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Student fails, and parents threaten to sue.
June 12, 2002 10:47 PM   Subscribe

Student fails, and parents threaten to sue. Teacher stands firm. Alas, the School Board caves in and the underachieving brat gets to graduate. This is: (A) a sad sign of our times, (B) a ridiculous travesty, (C) a terrible precedent for teachers and students alike, or (D) all of the above. Discuss.
posted by Fofer (77 comments total)

 
Of course, all information regarding your background, your employment records, all of your class records, past and present, dealings with this and other students become relevant, should litigation be necessary.

That's not persuasion, that's intimidation. Stan F. Massad should be sanctioned. Actually, he should go to hell, but I'll settle for a good fanny paddling.
posted by chipr at 11:13 PM on June 12, 2002


Unless the teacher is lying in her letter, sounds like the girl deserved to fail the class and re-complete it through summer school before she got her diploma. Tough biscuits, I say. The fact that the school board caved is ridiculous.

However, I do admit that it should have just been the diploma that was held back. I'm sure it's got to be humiliating to miss your high school graduation ceremony--the one and only one you get a chance to attend.

The fact that she was a member of student council would likely have made her absence from the ceremony even more conspicuous. And, I suspect, this seems to be truly what the girl was worried about, as she clearly didn't care enough to do the work it takes to actually graduate.

Personally I think she should be ashamed she ended up failing, considering what the teacher has to say, but there's no reason to make it into a public spectacle on either side. Let everyone walk, who really cares? But... let's save the diplomas for the ones who actually earn them.
posted by Swifty at 11:24 PM on June 12, 2002


Actually, he should go to hell, but I'll settle for a good fanny paddling.

Yeah. When in doubt, blame the attorney.
posted by BlueTrain at 11:25 PM on June 12, 2002


The teacher is right in that grades are earned and not given. Look at this girl's record. Several unexcused absences, a plagiarized paper, and a lack of effort to complete make-up work that was offered to her. When will parents realize that their child didn't fall straight from heaven. This girl blew her chance and when it looked bad, she went crying to daddy, who called his lawyer, who is probably on the speed-dial of his phone. And as for the lawyer, I think he is the lowest of the bunch, and I must agree with what chipr said.
Finally, I must say that my high school had an administration quite like the one in the story. It was known around campus that if you wanted something, you brought in a parent, and things would be rolling your way by lunch time. Shame on the administration for buckling as they did. They, in my opinion, have become as much a part of the problem as the parents.
posted by iceman at 11:29 PM on June 12, 2002


The only way to improve the schools is to follow Huey Long's idea for improving Louisiana prisons: "What we need is a better class of inmate".
posted by crunchburger at 12:06 AM on June 13, 2002


"...a certain President..." the teacher writes in her letter. I didn't have perfect SAT scores, but shouldn't that be 'president' in this case? I thought you only capitalized if it were used as a title, i.e. 'President Clinton'. This is a senior high-school English teacher, by the way.
posted by Poagao at 1:55 AM on June 13, 2002


never has this been more appropos ...

'the terrorists have already won.'
posted by aenemated at 2:21 AM on June 13, 2002


The kid got partial credit for a plagiarized assignment? She should have failed the entire course just for that, regardless of her test scores and so on.
posted by pracowity at 2:34 AM on June 13, 2002


Shit, when I was told that I wasn't going to graduate, I did what every high school kid that wasn't going to graduate due to his own laziness should rightfully do: I put my nose to the goddamned grindstone and took an extra class in order to graduate.

I feel sorry for teachers and administrators. I counted many of the staff at the high school I attended as friends and still talk to them on occassion. They're continually stuck passing people who don't deserve it just so they don't appear too harsh and to please mommy and daddy when mommy and daddy should be shouldering more responsibility towards their children's education.
posted by AdamJ at 2:57 AM on June 13, 2002


I'm surprised that so few of the comments so far indict the parents.

With the disclaimer that I don't have children, and therefore it's easy for me to pass judgment, what I observe about parents these days is that their appropriate mission to protect their offspring has devolved into a "my child, right or wrong" attitude.

From out-of-control toddlers in supermarkets and restaurants, to this case of undeserved graduation via threat of litigation (paid for I suspect, not by the child, but by the parents), to a neighbor bragging about how her connection with the local police got her kid off the hook for multiple traffic violations and accidents (there's a scary one), and the general sense I get from too many parents that "it's not my kid's fault" when it clearly is, things seem out of control.

Parenting seems to have lost much of its sense of guidance and responsibility in favor of coddling and over-protecting. Reproductive rights are one thing, but bringing a child into the world that you are incapable of raising right really begs the question of licensing parents.
posted by fpatrick at 3:40 AM on June 13, 2002


Can one of you septics explain to me what "graduating" from high school actually entails? What exams do you have to pass? There's no equivalent concept in the UK. You do school, you hopefully leave with a few GCSEs and maybe even some A-levels.
posted by salmacis at 3:59 AM on June 13, 2002


Some school boards/states require an exam to graduate. the exams require basic 7th or 8th grade math and reading skills. Fyi, we have 12 grades here in the U.S. School boards/states also require students to pass a set of predetermined classes. Normally students must have at least 2 sciences, 4 englishes, 1 history, 1 civics, 1 physical education, math through basic algebra, and various electives. A 'D' is required to pass a class. In the U.S. that means a 60%.
posted by yangwar at 4:31 AM on June 13, 2002


Can one of you septics explain to me what "graduating" from high school actually entails?

Hmm, not sure I want to be a "septic" but...

Graduating from high school means earning a high-school diploma, which qualifies one to attend and participate in the graduation ceremony.

A diploma is earned by satisfying the requirements set by the local and/or state school boards, which means taking and receiving passing grades in all the required "core" courses as well taking and passing enough other elective courses.

High school graduation is highly reminiscent of American college graduation ceremonies, with speeches, recognition for valedictorians, individual recognition for the graduates, and hand delivery of the degree/diploma. High school graduation is considered a significant rite of passage, with much of the family attending and frequently the receipt of significant gifts by the graduate from their family.

That's the general outline, though I'm sure there are enough regional variations to keep it from being universal across the US.
posted by NortonDC at 4:33 AM on June 13, 2002


someone get me this lawyer's number. i want to sue harvard for not enrolling me.
posted by jcterminal at 4:39 AM on June 13, 2002


This story just gives me the chills. I've been through situations relatively similar. (I teach at the college level, and there have been at least a couple of times that students haven't graduated from the program because they didn't pass my class.) Thankfully, no lawyers have been involved. One student attempted to retaliate for his failure by a campaign of harassment -- in his case, he had plagiarized an assignment and received an automatic F for that reason. (As pracowity said... allowing the girl to do make up work and get partial credit for a plagiarized assignment is awfully generous of that teacher. In my classes it's an automatic failure and reported to the Dean, and sometimes it causes expulsion from school.)

From what I can tell here, the lawyer is the kind that gives his profession a bad name. He should be ashamed of himself. The parents need to learn that by bailing out their kid this way, they are doing her no favors. And all involved -- except for the teacher, who is my hero -- should GROW UP. Bah.
posted by litlnemo at 4:50 AM on June 13, 2002


no wonder no one wants to be a teacher. getting paid dirt to deal with idiots like this just isn't worth it.
posted by zoopraxiscope at 4:52 AM on June 13, 2002


yangwar -- 60% to pass??!?!?!??!?!?!??!?

I guess I am out of touch.

In my day, 70% was the cutoff between a D and an F.

Is it really 60% now?

migod -- Who's going to pay my Social Security benefits?
posted by fpatrick at 5:19 AM on June 13, 2002


fpatrick, it seems to vary from school to school. It's not an absolute all over the country. When I was in school, I had some classes that required 70% to pass and others that required 50%.
posted by litlnemo at 5:28 AM on June 13, 2002


Having taught college courses, (ooh, and still teaching them, I suppose), I've got to say most of the grade disputes have come from people getting B+'s, not those failing, because their failure was long expected (and telegraphed), while those who get B+'s tend to think they really deserved an A. Because they're smart, you see.

The one that killed me was the student who got a B+ due to test performance alone (since he barely turned in any homework) and then had the balls to go to the department head with a bogus story about unfair treatment. I was kinder than I should have been because I deleted an extremely abusive email from him -- I could have sent it along to the department head, and I'm sure it would have been grounds to eject him from the university. Still, if he treated his other teachers the same way, I'm sure he would've gotten kicked out all in good time. In any case, the department was on my side; indeed, I've yet to hear of a grade dispute being won by a student in the math department.

In short, this story disgusted me.
posted by meep at 5:38 AM on June 13, 2002


If her teacher is giving all the facts truthfully, I hope this girl wasn't hoping to get a job in her local area. Would you knowingly employ an unreliable slacker who takes credit for other people's work? and as a bonus, her parents like to sue.
posted by Tarrama at 5:50 AM on June 13, 2002


With all the concern over the "stigma" of not graduating with her class, the parents seem to have overlooked the reputation she'll now have: a poor student, a cheat and a crybaby. Although the student isn't named, I guarantee everyone in that school, and a fair percentage of Peoria, knows who it is by now.

As for the lawyer...while I understand that the parents that are the driving force here, only something living under a rotten log would take a case like this. He's given ambulance chasers everywhere a bad name. Sad thing is, he'll probably get a lot of new business because of it.
posted by groundhog at 5:51 AM on June 13, 2002


The kid got partial credit for a plagiarized assignment? She should have failed the entire course just for that, regardless of her test scores and so on.

I agree. Plagiarism is the mortal sin of academia, and should not be dealt with as lightly as it is in secondary school. Unfortunately, most high schools don't even really teach what plagiarism is, or why its bad.

I especially liked this part from the lawyer's letter:

"Since hearing this devastating news, the student has been very sick, unable to sleep or eat and she has been forced to seek medical attention. "

Did this girl not ever have to deal with failure and/or disappointment before? Have her parents so coddled and shielded her from reality that she could be so devastated by this? Ridiculous.

I've yet to hear of a grade dispute being won by a student in the math department.

Heh, how could anyone dispute their math grade? That one made me laugh.
posted by insomnyuk at 6:06 AM on June 13, 2002


As a former college teacher and as a former student, I've been on both sides of this issue. When I was in high school and college a teacher's grade was sacrosanct. No one could make a teacher change a grade nor could someone else change it for them without their permission (there's a big broohaha going on right now in the DC public schools because a teacher noticed a student walking across the graduation stage when he knew he'd failed her in his class).

This is not to say that an administrator or laywer couldn't pressure a teacher to change a grade. And, I've got to tell you, that pressure can often be great.

Bottom line: is this serving the student well? I think not.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:11 AM on June 13, 2002


I was lucky enough to be in one of the best school districts in the nation in South Carolina, yes South Carolina. Our grading school was curved up a bit, so you had to score a bit better to get the good grades.

A = 93-100
B = 85 - 92
C = 76 - 84
D = 70 - 75

But an 'F' was still 0 - 69, so we didn't get much leeway. I'm glad we had this scale as opposed to just the usual. It inspired me to try a bit harder, and made grades like a 92 or an 84 suck just a lil bit b/c you were one off the grade scale.

I don't think this would have flown at my school. I'm used to see more of the smarter students getting perks or exceptions when it comes to grades. For some reason, more of the teachers cared a bit more for the students who gave a crap and tried all throughout the year even the students who weren't brilliant, but at least showed effort consistently. This girl showed little desire to achieve until she realized she wasn't going to graduate.

I admire the teacher for sticking to her guns, and would be horribly upset that the school caved in the end. She did, it seems, give her several opportunities to make up those few percentage points that would push her back over the edge.

If I was in any position to make a decision, I would have let her walk (although I would not have let her speak), and given her a diploma once she had successfully completed a summer course.

When in doubt, hire a lawyer.
posted by bobadoci at 6:26 AM on June 13, 2002


Why let her walk? She didn't live up to her side of the contract and meet the necessary requirements to walk. Who cares how sad or bad she feels about this? How is that relevant? People have been failing in school since there have been schools. Why do we suddenly want to decide that the quality of the work that students do is meaningless? Surely we don't want to teach them this attitude to carry on into the workplace!
posted by rushmc at 6:34 AM on June 13, 2002


As much as I hate frivolous lawsuits, I do see an option here:

Some enterprising fellow student should initiate a countersuit, claiming that his or her own diploma has been irrevocably cheapened/damaged by this kind of behavior.

You're all pointing out how this girl's reputation in town will be forever tarnished because of her actions as a spoiled brat, but what about the rest of the class? Chances are, that whole graduating class will be known as the one where "that girl had to sue to graduate".
posted by mkultra at 6:38 AM on June 13, 2002


If anyone still doubts that this country is in a steep decline, hopefully this story dispels those doubts. As a nation, we keep lowering and lowering the bar. There are no more standards of excellence. When we fail, we whine, and then blame someone else. Nobody is held responsible for themselves.

It's over, America.
posted by eas98 at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2002


Most colleges let students walk and participate in the graduation ceremony if they are set to complete the required curriculum during the summer sessions.
posted by bobadoci at 7:14 AM on June 13, 2002


Here's the Washington Post story I spoke of above on this problem in the DC schools.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 7:14 AM on June 13, 2002


If I read the story correctly, the exam consisted of a 50 question multiple choice paper. Is this for real? For my English Language GCSE (taken at age 16) I seem to remember having to write three essays in 2 hours, or something daft.
posted by salmacis at 7:15 AM on June 13, 2002


The one that killed me was the student who got a B+ due to test performance alone (since he barely turned in any homework) and then had the balls to go to the department head with a bogus story about unfair treatment.

Because the point of school is not what you know - its how much mind numbing homework and brown nosing you can do.
posted by xammerboy at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2002


Salmacis (and the other non USians reading), GCSEs and High School Graduation are certainly not equal, GCSEs are much tougher and better thought out. They're relatively close age-wise (~16 for GCSE, ~17/18 for HS Graduation). No, the 50 question test she took was certainly not the US equiv of a GSCE, that was roughly the equal of an exam taken in a 6 or 9 weeks period of work.
posted by m@ at 7:25 AM on June 13, 2002


bobadoci - Most colleges let students walk and participate in the graduation ceremony if they are set to complete the required curriculum during the summer sessions.

I was hospitalized (and drugged out of my gourd) during my last round of finals in college. I had two week delay in taking and passing my last exam. My college's response was to start mailing me next year about how I was required to report to so and so for graduation rehearsal and required to purchase x gown from y dealer.

I told them to stick it. Eventually they mailed me my degree. It's still in the mailing tube.
posted by NortonDC at 7:32 AM on June 13, 2002


From the first article: It is certainly a shame that this young lady's life has now been ruined forever... The student will be scarred for life.

My heart is breaking. Hyperbole, anyone?
posted by ColdChef at 7:32 AM on June 13, 2002


salmacis, there is no national test to "pass" high school. I went to three different high schools; my second high school had a year-long exit project required of its seniors to pass, my third high school required a week of testing. So the requirements to graduate and the difficulty varies from county to county and state to state.

The only nationalized tests are the college board tests: SAT, ACT (which supposedly are so colleges can determine your apptitude and knowledge) and AP (tests you can take to earn college credit while in high school).
posted by jennak at 7:34 AM on June 13, 2002


From the article: Apparently, you have failed to produce your "Syllabus" indicating all of the raw scores and how you arrived at your conclusions.

I love that this guy has no idea what he's talking about. He has to put quotes around everything. (I'm preaching to the choir, but) a syllabus is an explaination of what will be covered in the coming year, and how the student will be expected to perform and graded.
posted by jennak at 7:39 AM on June 13, 2002


Reading that lawyer's letter, I'm amazed that Stan F. Massad managed to get out of high school himself, let alone graduate with a law degree. He's no writer, that's for sure. My pet tortoise could produce a more convincing argument for this ridiculous 'case'.
posted by riviera at 8:12 AM on June 13, 2002


for those non u.s. residents and for good measure, all you (u.s.) public school graduates, high school testing was actually a presidential campaign issue. some metafilter discussion can be found here.

and here is a u.s. map for testing standards from the frontline (pbs) site .
posted by lescour at 8:15 AM on June 13, 2002


I think my uncle, a highschool teacher, has the right attitude.

He was confronted by a pair of bullying parents who didn't think their idiot daughter should receive a failing grade for having not done a lick of work during the course.

"You think she should pass, even though she didn't do any work? Okay, fine. Here, she's got an 'A'."

Because y'know what? In the end it doesn't matter. If she goes on to university, she'll fail there after spending tens of thousands of dollars. If she goes into the workforce, she'll fail there after sluffing off work. She's a loser, and the grades don't make or break that character fault.

Does it suck? Yah. It's kind of unfair to those who actually worked at the course. But those students are going to succeed in life because they're willing to work, whereas this slack-ass girl is gonna be a trailer-park slum mom with six screaming snotty-faced nosepickers, regardless her grades.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:54 AM on June 13, 2002


I once gave a non-passing grade to one of my students. It was not the only non-passing grade in the class but it was the only one to be challenged by the student's parents. They complained to the administrator and he changed the grade without informing me. (I discovered the change through the usual teacher rumor mill.) The kicker?

The student was in her second year of college.
posted by Dick Paris at 8:59 AM on June 13, 2002


It pains me to say this, five fresh fish, but you're wrong. Kids like that, the ones who go running to mommy and daddy to buy a lawyer, will always end up okay. Now she's learned an important lesson: you don't have to work hard if you're willing to bully and threaten someone into giving you your way. Hell, you don't even have to earn a decent living if you can manage to figure out how to sue your way to wealth.

It's the American way, after all.
posted by stefanie at 9:13 AM on June 13, 2002


fff: you're right, but in that case, what's the point of giving grades at all? In this case, if the student is passed, not only does the student not benefit, but everyone who passed that course will have their grades devalued by it. I think a choice has to be made here: either grades are at least a remotely accurate reflection of a student's progress, or they're completely meaningless. I don't see how you can have it both ways.
posted by biscotti at 9:17 AM on June 13, 2002


The grading scale in my high school was sort of similar to Bobadoci's. It was:
A - 92-100%
B - 83-91%
C - 74-82%
D - 65-73%
F - 0-64%

When I went to college, we were on the standard 90/80/70/60 scale.

Way back in my sophomore year of high school, I made the mistake of taking an Honors Economics course. I got a D for the first quarter. That didn't make me happy. I worked my butt off the second quarter...did a regular study group with a friend of mine before tests, and got a high C for that quarter. I asked the teacher what I needed to get on the final to have a C for the semester. He did some calculations and told me I needed a C on the final. I studied really hard for that and got a C on the final, like I needed...yet I still got a D for the semester. I was really upset, especially since I'd done what I was told I needed to do to get a C. My parents (who are both high school teachers, incidentally) talked to the teacher but my grade wasn't changed. Maybe they should have called in their lawyer. : ) (It didn't mean the difference between graduation or not, but it was the first D I ever received.)

A few years later I took an economics class after my freshman year of college, covering pretty much the same things the high school class did. Not only did I manage to pass...I got a high A. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 9:41 AM on June 13, 2002


"Can one of you septics explain to me what "graduating" from high school actually entails?"

I'm not afraid to be a septic. Graduating from high school entails nothing. Nothing useful that is. With apologies to NortonDC:

"High school graduation is highly reminiscent of equally pointless and useless American college graduation ceremonies, with speeches made by people the students don't know about subjects they couldn't care less about, recognition for the neurotics who scrabbled, backstabbed one another and whined for the best grades to become valedictorians, meaningless awards of individual recognition for the graduates, and hand delivery of the degree/diploma which some seem to think means something."
posted by Irontom at 9:47 AM on June 13, 2002


this isn't the first time a school board has overruled a teacher.
posted by awadwatt at 9:58 AM on June 13, 2002


I really loved this comic that was linked from the story: Cupcake gets a diploma.

But, it's stories like this that keep me from teaching in the public school system while I work on a graduate degree. It's not worth the hassle to deal with the Cupcakes and their parents.

And I agree, there isn't any reason why Cupcake and her family should be anonymous...according to reports, she's an adult. She started the fire, let her take the heat. Better the college people she's going to try to sue should be able to see her coming.
posted by dejah420 at 10:44 AM on June 13, 2002


whereas this slack-ass girl is gonna be a trailer-park slum mom with six screaming snotty-faced nosepickers, regardless her grades.

Unfortunately, no. The way America works, she'll be my manager.
posted by SpecialK at 10:50 AM on June 13, 2002


I've taken the scenic route, but I am seriously considering returning to college to become a teacher.

This story, in addition to the fact that 3 of the 4 teachers in my family got pinkslipped for next year (the one that didn't was my mom-she retires next June) makes me deeply reassess what it is I want to Do With My Life.
posted by verso at 11:23 AM on June 13, 2002


biscotti: so grades fall by the wayside, and employers start requiring application tests. Unless little Cupcake can sue her way to employment (based on discrimination for having failed her employment test), she'll still be one of life's failures.

Actually, she'll never not be one of life's failures, come to think of it. But that's beside the point.

(If she does sue a potential employer and wins, I think I'll apply to become a brain surgeon... no, wait, a judge!)
posted by five fresh fish at 11:29 AM on June 13, 2002


eas98: It's over, America.

Sweet! Does that mean I can go home now?
posted by lbergstr at 11:38 AM on June 13, 2002


either grades are at least a remotely accurate reflection of a student's progress, or they're completely meaningless.

They have been essentially meaningless for quite some time now. I think that they should be done away with and replaced with a new system, which it will at least take people a little while to figure out how to manipulate to their advantage.

There is nothing sacred about the A-B-C-D-E-F grading scale. How long do you think it's been around? We tried it, it worked okay for a while, then it quit working. It would be foolish to hold onto it any longer. It's not something that can be fixed, particularly in the current social climate, so the only remaining option is to replace it with something different that more effectively addresses the original needs.
posted by rushmc at 11:40 AM on June 13, 2002




meep: The one that killed me was the student who got a B+ due to test performance alone (since he barely turned in any homework) and then had the balls to go to the department head with a bogus story about unfair treatment.

xammerboy: Because the point of school is not what you know - its how much mind numbing homework and brown nosing you can do.

Right xammerboy. You have no idea that the class was a =statistics= class, which has some material which can be "tested" only by data-analysis assignments (I'm not so insane as to ask students to do a least-squares problems in a sit-down test, replete with the hypothesis testing.) I wish I could've weighted assignments more, but I didn't get to pick the syllabus. Besides, if all he wanted to do was take the tests, he could've done credit by exam, and not wasted my time or class space, as elementary stats is a requirement for many majors.

Now if you find stats mind-numbing, that's certainly not my fault. But being a teacher, I find it's a much fairer assessment of students to take into account assignments as well as tests, because it gives a chance to those students who work hard, but are slow on tests and don't do so well.
posted by meep at 12:09 PM on June 13, 2002


I dunno, rushmc, grades still seemed pretty meaningful when I graduated from college a few years ago (although we had actual percentages instead of letter grades). What new system would you suggest? Surely the solution is to fix the problem, not change the whole system, no? I don't know that I agree that the problem can't be fixed, but certainly if schools keep kowtowing to whiners like this girl you may be proven right. And what "original needs" are you referring to?
posted by biscotti at 12:14 PM on June 13, 2002


On the subject of grading scales, it's incorrect to assume requiring a 70% to pass is tougher than requiring 50%. I've taken computer courses with a 50% percent pass where a third of the class failed, because the class was extremely difficult.
posted by bobo123 at 12:18 PM on June 13, 2002


Both my high school and the college at which I am now enrolled use a pass/fail system with extensive written evaluation of the student's work during the course of the semester. Obviously, this only works with low student to faculty ratios. However, it works wonderfully. I get realistic, detailed feedback as to my strengths and weaknesses.
posted by nonreflectiveobject at 12:22 PM on June 13, 2002


What Will said.
posted by homunculus at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2002


A few years later I took an economics class after my freshman year of college, covering pretty much the same things the high school class did. Not only did I manage to pass...I got a high A. : )

Show of hands...how many of your senior high school classes were tougher than your first year of college classes?

I breezed through my first year of college with a 3.9. I had to take spanish to fullfill some credits for computer science. Everything we did I had already done in highschool. I was slightly dismayed.

Maybe I should have went to a better school.

Go Gamecocks.
posted by bobadoci at 12:42 PM on June 13, 2002


What new system would you suggest?

I don't presume to have the solution, but something along the lines that nonreflectiveobject discusses is probably on the right track.

And what "original needs" are you referring to?

The need to somewhat objectively gauge whether students were learning the curriculum, at what level, and decide what constituted an appropriate threshhold for them to be considered successful and allowed to move on, primarily.
posted by rushmc at 12:50 PM on June 13, 2002


I've taken computer courses with a 50% percent pass where a third of the class failed, because the class was extremely difficult.

What does "difficult" mean in this context? All material must be taught with a reasonable expectation that it can be learned under the system by which it is being taught. If a third of the class isn't even learning half of what is being taught in the course, and presumably many of the other half are only learning 60, 70, or 80 percent of what is being taught, then I would suggest that that has less to do with the inherent "difficulty" of the class and more to do with poorly designed and implemented instruction. In fact, I would find it utterly unacceptable. If the purpose of education is to have students LEARN something, then the rate of success at which they actually learn it must be the primary criteria by which it is judged.
posted by rushmc at 12:56 PM on June 13, 2002


"If the purpose of education is to have students LEARN something..."

You've never been in an American public school, I take it? Very little emphasis is placed on successfully imparting knowledge to students, in many schools. There are certainly teachers who still hold to that ideal, but the administration is not at all likely to give instructors the flexibility or materials to teach effectively. The remainder of teachers are varying degrees of incompetent or indifferent.

I agree that the purpose of schools ought to be instruction, but we have to accept a certain measure of reality: In large part they more resemble houses of incarceration than of instruction.
posted by majick at 1:08 PM on June 13, 2002


nice find, jennak.

As someone who works in the legal profession, this lawyer disgusts me. The parents, though also quite despicable, can at least blame their parental instincts (protect the child!) whereas this Massad creep has no excuse. He'd have to be a complete idiot to think he could win in court, and thus it boils down to harassment of the teacher and the threat of a costly trial for the school district.

Maybe I'll go to church today, light a candle and pray for his disbarment. I don't think it will happen, though.
posted by Ty Webb at 1:29 PM on June 13, 2002


I wonder what her high school reunion will be like, as her classmates get to tell her what fun it was for them to try to make their way in the world once she turned the name of their school into a synonym for injustice and bullshit...
posted by beth at 1:38 PM on June 13, 2002


I agree that the purpose of schools ought to be instruction, but we have to accept a certain measure of reality: In large part they more resemble houses of incarceration than of instruction.

Why do we have to accept that? Isn't that exactly what we should be working to change?
posted by rushmc at 2:44 PM on June 13, 2002


I wonder what her high school reunion will be like

I wonder if she'll sue to make them hold it in whichever town she ends up settling in?
posted by rushmc at 2:48 PM on June 13, 2002


The articles are really too generic to be able to make relevant judgement. English departments are (to respond generically) famous for absurdly esoteric demands without teaching the tools how to arrive at the answers, which usually too subjective to grade anyway. On the other hand......., but am I the only one who is puzzled by a notion that there is more to the story that is held back but slightly available if one reads carefully between the lines implying issues of political correctness?
posted by semmi at 3:55 PM on June 13, 2002


As someone who works in the legal profession, this lawyer disgusts me . . . He'd have to be a complete idiot to think he could win in court, and thus it boils down to harassment of the teacher and the threat of a costly trial for the school district.

A lawyer has the responsibility of being a zealous advocate for his client. If he does not fulfill this responsibility he is guilty of professional malpractice. It is generally frowned upon for a lawyer to decline a case unless he has strong moral convictions that he feels would prevent him from providing representing the client adequately.

All we have here is a demand letter sent by the lawyer to the teacher. A demand letter is supposed to do just that -- state a demand. In this case, the letter kept the claim out of court, forcing an out-of-court settlement. It does not have to set out all the merits of the claimant's case. Whether or not the lawyer thought the parents had a good chance of winning has nothing to do with whether he should have taken the case. Would you want a lawyer to turn away your employment discrimination case just because the lawyer didn't think you had a good chance of winning?

Whether the parents would have won the case on the merits is irrelevant to whether or not the lawyer acted properly. The only reason the state bar is investigating this is because it got so much press. If the lawyer made a mistake, it was in sending the letter to the individual teacher, instead of to the school board, which would be vicariously liable as her employer.
posted by Bezuhin at 5:53 PM on June 13, 2002


"It is generally frowned upon for a lawyer to decline a case unless he has strong moral convictions that he feels would prevent him from providing representing the client adequately."

I question his sense of morality, then. Now we know where he stands on this issue; it doesn't make him look like an exemplary human being.

Of course lawyers need to advocate for their clients, but they also need to be honest enough with them to tell them when the case has no merit.

This is why I am a not a lawyer, I suppose.
posted by litlnemo at 6:32 PM on June 13, 2002


The responsibility of zealousness is balanced with the responsibility of honesty.

In practice it's much easier to bend over for the client, no-one disputes that (they do pay you after all), but there are definite consequences to being a bad lawyer. Here are some examples.

(a) Incorrect advice loses cases. In some common law jurisdictions, notably the UK and Australia, the 'lawyer's immunity' has been significantly reduced. A lawyer who acts negligently might be sued for the consequences, and this could include giving improper advice leading to the client taking up a lawsuit where a 'reasonable lawyer' would have told the client that the lawsuit could not be won. The compensation awarded would likely be the fees and court costs of both the original case and the 'suing the lawyer' case, and probably some exemplary damages as well.

(b) Losing cases is not good for a firm's reputation. It loses you current clients, the respect of your peers, and the all-important client referrals. Unless you want to find yourself on the drip feed of conveyancing and wills, don't litigate cases you can't possibly win, especially not in a manner that is likely to be a public relations disaster for you.

(c) The bar association doesn't like lawyers who make the profession look like fools, child abusers, ambulance chasers, prostitutes, liars and so on. While the vigor with which lawyers' conduct is overseen varies, it is never given any less than lip service. You just might be the occasional example that lip service demands.

(d) Judges like that kind of lawyer a great deal less than other lawyers do. A lawyer has a duty to the court which basically comes down to honesty, and a lawyer found to have knowingly misled the court is in a boatload of trouble. Here are some more fun-filled lawyer disciplinary cases.

(e) The media, and the public who the media incite, take a very, very harsh view of immoral behavior by lawyers. Perhaps rightly so. Do you want potential clients to say "Hey, aren't you those stupid bastard lawyers who ..."?

(f) Having a guilty conscience can ruin a person's life. Suicide, alcoholism, divorce, etc etc. Yeah, it's easy to handwave that sort of thing, but it's true.

Finally, you don't actually have to like or even approve of your client. Do they actually have a legal case? If so, tell 'em, and tell the court. If not, tell 'em, and if they insist on going to court anyway, tell the truth. "Your honor, my clients wish to have the Constitution declared invalid on the following grounds, to which we ask the court to give full and fair consideration." If they're going to be proven guilty, advise them on defences and extenuating circumstances. If there's a ray of hope to be proven not guilty, it's your duty to ride that ray as far as honesty takes you, and no further.

Sensitive souls might find this (CTRL-F for "Clutterbuck") harsh going. Personally I think this guy should have been disbarred for it, not necessarily on the grounds of gross moral turpitude(though there's enough in there to do it), but on the grounds of misleading the court by inducing in the child witness such a disturbed (I'd go so far as to say tortured) state of mind that he became unable to 'tell the truth'. Basically what this barrister did was logically equivalent to destroying evidence, although morally far worse since the evidence in question is a child's experiences.

Ash.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:33 PM on June 13, 2002


It is generally frowned upon for a lawyer to decline a case unless he has strong moral convictions that he feels would prevent him from providing representing the client adequately.

So you're saying that this lawyer believes that it's okay for the girl to slack off for the year, fail her tests, and demand a passing grade anyway.

'cause otherwise, his moral convictions should have resulted in him telling the family to leave the office, because he doesn't care to represent cheats and jerks.

Seems to me he's the sort of lawyer that gives the profession a bad name and nasty smell.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:41 PM on June 13, 2002


All we have here is a demand letter sent by the lawyer to the teacher.

A threatening demand letter. In it, the lawyer threatens that personal details of her life will shreaded apart should she not graduate the brat: Of course, all information regarding your background, your employment records, all of your class records, past and present, dealings with this and other students become relevant, should litigation be necessary.

I think there was a way to get the point across without resorting to such a threat. He crossed the line with that sentence, IMO.
posted by jennak at 8:52 PM on June 13, 2002


If I were the bar association, I would be checking this guy out because the letter was so ridiculously unprofessional, as has been pointed out. Did he go to law school?? I mean, isn't the entire point of law school to teach people legalese, so they can cite cases and sound important? "Her grade point average, credits, percentages, whatever you want to call it, was sufficient to allow her to do so." "Whatever you want to call it"?? Who is this guy?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:02 AM on June 14, 2002


Of course lawyers need to advocate for their clients, but they also need to be honest enough with them to tell them when the case has no merit.

One of a doctor's most sacred responsibilities is to keep a patient alive, at any cost. One of a lawyer's most sacred responsibilities is to provide the best defense possible, at all times. The high-moral crap thrown around here is ludicrous. We know NOTHING about the case. We haven't seen the grades. We haven't seen the essays. We haven't seen ANYTHING, and yet, we're all ready and willing to believe that the lawyer is doing wrong and that the teacher is correct.

Newspapers love printing this garbage because "moral" folks like yourselves eat this up with gigantic spoons. All we see here are inverstigations and queries, no proof of any wrong-doing from either party. My sister has had a bunch of racist teachers who refused to give her A's. Teachers are not Gods; they are human. Likewise, lawyers are not devils. Please stop for a moment and realize how little information we really have and how large a judgment you all are making.
posted by BlueTrain at 12:16 AM on June 14, 2002


"One of a lawyer's most sacred responsibilities is to provide the best defense possible, at all times."

Perhaps I missed something, but this lawyer was not involved in providing defense for anyone.
posted by litlnemo at 2:41 AM on June 14, 2002


Y'know, BlueTrain, if you cared to, you could probably actually learn something about being a good lawyer from people's reactions here.

The general theme is that people are fed up with lawyers defending creeps who don't want to take responsibility for their actions; and fed up with lawyers who'll pervert justice to no end in order to save their sleazy clients.

When there are hundreds of people telling you that there's a problem, even as you attempt to rationalize that there is no problem, there may actually be a problem.

(It's also worth noting that your attempt to dismiss it all with "we haven't seen anything" would lead to a pretty damn boring discussion board: we'd all forever be silent, because in the end we're don't have first-hand experiential details for almost anything that's posted to MetaFilter.)
posted by five fresh fish at 10:31 AM on June 14, 2002


but this lawyer was not involved in providing defense for anyone.

Indeed, you are missing something. If this girl is innocent of wrongdoing, then she is the woman being defended against the prosecution (in this case, the teacher/school board).

and fed up with lawyers who'll pervert justice to no end in order to save their sleazy clients.

Says you. Once again, the assumption is, "Student wrong, lawyer is a bastard for defending her."

Guess what, give fresh fish, we've had this discussion before, and once again, innocent til proven guilty. In this case, all media sources have refused to publish any criminal evidence because the the case is still in litigation, or was, anyway. Assumptions are wonderful, aren't they? Whatever; neither of our opinions are any more worthwhile. She graduated, and until the lawyer is disbarred, he did his job effectively.

"we haven't seen anything" would lead to a pretty damn boring discussion board:

I'd rather a boring discussion board than a bunch of random assertions that have no relevance to truth or reality. Let's wring our hands some more. Come on, join me..."lawyers are scum, teachers are saints!"
posted by BlueTrain at 11:24 PM on June 14, 2002


Lawyers are scum, teachers are saints!
posted by groundhog at 8:58 AM on June 15, 2002


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