Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Huge Setback for the Fight Against Cyberbullying

January 19, 2012

Today is a disappointing day for all Americans (and the vast majority don’t know it). The Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn a previous decision which found in favour of students who harassed and slandered two Principals on the grounds that the school did not have the authority to punish them for deeds committed outside of the school gates.

The court let stand the suspension of a West Virginia high school’s “Queen of Charm,” who created a Web page that suggested another student had a sexually transmitted disease, and invited classmates to comment.

The court also left alone rulings that said schools could not discipline two Pennsylvania students for MySpace parodies of their principals that the students created at home. An appeals court, following 40-year-old case law on student speech, said the posts did not create substantial disruptions at school.

Lawyers on both sides were disappointed that it will be at least another year before the high court wades into the issue. Federal judges have issued a broad range of opinions on the subject.

“We’ve missed an opportunity to really clarify for school districts what their responsibility and authority is,” said Francisco Negron, general counsel of the National School Boards Association. “This is one of those cases where the law is simply lagging behind the times.”

This is a bitter blow for American society. Cyber bullying is a significant problem. It is my opinion that schools should most certainly get involved when its students are bullying each other (irrespective of where they are when they do it). By working with the parents, schools can play a vital role in deterring  bullies from victimising others online.

I am very saddened to read that the Supreme Court is of the opinion that when a child call their Principals names like a “big fag”, “whore”, “hairy sex addict” and “pervert”,  their posts do “not create substantial disruptions at school.” Really? I would have thought it would certainly undermine the authority of the Principal. And should she/he is unable to take any action, it sets an awful message that you can get away with saying anything online.

Is this progress? I think not!


The Courts Are Failing to Protect Our Children

November 30, 2011

If you ever needed a reminder at how weak our courts appear to be when it comes to protecting the safety and wellbeing of our children, take the bewildering case of former Tasmanian MP, Terence Lewis Martin.

Mr. Martin was found guilty of sex offences (which included having oral sex and taking photographs) with a 12-year-old girl.

Did he get life imprisonment? Nope!

How about 20 years? Try Again!

Well, surely he got at least a 10 year jail sentence? Not even close!

No, Mr. Martin got to walk free with a suspended sentence!

Walk free?

Why you ask?  Good question!

THE former MP guilty of sex offences with a 12-year-old girl has walked free from court with a suspended sentence, provoking outrage from anti-abuse campaigners and some of the girls’ relatives.

Former Tasmanian upper house MP Terence Lewis Martin had been in custody since being found guilty last week of unlawful sexual intercourse with a young person and of producing child exploitation material.

In the Supreme Court in Hobart yesterday, judge David Porter handed down a 10-month prison sentence, with the balance suspended provided the 54-year-old remains of good behaviour for two years.

Outside court, Martin was abused and challenged by a group that included relatives of the girl.

Justice Porter said a “dominant factor” in his sentencing of Martin was that the former MP had been suffering hyper-sexuality caused by medication for Parkinson’s disease. He had concluded there was a “direct causal link” between this dopamine agonist medication and Martin’s offences.

The judge said the condition caused by the medication had impaired Martin’s ability to make moral judgments and therefore “his moral culpability is reduced”.

“But for the medication, he would not be facing sentencing for this crime,” Justice Porter said.

Martin, a Labor-turned-independent MP and a former mayor of Glenorchy, in Hobart’s north, had oral sex with the girl and took naked photographs of her in September 2009.

Martin had pleaded not guilty and insisted he believed the girl was 18. When first confronted by police, he expressed shock that she was 12 and “disgust” at having engaged in sex acts with a child.

So let’s get this straight:

1. Mr. Martin’s excuse at the time was that the girl looked 18 when she was in fact 12.  Give me a break!

2. The judge says that Mr. Martin wouldn’t have offended if it wasn’t for the medication.  How would he be able to make that statement with such certainty? Even if the medication does indeed take away a person’s moral judgement, it surely doesn’t mean that they will do something this heinous. You can’t tell me that an average person stripped of their moral judgement would start taking up pedophilia as a result of their clouded sensibilities.

3. If this drug is indeed seen as so destructive to a reasonable person’s moral judgement as to compel him to sexually molest a 12-year-old girl, why didn’t the judge call for the medication to be banned. Any bet, the drug stays on the shelves regardless of the implications as a result of this trial.

Either the drug is the culprit and it needs to be banned, or this former MP is just making excuses, in which case he would need to be locked up for many years.

Whatever way you look at it, it seems that this 12 year-old girl, like many others, have been given a very raw deal by our courts.

Let Our Students Think For Themselves

September 14, 2011

Be very wary of a teacher with an agenda.

Teachers have opinions – that’s a given.  They have beliefs about religion, politics, etc.  But teachers do not have the right to use their classroom as a platform for spreading their convictions.  Teachers must allow their students to think for themselves and reach their own conclusions.

Unless the school is a private religious school or the subject is Bible Studies a teacher does not have the right to deviate from the curriculum to canvass their religious beliefs.  That is why the Supreme Court in the U.S. got it absolutely right when they handed down a ruling that disallowed such a practice:

Saying a high school teacher has no right to “use his public position as a pulpit,” a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that a San Diego County school district was on solid legal ground when it ordered a math instructor to remove large banners declaring “IN GOD WE TRUST” and “GOD SHED HIS GRACE ON THEE.”

Those inscriptions and others that longtime teacher Bradley Johnson displayed on his classroom wall amounted to a statement of religious views that the Poway Unified School District was entitled to disavow, said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Under U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the appellate panel said, government employees, including public schoolteachers, have no constitutional right to express views in the workplace that contradict their employer’s rules or policies.

“Johnson took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon the impressionable and captive minds before him,” said Judge Richard Tallman in the 3-0 ruling, which reversed a lower-court decision in the teacher’s favor.

The district “acted well within its constitutional limits in ordering Johnson not to speak in a manner it did not desire,” Tallman said.

The two banners, each about 7 feet by 2 feet, contained references to God from U.S. documents and patriotic songs. One quoted the Declaration of Independence passage that all men are “endowed by their CREATOR” with unalienable rights.

If Mr. Johnson wanted to inspire his students to respect or even adopt his religious beliefs he should have disposed of the signs long ago and instead tried a far less invasive strategy.  He should have concentrated on being a role model, acting with integrity, commanding respect from his students and making a good impression.
He may have had some or all of those character traits, none of which required cheesy signs.  The best way to make someone follow in your footsteps is to lead by example not creating loud billboards.


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