Thursday, July 27, 2017

Nanny State

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Really?

As punishment for possessing a water pistol, a 16 year old student in Alabama was expelled from her school for an entire year.

The Montgomery Advertiser reported that student of Prattville High School, Sara Allena “Laney” Nichols, was given a water pistol by another student. The toy pistol was black and may have looked like a real weapon at first glance. Apparently, Nichols put the water gun in her backpack and then placed it in the backseat of her car.

After seeing the exchange between Nichols and the other student, a bystander student reported the incident to authorities at PHS. Cameras at the school campus captured the exchange footage quite clearly. Nichols was then called to the office where she admitted to possession of the toy and told authorities it was in the back seat of her car.

Initially, Nichols was handed a ten-day suspension for possessing the toy. However, the Autauga County Board of Education later expelled her from all schools in the county, and prohibited from entering the school or participating in any school extra-curricular activities for that time period.

Nichol’s parents appear to be quite displeased with the harsh decision of the board.

“She’s 16 and doesn’t know what it means when you hear ‘gun’ on campus,” says mother Tara Herring. “We admit what she did was wrong. I was hoping this could be a teachable moment for her. We’re not saying she should not have been punished. But she took a 10-day suspension. And then the board expelled her. We feel the expulsion is excessive.”

The family has decide to pursue legal recourse with the help of attorney Julian McPhillips. He has currently written a letter to Superintendent Spence Agee, interim PHS principal Brock Dunn, Alabama State Board of Education member Ella Bell and state BOE attorneys James Ward and Juliana Dean.

In his letter, McPhillips argues that none of the other students who brought the toy gun to school have received any punishment beyond suspension. He asked that Nichols’ record of expulsion from the school be changed from expulsion to voluntary withdrawal, because her mother claims she was able to get her daughter out of the school before she could be expelled.

“Young Sara Allena Nichols now, at the age of only 16, has a “scarlet letter E” attached to her forehead, figuratively speaking, because the EXPULSION now attached to her name will follow her to other schools and quite possibly to job applications,” the March 10 letter to Bell, Ward and Dean reads. “The potential damage for this young lady is enormous … I trust, hope and believe that you three have a great power of persuasion and actual legal authority to convince the Autauga County School Board and its Superintendent to retract the expulsion and change it to “voluntary withdrawal.” After all, that is what my client, Ms. Herring, says actually occurred. She actually withdrew her child from Prattville High School before there was a ruling of expulsion.”

However, if the school board fails to comply with the family’s requests, they will move forward with legal proceedings against the board.

“It has become such a source of insatiable chagrin, seeing her daughter Sara Nichols, innocent of bringing a toy/replica gun to school the first time, and yet receiving a far more serious disciplinary action than those responsible for both occurrence, that Ms. Herring is very seriously considering a Title IV sex discrimination case against Prattville High School,” the April 10 letter reads.

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Free Range Kids

Recently, parents in California were charged with child endangerment for letting their kids walk home from the park unattended. That’s old news. You’ve already heard it.

But it got me thinking about my childhood. We walked to and from elementary school without supervision. We rode our bikes to High School because it was too far to walk. Back then, I never saw a kid wearing a helmet unless it was on the football field.

After school, we played in the woods across the road. There weren’t any parks. In the winter, we rode our sleds down the icy slopes, weaving in and out, between the trees.

We took chances and sometimes we got hurt – a scrape, a bruise, and sometimes a broken bone or two – but all my friends and all my classmates survived. That is, until we turned 18 and our government sent many of us to Viet Nam.

Maybe someone should charge Uncle Sam with child endangerment.

Life was risky, but with every risk we learned to make better choices. Kids today don’t have the opportunity to make choices. Experience is a great teacher. Without experience there is less learning. How will our children become adults? Maybe a better question is: What kind of adults will they be?

Many young men and women who went to Iraq and Afghanistan came back in much worse shape than our generation did. Could it be because this generation is less equipped to face obstacles?

You might say kids are safer now. Maybe they are, but I wonder if they are as happy as we were. It’s hard to be happy when you live in fear of so many everyday things. We are teaching them to believe security is more important than freedom when we should be teaching them the value of freedom and the spirit-crushing effects of fear.

Those parents I mentioned earlier said they were raising “free-range” kids. The opposite of “free-range” is “caged”. Is that really what we want for our children? It’s considered inhumane to treat animals that way.

Every effort to make us safer makes us less resilient. We are informed of all the potential dangers in order to convince us of the wisdom of whatever the latest safety fad happens to be.

Growing up, I seem to remember falling off my bike was part of the process of learning to ride. Now we have training wheels. Kids have to wear helmets to avoid hitting their heads if they fall. How can you fall with training wheels? I don’t remember anyone getting a concussion from falling off a bike, but I do remember a few broken teeth. Maybe we should mandate face masks, too. I’m surprised we don’t require seat belts on bikes. Maybe that will be next.

We also didn’t have seat belts or air bags in cars. One of my cousins thought seat belts were a great idea. This was in the ‘60’s when most cars didn’t have them. He paid to have them installed in his convertible and gave seat belts as Christmas gifts. He was afraid for all of us.

He was 19 when he missed a turn and ran off the road. His car rolled down the embankment three times before crashing head-first into a tree, The impact pushed the steering column through his chest, but I’m sure he didn’t feel it. On one of the roll-overs, his head had become detached from his body. Decapitated people don’t feel pain.

Without a seat belt he would have likely been thrown from the car. I can’t know if that would have saved his life, but I do know that being securely strapped in killed him. It was a long time before I could bring myself to fasten a seat belt. I’m still not sure it’s wise.

In order to convince us all to wear them, we were told numerous stories of people who died without one. They never told you about my cousin.

Society’s attitudes change within a generation or two. We’ve been overly protecting our children for a while now, so it shouldn’t surprise us that young adults have been more than willing to give up freedom for security whenever they’re told it’s necessary for National Security.

Those who would trade freedom for a little security will have neither. Remember that the next time you’re told to be afraid. And stop teaching your children to be so cautious.

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