical education class, no doubt to the merriment of his fellow students. When he refused to stop, the teacher sent him out of the room, but he kept sticking his head in the door and belching again. The school police resource officer was called, who in turn called the authorities, who hauled the student off in handcuffs to the local juvenile detention center where he cooled his heels for an hour until his mother picked him up. His mother filed a lawsuit against the police officer for violating Billy the Belcher’s civil rights.

Now when I was a kid, back when we walked five miles to school, uphill both ways, in the driving snow (even in May) things would have been a lot different. First off, you didn’t mess around in physical education class. The phy-ed teacher was a big, muscle-bound guy who would either bounce you off the lockers or throw basketballs at your head for goofing off.

If you went home and complained about harsh treatment, your mom and dad would say, “Well, what did you do to make him mad?”

When you explained that you had been innocently belching in class, your parents would probably get the belt out, or worse yet, accompany you to school the next day and make you apologize to the teacher and the whole class for your rudeness.

It is probably for the best that teachers today are not allowed to knock their students around. But it is too bad that too many parents don’t back up the schools and teachers when it comes to discipline. I’ve heard too many teachers complain about trying to discipline their students only to have the parents storm into the principal’s office the next day demanding that the teacher be fired for persecuting little Chauncy.

The courts had decided, in the case of the New Mexico kid, that the officer had violated no law and was protected by qualified immunity for doing his job.

The student probably should not have been hauled to juvie, however. He should have been delivered to his mother’s workplace and let her deal with him.


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