Friday, May 06, 2005

Honor thy Mother and get suspended from school! Happy Mother's day..Not

Student Suspended for Call to Mom in Iraq

That Lawyer Dude has always had profound respect for school teachers. They taught me to read and write, opened my eyes to a world beyond my home town and stoked the fires of my dreams when I almost gave up on them so many years ago. The same cannot be said of School administrators. The story above is just the type of thing that boils my disdain for those that "administer."

Seems that a High school Junior (age 17) was suspended for accepting a telephone call on his cell phone from his mother who is serves our country in Iraq. When he was told to end the call he said, "this is my mom calling from Iraq. I am not hanging up on my Mom." I say RIGHT ON! No one knows when the next time will be when he speaks to her. In fact as I am sure he is painfully aware, there may never be a next time. Hang up? Because of some silly school rule? I would be hard pressed to think of anything short of shooting breaking out over there that could get me to hang up first.

I tend to like teachers as jurors. You see I have found that teachers are very good at paying attention to rules. Hence when I am trying a case, a teacher on the jury is like a watchdog. She is bound to keep the jury focused on the issues and on the rules of law such as: "Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" and the "Presumption of Innocence." There is little room for free thought in a jury room, when it comes to such important bedrock principals such as those received in a jury charge. I do not want jurors who guess at what "really" happened. I want them to determine only if what the prosecution alleges happened, was proven by the government, beyond a reasonable doubt. Teachers understand the principals and pay attention to the rules. They also have the courage to say when they disagree, and seem to respect others who disagree with them in the jury room. Two very sought after traits. I have never lost a case where I have had a teacher as the jury foreman.

Administrators are another story entirely. I get frustrated with them because they are so stringent in their rules. They think that their rules are inviolate, and I have met very few who understand the meaning of flexibility of the law. They often over react when challenged, and have difficulty admitting mistakes. They do not like to have their behavior questioned. They do not see themselves as public servents, however they are not protected by tenure, they are not their to teach, they are infact public servents and just like any other beauracrat they must be held accountable for their decisions and behaviors. They are policymakers. Their refusal to see that every rule has an exception often leads to ridiculous decisions that are indefensible (even by good defense lawyers like me :) )

How great a child psychologist do you need to be to realize that a seventeen year old boy whose mother is serving in a forward position in Iraq is bound to be a little protective of her and maybe a little touchy about getting to speak to her 2 days before Mothers day? Suspension?! How absurd. Even if the child did become verbally abusive (which happened after the fact) is there no understanding of the stress that kid is under, especially at this time of the year?

Now an Administrator will tell you that "if we make an exception for one we have to do it for all." WRONG!! Exceptions are exactly what they are. They get decided on a case by case basis, and if you cannot differentiate between an emergency or a situation that calls for rule bending, and one that does not, then you should not be in a position to make the call to begin with.

Another favorite is "our lawyers said that this is the rule and so we must follow it to the letter or risk lawsuits." Yes, it is a very good idea to listen to your lawyer. In fact one who pays a lawyer and doesn't heed her good advice is an idiot. However most seasoned lawyers would tell you that laws are living breathing documents. They are to be applied in appropriate doses and at appropriate times. If I were this school district's attorney, I would quickly advise them to end the suspension, clear the child's school record, and see if they could arrange for the kid to speak to his mom through the military's lawyer on Mother's day. I would also speak to the idiot assistant principal that decided the discipline and try to teach him how to apply the rules of law (and my advice) so that he doesn't tick off half the people in the district; county; state; and nation.

Now for those that do not understand why am so upset that I would write a column on this issue, let me be real blunt. I have been ambivalent about our involvement in Iraq. I do not believe it is morally wrong for us to be there, but I am very "confused" about why we went. This does not in any way lessen my concern and admiration for those that are there doing our bidding. Our service men and women are brave and honorable people who have agreed to sacrifice their families, their careers and their lives for our enduring freedom. This does not mean that they are saints or that they do not have to be held to a high standard of conduct (as the recent El Gahrib prison scandal has proven), it does mean I think they and their families deserve a little slack from those over here who benefit from their sacrifice.

If I had been the youngster whose mother called him on the phone I would not have hung up either. After we had finished our call, I would have reminded the "powers that be", that there is a commandment that says "Honor thy Mother and Father." Hanging up on his mom would not be in keeping with the spirit of that commandment. I know of no commandment that says Honor the stupid inflexible rules of self important overpaid executives who cannot see the forest for the trees.

I hope someone in the state of Georgia has the guts to stand up and say that the adults in this situation made a mistake. I hope that they have the power to force an apology to this child and to the rest of the military families they have insulted, and that they will try to do better to distinguish the shades of gray in life. That type of behavior would be a really good teaching tool and a great lesson for their students. I only hope they have the ability to admit a mistake and the wherewithal to right it. Lastly if these denizens of scholastic society do not set things straight, I hope there is a lawyer there just as angry as me who makes them pay for their inflexibility. Then they might "get it" so that this zero tolerance garbage is better understood to mean zero under normal circumstances. War has never been, is not and hopefully will never be, a normal circumstance in any child's life in this country. Let us all pray this Mother's day that it is not a circumstance we ever become accustom to.

One more thing, I hope for the sake of all our soldiers families, that they are all safe this Mother's day and that they return to their families soon. Very soon. That's it for today. As always you can reach That Lawyer Dude by leaving a comment below or by visiting our law firm web site at www.colleluorilaw.com Have a happy and safe Mother's day.
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