Sunday, July 29, 2007

Criminalizing horseplay 

This is one of the most appalling stories I have ever read. Middle-schoolers slap each other on the butt in a form of jocular greeting, the principal calls the cops, and the local prosecutor decides that teenaged horseplay is a sex crime that warrants registration for life as a "sex offender."

Any prosecutor who cannot see the difference between horseplay among peers and sexual predation is a dangerous fool who should be removed from the office immediately. One of the reasons that there are such foolish people is that many prosecutors in our country are politicians, and politicians routinely ruin the lives of ordinary people to advance their own careers.

Another reason is that for whatever reason we have lost all sense of proportionality in dealing with human interactions that arguably involve a sexual component. In our society, you can sue your employer if your co-worker is sufficiently annoying and you can adduce evidence that his or her annoying actions or statements involved or alluded to sexuality in some way, shape or form. If your co-worker is merely a jerk, though, you have no "remedy," which is the plaintiff bar's term for "opportunity for windfall." Our employment discrimination laws essentially subsidize the hunt for sexual victimization in our daily lives. No wonder we're prosecuting 7th graders for grabass.

MORE: Cassandra agrees with me, only more eloquently.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 29, 10:35:00 AM:

As a middle school teacher, I have to disagree with your assessment on this one, Tigerhawk. Incidents like this have led to lawsuits before:


Let's think of this scenario: the guys slap the wrong girl, she becomes extremely uncomfortable and tearfully relates the story to a high-strung mother. The mother flips out, sues the district, and taxpayers are out millions of dollars for a butt-slap. It's similar to what happens in the wake of school shootings: "what warning signs did the teachers see and when did they see them?"

I don't think that the blame lies on the administrators or the prosecutors, but rather on the parents who can't remember what it's like to be young and respond to any discomfort their child experiences with a knee-jerk lawsuit.

Just my two cents. Big fan of the blog though, keep up the good work.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sun Jul 29, 11:44:00 AM:

Incidents like this have led to lawsuits before

Yea, and the moronic judges should have issued summary dismissals when the school attorney made the motion.

So basically, you'd rather kids be FALSELY CONVICTED rather than a school district defend a lawsuit?

Simply put, that's a very crappy attitude. I hope you are falsely accused of a felony some day, so you can realize just how crappy it is.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jul 29, 11:50:00 AM:

With all due respect, Purple Avenger, no one was "falsely convicted" here. The students were not misidentified, nor was there a third butt-slapper on the grassy knoll. We can dispute whether or not this is a legitimate thing to prosecute (which I don't think it is), but we can't debate whether or not inappropriate conduct took place: the kids' own confessions say that it was.

Perhaps I wasn't clear in my original post. I think this is ludicrous. However, I can sympathize with the administrator. Teachers are forced to go through all kinds of CYA measures these days to prevent knee-jerk lawsuits that can hurt the district OR lead to a teacher/administrator losing his or her job for "letting boys be boys."

In sum, I agree with you, this should have been dismissed and is absurd. Just trying to bring some other issues to light here.

I don't think wishing a false felony accusation upon me was necessary, though.  

By Blogger amr, at Sun Jul 29, 12:41:00 PM:

Obviously criminalizing what was done by these two boys is absurd, an outrage and there should be some firing of a principle and local officials. Now, to me, what was supposedly going on required some “instruction” for the general student population since such behavior can be misinterpreted, as it was. What this story has shown is that the school’s staff has little knowledge of what was going on in their school. The principle/vice principle should have known about the games taking place in the halls. He should have put a stop to it if he, as I would have, deemed it inappropriate. And where are the teachers in this story? Were they so obtuse as to miss this activity or did they consider it just horseplay and not worth their attention, but now they have clammed up. We keep hearing about these kinds of stories and I just wonder where are all of these so called concerned citizens who fail to intervene before things get out of hand and take on a life of their own. And yes parents are also to blame. I've seen that too, but the courts nor society do not give out consequences too readily for improper suits.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Jul 29, 12:54:00 PM:

So, where's the ACLU in this? Or some other "we really super care about civil rights and justice" group to take this case to jury. They'll throw it out.

But if the jury does convict... well, we can't just blame the system then, can we?  

By Blogger Rick Ballard, at Sun Jul 29, 01:04:00 PM:

Whoa, Nelly. The school district gave the boys a five day suspension. They did (appropriately, given the one "sue your way to riches" mom) have an officer talk to the boys. It was the officer and DA Bradley Berry who descended into madness coupled with stupidity.

BTW - juveniles don't generally get jury trials.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Sun Jul 29, 03:06:00 PM:

Why not? Doesn't that remove one of the primary components of our judicial system to protect against abuses of authority?  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sun Jul 29, 06:44:00 PM:

I don't think wishing a false felony accusation upon me was necessary, though.

Express yourself more crisply in the future then.

"I don't think that the blame lies on the administrators or the prosecutors"

Right. Moronic automatons inflicting arbitrarily harsh consequences on behavior that was considered innocuous 30 or 40 years ago when I was in grade school aren't part of the problem. Gotcha.  

By Blogger dave in boca, at Mon Jul 30, 12:07:00 AM:

I don't see how TrollonProspect can defend the indefensible. The prosecutor is beneath contempt and rivals Durham dodo-nimrod Nifong for vacuous villainy. Is this proto-CroMagnon running for some sort of PC proxy-office? Or just a headline hog? And why are these kids names being published when here in bocaland, illegal immigrant murderers under 18 are protected via anonymity? Maybe the state of Organ is different. And perhaps Mark Steyn should be on Fox News with his own show, as he is the brightest star in the conservative firmament.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 30, 09:01:00 AM:

See, here's a case where I'd hope all you conservative types would be all for an "activist judge." There are very few checks in the judicial system on rogue prosecutors. The judge is sworn to uphold the law; he can't just dismiss cases he thinks are wrongly brought - the conservative line is that it's not his place to refuse to enforce bad law, but rather it's the place of the legislature to change it, and it's ultimately OK if individuals suffer for it. Even his sentencing options are often limited by statute, meaning a judge often has to impose draconian punishments in cases where they aren't warranted or fair. And given that juries aren't told about possible punishments for crimes brought before them, hoping for jury nullification just isn't realistic.

The more cases like this I see, the more I think that judges should actually have *more* latitude in how they sentence convicts. I'd much rather have some people get off too lightly than have "offenders" in cases like this receive a harsh punishment.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Mon Jul 30, 09:05:00 AM:

I agree, Phrizz. I have long thought that tough sentencing guidelines were silly. Unfortunately, they are the demon spawn of an alliance between the right (worried about judges who are "soft" on crime) and the left (worried about racial discrimination in sentencing). Tough to dislodge.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jul 30, 10:50:00 AM:

More of the stupididy of zero tolerence i mean when they call the police and slap cuffs on s 12 year one who points his finger and gose BANG BANG then its time to dump this zero tolerence nonsense  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Mon Jul 30, 01:15:00 PM:

G.K. Chesterton was prophetic:

"The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation [N.B., I'd say "by the Enlightenment," instead]), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad."

The school should certainly have prohibited "Slap Butt Fridays," for a host of reasons. But for the DA to prosecute this behavior as criminal is virtue gone mad.  

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