Requa v. Kent School District


[cartoon made with stripcreator; click on the image to see a larger version]

Read more about the case (and see the YouTube video). Then check out the post at BoardBuzz. Am I missing something here? Sure, it was rude and inappropriate. But was it materially and substantially disruptive to the classroom environment?

13 Responses to “Requa v. Kent School District”

  1. I agree that with your theory about the disruption standard not being met. Also, I’ve never heard of 40 days of suspension being handed out at once. Once your over 10 days in California, your looking at an alternative placement and you can only be given 5 days at a time unless it’s for weapons or drug possession (which takes you to expulsion hearings). That is way too much school to miss.
    On the other hand, this is an edited video, that is “decontextualized” You can find the 5+ minutes of those pointless conversations like that in almost any class within a school year. I’m not going to say digressive conversations never occur in my classroom, they just aren’t the rule. The student film makers contend it was routine, but one never knows.
    The one possible issue for suspension that I could see in for Title 9 based on the “booty” section of the tape. It doesn’t look particularly “sexual” (given the source) but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with a student (especially one of the opposite sex) commenting on my body parts that way. It’s demeaning her based on her secondary sexual attributes and could (now that it is all over the world) create a hostile environment. This would be similar to the situation in the Charleston suit that you commented on at Schoolhouse Gate. Still, I wouldn’t say it was a slam dunk for a full Title 9, it might just make “vulgar” which is the language in California’s Ed Code. That’s like a 1-3 day suspension in my neck of the woods, and 5 if they got to sexual harassment.

    Hey Scott, she did have a computer in her classroom!

  2. In my neck of the woods, on Friday, the local TV stations carried a a story about a student blogger in trouble at Lewis Mills High School. The student, upset at some kind of snafu and screw up by the central office staff that was interfering with a school sponsored event, went on line to her MySpace and posted an entry that as the newscast said, “described the person with a term normally associated with a feminine hygiene product”. Of course word got back to administration and the young lady had to inform her mother what she wrote, apologize to the person, and, as she was running for class secretary, SHE WAS BANNED FROM RUNNING FOR SCHOOL OFFICE.

    It strikes me that in so many ways this is just so stupid on so many levels. Here is a child who is just what we want. Involved in school events, with enough passion to be angry when things are not going well, willing to lend her effort and energy by running for office. In ten years this is the kid that I want as President of my PTO, running for the Board of Selectmen, speaking out and making efforts to change things in her community, and maybe in her state and beyond.

    Was she wrong, yes. Should she apologize, yes. But, she doesn’t need punishment beyond that. She needs mentoring, a listening ear about what she was angry about, and somebody to give her direction about what she can do to make positive change. She also needs adults in her world to be able to remember what is was like to be 16, and to show some ability to laugh at themselves.

    It is an inherently flaccid position taken by the administration that is so easily undercut and flipped around. It shows that they do not grasp the power of new technologies and social networking. Why would not EVERY kid at that high school get a MySpace account and post every day from now to the end of the school year, one simple line – MY PRINCIPAL IS A DOUCHE-BAG!

    How much more effective would it have been if the admin types had just called her in laughed and said, “You know maybe I am being a douche-bag here, but it was not intentional, this is how I see it and how we can work together to….”

    Here is a link to someone else who is taking the miscarriage of justice angle:

    And for the record and in support of this child, as a teacher, I declare that at times I am a douche-bag, my principals can be douche-bags, and my Superintendents can be douche-bags!

  3. Steve, I LOVE THIS CASE!

    Having spent time on political campaigns, and with candidates at a local level, and heard what comes out of their mouths, I’d say she was showing some great skills for the vocabulary that many candidates and officer holders consider de riguer.

    It’s not limited to the local scene. Dh recently finished a book on the late, great Phil Burton (of which he shared the details with me), and NPR had a recent piece on Demo wiz Rahm Emmanuel. Both these folks are not only profane, but fond of screaming profanities at their conversational victims. I think she showed some creativity and restraint in her use of the words “douche bag”. I don’t even know if that’s “blue” anymore, since John Stewart was allowed to use this term to describe Bob Novak on the Daily Show (which is basic cable). She was rude, she apologized, please, show some creativity. Make her work on a project with her victim as a lesson in how we don’t always get to pick our project partner. If she did that successfully, that would show she had learned a lesson.

    Forty day suspensions, bans from seeking student body office, ugh, where is the milk of human kindness and forgiveness in these adults? I know, they want to set an example, but what example does it set about what kind of adults are in charge?

  4. It is disruptive in the sense that it is extremely disrespectful towards the teachers, thereby diminishing her future ability to manage the classroom.

    That said: a 40 day suspension is beyond unduly harsh; AND it appears that the woman is a walking testimony to the flawed system that is tenure in the public schools.

  5. Hoody, your point is well taken, but the courts have never upheld this definition of ‘materially and substantially disruptive’ before. They typically look for actual disruption of the classroom environment or a reasonable fear of actual disruption. To simply say that disrespect equaled disruption would give near-totalitarian power to educators, power that many parents, students, and judges would be quite reluctant to hand over to schools.

    Is it fair to blame this now-retired teacher’s poor classroom management on tenure? I’m not a huge fan of tenure, but that’s a bit strong, I think…

  6. Okay, this is really supposed to be the place to discuss Requa v. Kent School District. Maybe we can move the discussion of the student at Lewis S. Mills High School to here?

  7. Scott:

    Do you have any objections to me posting the cartoon strip on my blog sometime in the next few weeks?


    Kyle Brumbaugh

  8. No objections whatsoever. See my copyright notice in the top left corner of the blog. A link back to Dangerously Irrelevant would be appreciated (if appropriate)!

  9. Lots of interesting comments about Requa v. Kent at Pharyngula:

  10. There’s an interesting post about this at DY/DAN:

  11. I attended Kentridge High School. And although I graduated a few years prior to this video being made, it is certainly not an exaggeration. The teacher involved had a well known fear of water. She gave a speech on the first day of school EVERY YEAR explaining her problem. She went on to tell her students that they could bring air fresheners, fans, etc. if they felt it was needed. She was also known to lose papers, and really not teach the material effectivly.

    I do not think it is fair to punish this student so harshly when the video depicts a very real problem. Even fellow teachers were involved in the gossip years prior to the making of this video. Although I can understand the video is hurtful, it is certainly not as bad as it could have been.

    Posting a video on youtube points the finger to one individual. But the entire school, along with administrators, was involved in making the issue notorious years before the video was even made.

  12. _Tinker_’s substantial disruption test is applied to both actual disruption and “foreseeable” disruption. Once the teacher and or other students find out about the video, it will surely create a disruption in the school environment.


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