When a black music teacher in Maywood Academy High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District asked a 14-year-old student to leave the classroom because he wasn’t wearing a proper uniform, the boy repeatedly used a racial epithet and threw a basketball at the teacher. The teacher initially walked away but then punched the boy in the face and continued the beating as the insulting persisted. The teacher was arrested for child abuse (“Teacher arrested after fight with student,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 5).
I’m not at all surprised by what happened. I blame the present situation on the student-rights revolution that began in 1965. Until then, teachers were expected to act in loco parentis. But lawyers, backed by philanthropic behemoths, started suing schools for disciplining students. Since then, disrespect on the part of students has grown. The present incident is different only in that it involved a teacher who retaliated. In most cases, teachers are assaulted by students.
I don’t condone what the teacher did. But he was deliberately provoked by the student. How much abuse can any teacher be expected to take before lashing out? Apparently, I’m not alone in this belief. More than 2,600 people have donated more than $65,000 for his legal defense. Critics will be quick to argue that there is no excuse whatsoever for a teacher hitting a student, maintaining that it is child abuse. Would they say that if the student threw the first punch? What about the student in the present case? Will he be merely suspended or rightly expelled?
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Goss v. Lopez in 1975 gave all students the right to contest in court any decision made by their teachers. What we’re seeing now is the predictable outcome of that decision. As then Justice Lewis Powell correctly said, students who do not learn the necessity of rules will be handicapped for life.
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