Tuesday, March 27, 2007

textbook example of liberal strategy

A high school student in Woodlan, Indiana wrote a column for her school newspaper about homosexuality. You can read the column at www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2007703260346

The teacher advisor of the school newspaper did not seek prior approval for the column from the school principal, as has been required school corporation policy for the last 6 years. She didn't think that the column was controversial enough to warrant prior approval from the principal. She thought wrong. The advisor has been suspended pending a termination hearing. The school board has revised the existing policy. It reiterates that the principal has final approval of all newspaper content, and says that students on the newspaper staff can't appeal his decisions if they wish to continue working on the staff.

Now, read the following:

This is an op-ed written by a man named John Krull. Mr. Krull is president of the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism. He is also the former president of the Indiana chapter of the ACLU. Mr. Krull, as you might expect, opposes the decision of the Woodlan school system. That's OK--he has that right. What he doesn't have the right to do is to use lies and intimidation in an attempt to change the school's decision. Let's look at his column, and you can see for yourself what kinds of tactics the modern liberal uses to advance their cockamamie agenda. I'll use his own words to indict him.

Two months ago, a sophomore student journalist at Woodlan Junior-Senior High School just outside Fort Wayne advanced a disturbing message in an opinion piece in The Tomahawk, the student newspaper. She said it was a good idea to be nice to people, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Actually, what she said was that homosexuality is purely genetic, just like a person's race, and that this "fact" precludes any judgement on our part since it isn't a choice. Well, I don't know of any scientific proof of that "fact." She is welcome to hold that opinion, if she wants to. She is welcome to speak out with that opinion, if she wants to. She does not have the absolute right to use taxpayer supported school equipment to advance that opinion. If the principal believes that her opinion goes against the values of the school and the community, he can censor that opinion. Censorship is not unconstitutional.

Then the school system adopted a newspaper policy that gave the principal the right to censor anything with which he might disagree and denied students, teachers and parents the right to contact a lawyer if they disagreed with him.

Wrong! The principal has had this right for at least 6 years, and the Supreme Court case Hazlewood v. Kuhlmeier was decided a long time before that. The principal is not "creating" some brand new power that didn't exist before. The existing policy is simply being reaffirmed. Mr. Krull is being dishonest.

As to the part about contacting a lawyer, the truth is a little different from the Krull version. The principal and the school board know full well that the Student Press Law Center has been conducting a program of harassment against all school administrators who utilize the powers granted to them by the Hazlewood case. The way it works is, the principal censors an article from the school newspaper, knowing that judicial precedent supports him. The Student Press Law Center, on behalf of the students on the newspaper staff, sues in an attempt to harass the administrator. They know that they will lose in court, but they don't care. The school will be forced to fight the frivolous suit and to spend money on legal fees. The hope of the godless, socialist liberal law center is that schools will just give up and let students print whatever they want. New policy in Woodlan says that, if the student wants to sue, they have to quit the newspaper staff. There is absolutely nothing illegal or unconstitutional about that.

On March 19, the district placed the newspaper adviser on paid leave and started the process of firing her. When the principal visited the classroom to tell the students that the newspaper was to reflect his thoughts exactly, at least three students quit in protest.
At its meeting the next night, the school board refused to allow discussion about the situation. When a parent asked under what part of Indiana law the board could refuse to let citizens talk about a public policy at an open public meeting, the board president said the question was out of order.

The newspaper advisor was placed on paid administrative leave because she failed to follow the long-standing school policy of running controversial story ideas by the principal. When she failed to show any contrition for her insubordination, and when she told the principal that she didn't want to follow the policy, he started termination proceedings. He has that right, and he did nothing illegal. The school board will make the final decision on her termination, so they are prohibited by law from publically discussing a pending personnel matter. Mr. Krull knows this, but is being intentionally dishonest. Ain't that just the way with liberals!

Two months into this disturbing episode, at least two things have become clear.
The first is that this dispute is not only about student journalists' rights. When the school board refused to let parents discuss a school policy at an open meeting, the school system's leaders made it clear that they like no part of the First Amendment. They have just as much disdain for the constitutional guarantees of the rights to speak freely and to petition government as they do for freedom of the press.

Wrong again! The case is not about student journalists' "rights." Hazlewood makes clear that the freedom of the press protections in the 1st Amendment don't apply to student "journalists." (These students are not journalists, but that's a subject for a different post.) The case is also not about the 1st Amendment rights of parents. The law prohibited the school board from allowing discussion. You can bet your last dollar that, if the school board had allowed discussion, the advisor's lawyers would have used that against the school.

The second is that these folks haven't thought things through. They have focused on the privileges of being a student newspaper's publisher and not the responsibilities. By asserting that he is the publisher, Woodlan's principal, Ed Yoder, has made himself personally responsible for what appears in the newspaper. This means that, should the paper libel someone on his watch, that person could lay claim to Yoder's house, his retirement funds and any of his other assets. Similarly, now that he has publicly disavowed the "be nice to people even if they are gay" column, he and the school could bear some liability if a gay student is harassed.

Well, there you have it sports fans! I think this is what's known as a "troop surge!" Mr. Krull is making it as plain as the nose on your face. If school principals want to carry out their responsibilities as permitted by judicial precedent, they can expect the armies (trial lawyers) of the godless religion of liberalism to come after their homes, their savings, and all that they possess. You can expect a rash of "harassment" suits to suddenly pop up, too. If conservatives won't get with the program and "get right" with liberalism, then they will just have to endure relentless legal terrorism and intimidation until they cave!

I will repeat a question that I have asked many times before:

Who's the fascist?


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