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Girl to sue over detention
December 28, 2002 3:57 AM   Subscribe

Girl to sue over detention "The family, who want compensation, will argue that the detentions were unlawful because they took place in Freya's free time. " If you can't give kids detention, how else are they going to be punished for breaking school rules?
posted by feelinglistless (88 comments total)

 
Looking at Google, their lawyer, Cameron Fyfe has taken many similar cases in the past.
posted by feelinglistless at 4:01 AM on December 28, 2002


We don't have "detention" (AFAIK) in Danish schools. I wouldn't say the Danish school system is perfect (far from it), but we seem to cope anyway.

Speaking of which; the idea of "grounding" seems to be very popular in America? It's seldom I hear of that concept being used in Denmark.
posted by cx at 4:18 AM on December 28, 2002


I've always wondered how this system works in the US. In Romania such a 'punishment' could be considered kidnapping, resulting in a possible conviction of 5 to 12 years in jail.
posted by Masi at 4:37 AM on December 28, 2002


free time? Kids go to school - not work - and if they mess up there the school can detain you until you've done your homework. How is that her free time?
posted by dabitch at 5:19 AM on December 28, 2002


cx - they do have detention in danish schools, i guess you were a good pupil.
posted by dabitch at 5:20 AM on December 28, 2002


I hope she wins.

Even if the parents signed a contract when the girl was admitted to the school that had a term that stated detentions could be issued, it would not be valid, since that term violates the child's statutory rights in the United Kingdom (or, as they are claiming, the European Convention of Human Rights).

The alternative solution is 'lunchtime detention' which are quite popular in British schools these days. Effectively, the child is kept back off of their 1 hour lunch break. More drastic solutions from my time at school included isolation, where a child would resume studies in another room by themselves.

I got an afterschool detention once when I was at school, for not finishing my woodwork coursework. I willingly went to it to finish my work, but after five minutes, the teacher confiscated my work and wouldn't tell me where he put it.. just because he said my plans were slightly out and I had to redraw them! I left there and then, and got a D for woodwork.. Not too bad since I got 0% for the still-hidden coursework ;-) It was marked 50% by exam!

Face it, the kids are in control of British schools now. Their 'rights' stop them from being disciplined in any effective way, and many parents can't be bothered to do the job either.
posted by wackybrit at 5:24 AM on December 28, 2002


*Spit*

Grrrrr. Kids today, don't know they're born. Bring back the cane I say.
posted by squealy at 5:49 AM on December 28, 2002


Detention could turn out to be good for her. It was the pinnacle of Ally Sheedy's career.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:50 AM on December 28, 2002


Detention could turn out to be good for her. It was the pinnacle of Ally Sheedy's career.

Nonsense!
; )
posted by stifford at 6:24 AM on December 28, 2002


The're is a catch-22 in my part of the US.: if you tell a student he has to stay away from school for a period of time for unruly behavior, then the state insists that a tutor be sent to the home to make sure he receives his education. The problem is that the tutoring is much less in time per week than the child would get in school. Years ago, I believe, you simply told the kid to stay away from school for a stipulated period of time

It is easy of course to point to this or that abuse by the school system but in this instance the kid seems not only abusing the school system but now about to abuse the legal system for frivolous lawsuit.
posted by Postroad at 6:27 AM on December 28, 2002


detention is when you stay in school, after school hours isn't it? Anything else is being expelled.
posted by dabitch at 6:39 AM on December 28, 2002


It's punishment for being too unoriginal to commit offenses that earn you out-of-school suspensions. I used to get detention - now I get suspended. It's like a vacation, only from hell!
posted by Veritron at 7:15 AM on December 28, 2002


"free time? Kids go to school - not work - and if they mess up there the school can detain you until you've done your homework. How is that her free time?"

Is homework truly legal? School time is for school, how dare they expect students to do school work at home - seriously. We do school work at home 'cause we are told to by the school but who gives the school authority to infringe on non-school time.
posted by DBAPaul at 7:25 AM on December 28, 2002


How is homework illegal? Some kids need to do it just to understand what they read aboout in school. Others get it during class.
posted by dabitch at 7:49 AM on December 28, 2002


As far as I know, you can be kept for 15 mins after school, and then the teacher has to let you go. For a longer after school detention, the parents have to be given 24 hours notice.
posted by Orange Goblin at 8:02 AM on December 28, 2002


dabitch, true enough but if some students are not getting it during class isn't this a reflection on the teacher as well.
I'm just thinking aloud here, pondering why we blindly follow the school authorities regarding homework, wondering what the consequences of leaving schoolwork in school and doing no schoolwork at home would be.
posted by DBAPaul at 8:26 AM on December 28, 2002


Discipline should be the responsibility of the parents, not the schools. If a child cannot adapt sufficiently to the prevailing culture of the school to function there, then he shouldn't be there.

But I'm sure all the usual MeFi authoritarian despots will use this as yet another opportunity to talk tough and compete to show off their innate domineering.
posted by rushmc at 8:40 AM on December 28, 2002


Is homework truly legal? School time is for school, how dare they expect students to do school work at home

I'm sure that if the school hours ran from 8 am to 6 pm, all the kids would finish their school work at school.

But that's not the point.

The point of homework is to reinforce and apply the knowledge learned in the classroom. It's a time when the students think for themselves without the teacher lecturing and giving them the answer. If you were given no applications of what you learn in theory, you would never know how to use it in a real world situation.
posted by mfli at 9:04 AM on December 28, 2002


Is homework truly legal? School time is for school, how dare they expect students to do school work at home - seriously. We do school work at home 'cause we are told to by the school but who gives the school authority to infringe on non-school time.

I agree. I used to do all of my homework in class while the teacher was lecturing, or if they gave it out at the end, I did it during registration the next day or lunch break :-) My opinion was that school time was work time, home time was rest time. How can they expect you to work 12 hours a day? That's nuts.

wondering what the consequences of leaving schoolwork in school and doing no schoolwork at home would be.

Isn't that what the French and Japanese do? In France, school is something like 10 hours of the day, including a few hours on Saturday. Japan is even worse from what I hear.. yet both nations are consistently at the top of the academic charts for youth intelligence.

mfli said: The point of homework is to reinforce and apply the knowledge learned in the classroom. It's a time when the students think for themselves without the teacher lecturing and giving them the answer.

In my school days, 80% of the lesson was spent working by yourself or in a small group, and perhaps 20% spent lecturing or actually learning anything.

I can't speak for other countries, but British schools work on a 'lowest common denominator' system until Grade 9. That is, the class moves at the pace of the slowest learner. Isn't that a total waste of time?

If the classes were divided into skill based groups, then children could learn at their own speed, to the detriment of nobody. Why do they leave it so late to divide kids by skill? If they did it from 2nd grade, I believe grades would rise across the board.

My opinion on state schools might not qualify me to be objective. I think the majority of state schools are staffed by the spawn of Satan himself, and my kids will be going to private school, thank you very much. Private schools might also be full of cretin, but they're smarter cretins who get paid more ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 9:15 AM on December 28, 2002


God, you all missed the point.

"Is homework truly legal? School time is for school, how dare they expect students to do school work at home - seriously. We do school work at home 'cause we are told to by the school but who gives the school authority to infringe on non-school time."

The girl filed suit because the school was cutting into her free time. Homework is assigned by the school. Homework is supposed to take "X" amount of time. Homework cuts into one's free time. Ergo, if this girl wins her suit, then it's only logical that one could file a suit against schools for assigning homework because it cuts into free time.

But she's stupid just for remaining in detention. Just get up and leave - a school can't physically restrain you just for doing that. That's what I did - got suspended too. Much better deal.
posted by Veritron at 9:30 AM on December 28, 2002


I always found that the really good teachers made you want to do homework. Probably through hypnotism.
posted by feelinglistless at 9:32 AM on December 28, 2002


A school has to maintain order. Otherwise it isn't fair to the other kids who can't learn because this free-thinking individual is disrupting class. The alternative to detention would be suspension. I would think that any rational parent would rather their kid lost an hour of free time than lose potentially days of learning -- possibly putting them behind their classmates.

However, these parents are clearly NOT rational. They held their kid out of school out of protest for the detentions. They are apparently claiming with straight faces that their kid suffered health problems as a result of getting 11 detentions in nine months. That seems like a lot, so you have to wonder if other kids got the same amount or if it was just this kid. I'm assuming the latter.

I don't know this school. I don't know this kid, and I don't know the parents. But, based on the limited information I can get from that story, the kid must be a serious discipline case/disruption, and I think it's probably a result of really bad parenting.

Why do we let schools assign us homework? Because we're committed to learning and improving. It's not like they'll kill you if you don't do it. You'll just get a bad grade as you should. Believe me, there were plenty of unmotivated kids in my school who didn't do their homework. For a few it probably didn't matter. For a lot of them - I bet that as they struggle to make ends meet in dead-end jobs, they wish now that they had given more attention to their studies.
posted by willnot at 9:41 AM on December 28, 2002


Did I miss something? This kid broke the rules and got punished, but is now suing because of the inconvenience?

I get so frickin' tired of hearing crap like this in the media - this is no different, IMHO, then having a burglar break into your house, get caught & injured, then having the burglar sue for damages. "I could've just stolen your TV; now, I'll get 15,000 pounds!" Kids do stupid crap, get caught, get punished, then the whiny parents decide that a lawsuit will even the score.

This is a classic example of a frivolous lawsuit, but also a demonstration of just how degraded the idea of law and order has become in modern society.
posted by FormlessOne at 9:46 AM on December 28, 2002


see was busted for "sipping fizzy drinks" and "coming into school through a fire door".

so.... she scrubbs the side of the shiny fizzy lifting drink room and she writes "I will not sneak into the school, through the fire door" 175 times. She could also stop smoking too.
posted by clavdivs at 9:47 AM on December 28, 2002


Ah hypnotism, mmm.

*throws away the 200 voodoo dolls*

I wonder how young Freya McDonald will do in in a few years when she tries to get/keep a job.
posted by ginz at 9:53 AM on December 28, 2002


Maybe it's just because I read "Starship Troopers" by Heinlein recently, but man...I can fully buy in to his vision of gangs of young people running about looting and pillaging because no one disciplined them.

That this case is being taken seriously is insane. If you break the rules, I sure hope your willing to live with the punishment if you're caught. Unfortunately, it's obvious that this girl, and her parents, don't want to take any sort of responsibility to the girl's education or behavior. You'd think, after, oh, maybe the first detention, that her parents would have talked to the girl. Obviously not.

Almost makes you wish for the cane ;)
posted by Be'lal at 9:56 AM on December 28, 2002


(FYI, I left school 5 years ago)

willnot said: Otherwise it isn't fair to the other kids who can't learn because this free-thinking individual is disrupting class.

In our school you could get a detention for wearing a coat in the halls or not wearing the official school pullover. Do these activities 'disrupt class'? I don't think so.

I got a week of detention for throwing a paper aeroplane outside during recess! Since when was that illegal or even specifically outlawed in the school code? Kicking a soccer ball would be more dangerous, and everyone was allowed to do that at recess.

Schools teach kids nothing about the law. Why not? Probably because they want to keep doling out punishments that would be illegal in the real world! It's time to drag schools into the 21st century and stamp out frivolous 'offences' created by school administrators.
posted by wackybrit at 10:01 AM on December 28, 2002


With all the human rights talk in this thread, is school actually legal if a kid doesn't want to go? After all, you are forcing a human being to go somewhere and do something that it does not want to do.

You can stretch these human rights laws out to almost anything ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 10:04 AM on December 28, 2002


I have a solution, then, for the school.

Stop doing detention. The students get 3 major strikes per term. 3 of them and the student automatically fails that year, and is automatically rejected from classes until next year, when they get to repeat it.

Either that, or the parents can sign an agreement to allow their badass kids to serve their time in detention, instead.

Seems fair to me, and not a violation of the students rights (the student has no inherent right to get a pass just because they attend school).
posted by shepd at 10:15 AM on December 28, 2002


Detention was not an option at my high school. Too many kids lived well over ten miles from the school, some as far as 35 miles. No administrator wanted the responsibility of seeing that these kids got home.
posted by mischief at 10:23 AM on December 28, 2002


Shepd: If existing "3 strikes" policies have taught us anything, it is that baseball rules do not make for good disciplinary policies.
posted by Jairus at 10:36 AM on December 28, 2002


Jairus, deparate times require desparate measures.

Since public schools are unable to police their students properly anymore, some method of punishment must be devised.

Fortunately for me, I've been to a private school. I know what real discipline is like. And, people who know me don't think of me at all like some sort of product of a conformity factory. I'm very much my own person, and I violate rules as much as the next guy.

The difference is I'm willing to pay the price when I do. If I were pulled over for speeding, I'd expect a ticket. These students don't seem to think that way. I think they'd expect to sue the officer for "wasting" their time.

Make them a few years late out of the starting gate. They can pay for the present with their future, I say.
posted by shepd at 10:45 AM on December 28, 2002


See, now, if teachers carried guns, they wouldn't have these little problems. Three strikes and you're out!
posted by bonehead at 10:58 AM on December 28, 2002


I always found the bad teachers made you want to do homework. So that you actually learn some things and didn't fail your exams.
posted by feelinglistless at 11:13 AM on December 28, 2002


cx - they do have detention in danish schools, i guess you were a good pupil.

You're kidding me? Thanks for the heads up.

I was a good pupil, but even so I would have thought I would have heard about it: I guess, it just wasn't practised in my school.
posted by cx at 11:31 AM on December 28, 2002


I got detention in high school and called a lawyer.... our principal tried to make me participate in a gym class the day I got back after being out for two weeks with bronchitis. (I shouldn't have even been back in school; I was winded even after walking, let alone running.) Rather than even attempt to argue with the man, I walked out and went to the library; he followed me, and yelled at me some. Eventually I had to calmly tell him, "I don't feel well; I'm going home" and left school grounds.

At first the school wanted to suspend me but then backed down to to detention. My parents (I was 16 at the time) would have nothing of it: They called our lawyer and threatened the school with a suit as the principal was fully aware of illness and my doctor's orders, yet attempted to directly violate those orders.

In the end I served no time but received no apology.

And mischief is right-on --- some kids that went to my school had a 100 mile roundtrip commute, a lot of it on gravel roads.
posted by nathan_teske at 11:37 AM on December 28, 2002


wow, this is sooo far from Unicef's Right to an education.

Now if this sloppy gal was punished in a physical way - common in N.C. when my bro attended school there - I could undersand the parents protests.

But to sue for detention? I just don't understand. I got detention. No biggie, man. My School let me sit my detention days that I wasn't in some other after school activity [fotball, ballet or other activity that was scheduled]. What is the big freaking deal here? Break the rules, disrupt class = get detention.
posted by dabitch at 11:43 AM on December 28, 2002


pssst - teachers who obviously are picking on students like the example nathan_teske gave are another story alltogether. It doesn't sound like ms fire-exit gal was a model student.
posted by dabitch at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2002


Detention could turn out to be good for her. It was the pinnacle of Ally Sheedy's career.

Nonsense!
; )

hello?
posted by LouieLoco at 11:49 AM on December 28, 2002


I can't find anything online about this, but at least one of the local schools is sending students to the juvenile detention center to serve out-of-school suspensions.

Detention has always been like a mini corrections department within the school. It's "kiddy prison." What's really disturbing is that you can go to "big boy prison" for doing exactly the same things that got you in trouble in grade school (if you're arrested by a pig and tried before some kangaroo court). I'm not trying to imply that school rules are just and students should learn from them.

I actually had my license suspended for six months because I was suspended more than one week or two weeks (there's an actual law like this in Indiana) during high school. There's a real sick extension of police power in the schools, and a police state control of the students' lives that goes far beyond what adults face in the "real world."

When I first found out about the juvenile hall out-of-school suspensions, I kept asking everyone why people had been sent there. It was the typical crap I used to get suspended for. Skipping class, smarting off, that type of thing. Not anything close to what the longterm residents did to get sent there (assuming they actually did it). And these kids aren't just in "kiddy prison," but in the actual Department of Corrections prison for kids. It's a big jump from metaphorical "school is like prison" whining to actual prison. Seriously, think about this. Regular kids are basically convicts now.

Really wish I had a link, but this is being treated like a non-issue even locally. Just trust me, it is happening.

Anyway, I hope this kid wins her case. Even stupid cafeteria/study hall detention should be considered an unlawful arrest. They're doing a lot worse in some places, and it's going to get worse everywhere if we allow the schools to raise a new generation of sheeple who just take for granted that there are cameras and armed guards all over the place.
posted by son_of_minya at 12:17 PM on December 28, 2002


the only sources in the article are those of the girl and her supporters. i'd like to know more before passing judgement on the school.
posted by poopy at 12:32 PM on December 28, 2002


I wonder how young Freya McDonald will do in in a few years when she tries to get/keep a job.

Rather well, I'm sure. An independent mind and a tough spirit will mean a lot more than any number of gold stars on her high school chart when she gets out into the real world.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:40 PM on December 28, 2002


Detention is yet another example of reinforcing the idea that being at school = bad. It's a confession that school is a prison to begin with.
posted by inksyndicate at 1:38 PM on December 28, 2002


If you break the rules, I sure hope your willing to live with the punishment if you're caught.

Oops, you just broke one of rushmc's Rules of Metafilter Posting. Sadly, it's a capital offense. Please have a friend or relative post here to confirm that you have killed yourself in order to comply with the punishment. Thanks.
posted by rushmc at 1:38 PM on December 28, 2002


Detention is yet another example of reinforcing the idea that being at school = bad. It's a confession that school is a prison to begin with.

Nice observation, inksy. Also, when children are in school, they should be learning. Anyone who has ever had detention is well aware that there is no instruction/learning involved. It's not even effective as a negative reinforcement, since it's so easy to shrug off.
posted by rushmc at 1:40 PM on December 28, 2002


son_of_minya, maybe at your school it was different, but at my school, one had to be doing something reasonably wrong to get detention.

Examples: Refusing to be quiet during class (disturbs students), eating during class (health hazard), breaking serious rules (stealing, or breaking posted rules, like setting of the fire alarm for fun with a fire door -- all of which will get you into trouble IRL), or mouthing off to teachers (you are at school to learn to function in society -- if you mouth off to a boss IRL it is subordination -- disagree politely, instead), refusing to do required homework (just try telling a boss you aren't going to learn anything about your job outside of your job and see how quick he finds an excuse to can your ass).

All of these deserve what amounts to a _very_ small punishment. I can't believe so many people here are so soft. I would have loved detention. Instead, when I refused to do my homework I had to do 100 laps around the school.

Like I say, I have an independant mind. I was just intelligent about expressing it. Instead of telling a teacher "Screw you! I ain't doing any of that BS Religious Knowledge homework!", I might say "I don't agree that this homework is necessary, as I don't agree with the facts presented."

If students treated others when they are "grown up" as I've seen they treat educators at schools, they certainly wouldn't work for me. And I'd probably end up banning them from being customers at my store, too.

And, rushmc, there _is_ learning going on during detention. That your actions have causation. Too many students think they can do anything they like without there being consequences. Heck, far too many adults think that too, nowadays. I think they're all a bunch of softies, IMHO.

>It's not even effective as a negative reinforcement, since it's so easy to shrug off.

That's the intent. Punishments for minor infractions should be easy to shrug off. When you get a parking ticket, you don't carry a chip on your shoulder for the next week, do you? Same thing with detention. When you don't do your homework for a week, and have to spend a couple of lunches bored stiff, you quickly forget about the feeling of the punishment, but are quick to remember it exists. And that's the point.

If you need to express your independant thoughts at school, release some flyers, wear a T-Shirt, talk to others (when they aren't in class). Expressing your "independant thoughts" by breaking rules and refusing to pay the consequences isn't civil disobedience a la "Walden", it's just being a jerk.
posted by shepd at 1:51 PM on December 28, 2002


WackyBrit- New York State tried to do something like you suggested, and 'tracked' students according to placement and ability, thus, one could be in an Honors/Regents class (Regents is the standard in NYS), whereas others could be in a plain Regents class, a school level class, a plus R class, and finally, Special Ed. (the degrees within Special Ed. break down further).
New York had to get rid of the tracking system due to the complaints and suits it was encountering as a result of this policy. Charges of racism were the most common of all complaints, but then there were some people who worked the system to keep their kids out of Honors classes to keep monetary and special services coming to them, even when uneeded. A good friend if minewas in this position. Mom and dad figured that he would get more $$ for college if he stayed 'special'.
Mars Saxman- Don't be so sure. Her independent mind sounds a hell of a lot more like an overweening dependency on her parents to clean up her messes. Her tough spirit appears to consist of a whiny phone call to mom and dad. I have heard hundreds of those calls, and have been in many of those parent conferences. I'd rather put my money more on those kids who find a way to break the rules to their own amusement and satisfaction, and either don't get caught, or admit to it and suck it up when they do.
And BTW- One short look at American Labor history and Educational history, and you will find that the school day and year are designed around working youth- before child labor laws. Homework was meant as an extension of the day, to replace the actual hours that the teacher and students would have rather spent in class. It is also practice- anyone here play an instrument? So, all persons who figure homework is illegal had better be prepared to either lengthen the school day and year, or be prepared for even dumber high school graduates, slacker geniuses excluded.
posted by oflinkey at 1:57 PM on December 28, 2002


Mars Saxman: funny that you said that.
After reading the article I thought she was quite the opposite of "an independent mind and a tough spirit".
Lazy, opportunist whiner is more like it.

On preview, what oflinkey said.
posted by ginz at 2:13 PM on December 28, 2002


Stop doing detention. The students get 3 major strikes per term. 3 of them and the student automatically fails that year, and is automatically rejected from classes until next year, when they get to repeat it.

Actually, that sounds like a great idea.

However, in the UK you don't 'graduate high school' in the same way as you do in the US. You take a bunch of exams at age 16, and whether you pass them or not, you finish school as of that point. Then you have to actually set out for college by yourself. Everyone finishes 'High School' at 16.

This means being held back a year doesn't really work, since someone might only be in grade 5 but can leave anyway ;-)
posted by wackybrit at 2:18 PM on December 28, 2002


A 15-year-old girl says she is going to sue her education authority over detentions which she claims breached her civil rights.

I wish I were the judge in this case, so I could laugh at the plaintiff.

Freya's family say the detentions were given for trivial things such as sipping fizzy drinks in class and coming into school through a fire door.

I'd have given her detention too. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time... and coming into school through a fire door isn't a "trivial offense".
posted by tomorama at 3:08 PM on December 28, 2002


son_of_minya, maybe at your school it was different, but at my school, one had to be doing something reasonably wrong to get detention.

Not at all. It's funny telling other adults now about the stupid things I used to get in trouble for. It really was like everyone was out to get me. A teacher in 7th grade, right in the middle of class, actually called me a "loony" and sarcastically asked how my progress was going with the psychiatrists. I did do some horrible things when I was a kid, but I almost never got in trouble for them. I'd get detention for things like "crawling across the cafeteria floor" when I had just leaned out from my chair to pick up a fork.

I'm not going to bore everyone with stories about my grade school years, but the stories really are endless. I don't think corporal punishment should be applied for petty offenses. I didn't go to a private school, but it was in the Bible Belt and they could get pretty severe. The times I've been whacked with a wooden plank, I bet I'd be a pretty tough POW. Solitary confinement/unlawful imprisonment is no better in my book, especially when it extends past school hours.

I would have loved detention. Instead, when I refused to do my homework I had to do 100 laps around the school.

That's just wrong. Good for you, maybe, but I don't think it's right to use physical training as a punishment. You're likely to discourage young people from exercising that way, or encourage them to act out because they just want to run.
posted by son_of_minya at 4:16 PM on December 28, 2002


And, rushmc, there _is_ learning going on during detention. That your actions have causation.

By that measure, what one learns is that one can get away with actions that are disapproved of with no meaningful consequences, thus encouraging one to continue doing whatever one likes with little regard for any other consideration. And from everything I have seen, that's EXACTLY what is learned.

I disagree, too, with your contention that the purpose of school is to prepare children to function in a "job." In fact, I find that notion utterly appalling.
posted by rushmc at 4:20 PM on December 28, 2002


The more I think back to my schooldays, the more I realize that things I considered important at the time were, in fact, rather trivial.

An hour of detention might sound like a bad thing, but you're going to laugh at it when you're 30. And, who knows? You might meet that girl of your dreams during detention.

Even now I fondly remember picking chewing gum off of the bottoms of tables for talking during Math :-) Of course, you can apply the 'every cloud has a silver lining' attitude to everything!
posted by wackybrit at 4:29 PM on December 28, 2002


First, I find the concept of suing for detention rather strange. I understand there are exceptions, but in most schools, you break a common rule and you get detention. This girl cracks open her Coke during the lecture, and she can expect to stay after class. In the real world, whether you know the rules or not, if you annoy your boss, you lose your job. I'd say detention is quite a bit less severe.

In any case, my high school didn't have detention of any kind, though we did in Junior high. If you did something disruptive enough to cause the teacher to stop teaching, the teacher simply asked you to leave and come back next class. Further, you could expect to be docked a few points on your grades. The system worked great, though I'm sure detention would work just the same.

If the girl doesn't like the seemingly-valid detentions, she can drop out - it'd be a blessing for the kids in her class who actually want to learn.

And rush, school's exact purpose is to prepare you for a job. After 16, at least in the US, you don't have to go if you don't want to. And once you leave the folks' house, you have to do something productive (work a job) in order to recieve the products made by other people (your food and house come to mind). It's called being a decent member of society.

Finally, the "rights" term seems to be thrown around a bit too much these days, I think. No one has a right to an education. They have the privilege of receiving one. You have the right to do what you want to as long as you don't affect other people negatively ("your right to swing your fist ends where my nose starts"). How can one have the "right" to an education while other people can, at the same time, have the much more important right of choosing whether to teach you or not?
posted by Kevs at 4:57 PM on December 28, 2002


I had a detention once - it was for sleeping in study hall (like my mom said later, "You weren't bothering anyone!"). To prove a point, I slept in the detention. No one noticed or cared, but it made me feel good.

School teaches you that there are stupid rules out there in the world, that's for sure.
posted by agregoli at 5:32 PM on December 28, 2002


And rush, school's exact purpose is to prepare you for a job.

I pity you, I really do.
posted by rushmc at 6:01 PM on December 28, 2002


The three strike rule would be abused. All you need is a teacher with a grudge and you can get a kid kicked out of school. I have a colleague who worked hard to make a student ineligible for National Honors Society by pumping up his detention count. Mind you, this kid isn't a model student by any stretch of the imagination, but the teacher was really pushing the edge of credibility.

Myself, if I'm supervising a detention, I will either put the kid to work or I will ensure that the kid does absolutely nothing--including sleep--until the detention is over, depending on the circumstances. My school has two levels of detention, teacher and office. Teacher detentions are minor and don't add up to anything more severe unless the student doesn't show. Office detentions add up to worse consquences. If you miss a teacher detention, you get two office detentions, one equivalent to the teacher detention and one for missing the teacher detention.

Now, the rules are in place for a purpose. The kid was sneaking soda of some kind in class. There are no drinks in my room because it's loaded with computer equipment and the school can't afford to lose a computer due to spray or spillage, accidental or otherwise (not likely? one of my students got into trouble for carrying a water bottle with a hole punched in the lid that he was using as a squirt gun--not in my room, thanks).

Rules are no good without consequences and rules and consequences are no good unless they are manifest.

In theory, there is education going on in a detention: you are responsible for your own behavior. In reality, it takes a lot more than a single detention to get this into the heads of most problem kids, which usually are the kids whose time is best spent doing nothing (ie, if you waste time in my class, I'm wasting your time after school, and I'll make it perfectly clear that I'm doing exactly that).

Further, in certain classrooms, it is vital to be able to command attention in an instant (most lab classes qualify), in order to either prevent a potentially dangerous situation from happening, or to stop an already dangerous problem from getting worse. In order to be able to do this, you have to have have some teeth, and this is practically the only effective consequence we have at our disposal that will be backed by the school.
posted by plinth at 6:26 PM on December 28, 2002


And rush, school's exact purpose is to prepare you for a job.

Schools do indeed condition students for employment. That's what they do best. A school desk is a cubicle's crucible.

You must conform to a job-like schedule, your intelligence is measured by how well it handles a circumscribed, agitprop curriculum, and your emotional behaviour must remain within arbitrary, workplace-like boundaries.

Schools teach that success requires that one submit one's self to regular, scheduled, purgatorial doses of micro-fascism (and the better schools subliminally encourage self-delusion and uncritical thinking, to better enable one to blissfully endure one's looming career).

Schools are much more behavioural conditioners than they are learning facilitators. They are the method by which a flawed society weans its newest members from sky-wide enthusiasm to tethered productivity. Imagine the chaos which would ensue if a bunch of wild, free, exuberant, inquisitive, irrepressible youngsters were let loose, unrehearsed, into the tight-assed, élan-subverting, rules-based, workaday gray world.

Good god, the silly little turnips might even write honest, unjackassed resumés.

It's all gauntlet.
posted by Opus Dark at 6:58 PM on December 28, 2002


Or they might be starving and homeless, what with thinking about life, the universe and everything, rather than learning how to grow food and engineer a house.

Not that's there's anything wrong with be inquisitive, but everything in moderation, right?
posted by Kevs at 7:21 PM on December 28, 2002


Well, I never said schools should stop being 9-parts corporate incubator...I may have implied it, but I never actually said it...such a discussion would (or should) quickly grow beyond MeFi's charter...

But it's important to understand what public education really accomplishes. It's hard to perfect something to a purpose, if that purpose is ambiguous, or romanticized.

It might also help some of us to avoid unfortunate misunderstandings.
posted by Opus Dark at 9:05 PM on December 28, 2002


Opus, that's got to be the least compelling article I've read in a long time. It's chock full of vapid generalizations and unsupported arguments, with a bunch of schoolyard stereotypes thrown in for good measure. Even the very premise from which the article proceeds - that intellectuals oppose capitalism - is presented as a self-evident truth rather than a proposition to be proven or debated.

If this is where you're getting your view of public education, I can see why your above post also generalizes to the degree it does. Schools can be neo-fascist places where all individuality is crushed and students are prepared only to be conformist drones in the workplace. Schools can also be places where students' imaginations can be ignited, where their horizons can be expanded, where they can discover new interests and pursue them.

In the end, I don't think we can arrive at any satisfactory answer to the problem posed in the original article of this thread. I've seen schools that treat students so badly that they really need a wake up call from students and parents who are willing to forge aheard and challenge the system. I've also seen whiny brats with a deep sense of self-entitlement who think that no rule should ever apply to them.

I can't tell from the short article where the balance lies. What I see in this thread is a lot of people drawing on their own experiences as students, and their own preconceived notions of what school is and isn't, and foisting all that baggage on their interpretations of this situation.
posted by Chanther at 9:33 PM on December 28, 2002


Opus, that's got to be the least compelling article I've read in a long time.

Hey, don't make me out a Nozick fanboy. I am just about anything but. Your disagreement with his article merely illustrates how loosely (and often poorly) interpreted is public education's real-world charter.

Schools can be neo-fascist places where all individuality is crushed and students are prepared only to be conformist drones in the workplace. Schools can also be places where students' imaginations can be ignited, where their horizons can be expanded, where they can discover new interests and pursue them.

I resteth my weary case.
posted by Opus Dark at 9:46 PM on December 28, 2002


I'm sorry if I'm being obtuse, Opus, but I don't understand what point you're trying to make. If you're trying to make the point that public education is many different things to many different people, then I'd guess we're in agreement. But if that is your point, then I was thrown by your first post, where you presented a very singular, very dark version of what public schooling is.

In your opinion, is the fact that public education has shifting, ambiguous purposes a problem or an unavoidable reality? And how does that affect how we should see the case presented in this thread's linked article?
posted by Chanther at 10:02 PM on December 28, 2002


Schools can be neo-fascist places where all individuality is crushed and students are prepared only to be conformist drones in the workplace. Schools can also be places where students' imaginations can be ignited, where their horizons can be expanded, where they can discover new interests and pursue them.

That's certainly true. But it strikes me as more important to deal with what schools are, by and large, rather than merely what they can be. Which of your two descriptions do you honestly think describes the majority of schools in the U.S. today?
posted by rushmc at 10:06 PM on December 28, 2002


Using the words 'can be' was imprecise - I should have used 'are'. They are both, all the time. Two students sit in the same classroom, and one of them is experiencing A and the other is experiencing B. The next day it might reverse. Certainly, in my own educational experience, sometimes I would go from one class where I felt dehumanized to another where I would feel engaged.

But I'm dodging your question, rushmc - so, here's a real answer. I chose to teach in what gets labeled an "alternative school" because I see too much of the individuality-crushing conformist mentality out there. I had to reconcile two competing visions - the fact that I believe very strongly in the power of education, and the fact that I think in this society we're by and large doing it in the wrong way. The dichotomy I expressed is my daily reality - and my own crusade has been to try to push it (both my own teaching and the system as a whole) in the right direction.
posted by Chanther at 10:33 PM on December 28, 2002


So basically if you believe that school (US version) has an absolute right over your home life if you go to school (US viewpoint) and have a shitty home life you are not likely to get as good an education as a student who does have.

and if you agree with my assessment of school vs home work, spare your children and don't send notes to school with them re this issue.

You don't get anywhere, your children get ridiculed, and eventually you find unexcused absences or undone homework penalties for legit absences when your kids decide they'd rather have an unexcused absence/missing homework then hand in another op-ed note from dad.
posted by DBAPaul at 9:26 AM on December 29, 2002


Two students sit in the same classroom, and one of them is experiencing A and the other is experiencing B.

I'll even grant you that, but again I think the key issue is the predominant experience of most students most of the time, not the occasional good that some students can wring from the experience from time to time despite the broken system.

It sounds like you agree with me, though, so I'll leave it at that.
posted by rushmc at 9:34 AM on December 29, 2002


When a kid breaks one of our school's "minor" rules (most of which are reasonable - like the ban on food and drink in the classroom, which has led to a measurable reduction in the rat and cockroach population), the process goes something like:

First Offense) Verbal Warning from the teacher.
Second Offense) Call to the parents (which the kids *hate*)
Third Offense) Meeting with the dean and demerits

The demerit system we use ties into a "citizenship grade." This grade effects their overall GPA. They can choose to work off demerits by going to "Saturday School," where they basically clean up the campus. They don't have to, though. Of course, most would rather come in and raise their GPA...

We also try to recognize good behavior, through citizenship awards and certain end of the year monetary prizes (i.e. - scholarship $). However, I've observed that most of the students could care less about the positive rewards, and the truly naughty ones could also care less about the negative GPA.

However, this system let's a kid who is basically a good student who made a mistake or broke a minor rule know they did something wrong without making a federal case out of it. At the same time, it sort of points out the kids that break the rules (and get caught) again and again and again. It also allows them to tale responsibility for their actions if they are the sort of person that would do that.

The system has some holes, but it is quite effective.

That all being said, I am not sure any of my students would recognize this "free time" concept. Between extracurricular activities, homework, and after school activities, I'm not sure they have any free time. That is, of course, a different issue entirely...

Mind you, this system is for "drinking in class" or "entering through the wrong door" or "throwing paper airplane" sorts of offenses. Vandalism, violence, and other more serious offenses usually skip right to the "meeting with the parents and principal" stage.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:55 AM on December 29, 2002


I think that the predominant experience of most students most of the time won't be useful to look at. For most people most of the time, learning is work -- and work that is demeaned by their immediate peers and society, and work --toil-- is in its nature unpleasant. I'm particularly unsure that taking people's perceptions of their adolescent lives, when of course nobody understands them and all adults are morons and why won't anyone just let me be who I am, is a useful endeavor.

I suppose some of this is what you think of kids -- if you see them as predominantly "wild, free, exuberant, inquisitive, irrepressible," of course you're going to think school is awful, because it isn't those things. If you see them as deeply, simply, and often violently moralistic, fearful and intolerant of change and difference, easily willing to repress others and be repressed themselves in order to fit into their own society, and really not terribly interested in learning much of anything, you'll feel differently. While your kids or mine or whoever's might be in the first group or irrepressible individualists whose light is crushed by evil schooling, I'm betting that there are in the real world a lot more of the second group of jackbooted thugs who did in fact have to be not just led to water but forced to drink.

All of which is mostly to say that we wouldn't need schools to be conformity factories. Childrens' societies will (and do) do that well enough themselves. To the extent that I've seen schools be complicit in this, it's mostly been in not coming down on kids oppressing other kids in the standard jock/popular-culture ways, with the exception of anyone addressed as "Coach."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:22 AM on December 29, 2002


All of which is mostly to say that we wouldn't need schools to be conformity factories. Childrens' societies will (and do) do that well enough themselves.

The difference is that kids are naturally nasty to each other, and school discipline teaches that you should get along with your peers, and blindly suffer nastiness from your elders :-)
posted by wackybrit at 12:04 PM on December 29, 2002


I wonder how young Freya McDonald will do in in a few years when she tries to get/keep a job.
not nearly as well as her lawyer.
posted by quonsar at 12:45 PM on December 29, 2002


My school had mandatory sports programs from 3:30 until about 5pm each day. After that was done, students who had received detention that day would go to the detention hall from 5:15 until 5:45.

Boarders also had another potential detention, right after our 2 hours of nightly homework. That lasted from 9:45 until 10:15pm.

Boarders and Day students could also get "Saturdays" which was being forced to dress up in tie, blazer and grey pants and come into school at 8:30. That lasted until 1pm.

The granddaddy of them all (for boarders at least) was the "Gating". From Friday afternoon until Sunday at lights out, you had to check in with the duty teacher or prefect each hour on the hour. You were not allowed off campus and had to attend all meals for the weekend.

Now I suffered my share of all these punishments, and turned out pretty well. This is a frivolous lawsuit. The girl should just take her lumps and chalk it up to experience.
posted by smcniven at 12:58 PM on December 29, 2002


The school I attended was known for in-school suspensions (ISS) instead of detention. It's the same type of punishment, but instead it happens during school hours. To keep the "education" going, you would need to complete assignments through the day that was mostly long essays and tougher assignments than would normally be in class. Within a full day there was only one 10 minute break...no talking...no looking away from your desk...no noise what so ever....no nothing or else you spend another day there...and a 15 minute lunch.

I grew quite fond of it :)
posted by samsara at 3:06 PM on December 29, 2002


When I was in HS I did pretty much whatever I wanted and got away with it as well because I was a good student.

It was the same for most of my friends too but now that a few years has passed things have really changed. I am friends with a senior now who received a new punishment a few months ago. He went home half a day early missing his lunch, study hall and senior English. He was turned in for skipping class not by the english teacher but by the study hall teacher. His punishment was to sit in a private restitution room(like the in-school suspension) for an entire school day and do the work sent up by his teachers. He skipped study hall and then was forced by the school to miss anatomy, physics, precalc and senior english. It made no sense but the administration still made him go through with it.

I would never have put up with it but my friend sat through the whole day like he was supposed to.
posted by Recockulous at 3:15 PM on December 29, 2002


i hated the saturday detentions. they outlawed them before i graduated, thankfully.
posted by sophist at 5:03 PM on December 29, 2002


For most people most of the time, learning is work -- and work that is demeaned by their immediate peers and society, and work --toil-- is in its nature unpleasant.

I would certainly dispute your assertion that learning is unpleasant, and in the strongest of terms.
posted by rushmc at 6:19 PM on December 29, 2002


At my school, in Australia, lunchtime detentions are quite common, and as a teacher, I try to make the punishment fit the offence - throwing rubbish means that the student will clean up the classroom or doing a litter detention, not doing homework means the student will finish it at lunch, sitting outside my staffroom.

After-school detentions? A rare thing, but the school's policy is that I have to call the parents first to get their okay to keep them back. 99% of parents are supportive, and I always make a point of making sure the kid can get home (like others, we have many students who live a fair distance from school). These after-school detentions are with the school janitor, picking up rubbish for an hour. It seems to deter kids' bad behaviour, at least for a while.

A lot of kids come in with preconceived attitudes towards school, and no matter how dazzling I make my lessons (I can't teach by lecture method), there will be kids who just don't care. I have a feeling that a lot of it comes from the attitude of parents; if the parents don't value school, then the kid's not likely to, either.

Besides, in Queensland, kids don't have to be at school past the age of 15 (I think someone said it was 16 in the US). If you stuff up during the non-compulsory years of schooling (Years 11 and 12 in this case), then our tolerance of your shitty behaviour is quite short, and it doesn't take much for seniors to get kicked out of school for late assignments, absenteeism, and general airs of "I don't wanna be here".
posted by chronic sublime at 6:49 PM on December 29, 2002


I would certainly dispute your assertion that learning is unpleasant, and in the strongest of terms.

First, I didn't say that, directly. I said that *for most people*, learning is work, and work is in its nature unpleasant to the extent that it is work.

And your dispute is, to my eye, basically ideological, akin to a statement that all children are beautiful or similar twaddle. It would be nice if everyone loved learning, but they transparently don't (or if they do, their actions are deeply mysterious).

The bulk of people don't behave as if learning -- acquiring knowledge that takes repetition, or practice, or some toil beyond the immediate moment to acquire -- is enjoyable to them. Which shouldn't be surprising if it's work that requires effort, which is indisputably is. Most people -- not everyone, to be sure, but most people -- don't generally seek out learning in any form whatsoever, inside or outside an academic setting, unless they're forced to by the state or their employers, or see some immediate tangible gain to be had for it, or it serves as currency in their immediate social circle (ie, sports stats). This doesn't mean they're idiots, it only makes them intellectually uncurious and practical.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:32 PM on December 29, 2002


First of all, I thought America had the "most randomly litigious society in existance" market cornered. This girl violated the school rules, and therefore should be punished in accordance with those rules. If her self-esteem is suffering because she has less free time, then she should either see a therapist about this problem (obviously stemming from something other than lack of free time), or join the club.

While some lawsuits against schools make sense, this one does not. The girl broke the rules, and now is suing to get her own way? She will be in for a rude awakening when she enters the real world.

My guess is she's been lightly disciplined about her offenses many times before, and chose to keep doing things her own way. Detention, at least in my experience, is often a last resort for teachers. Do you honestly think they want to spend their free time overseeing a detention? Teachers who are overseeing detention often get backed up on their work for the rest of the afternoon for various reasons, and although it is part of their job , it is an unpleasant one, and one many teachers try to avoid (at least the ones I know).

There are so few ways of dealing out discipline. Detention is a neccessary evil, or else how will these kids learn to follow the rules?
posted by elf_baby at 10:48 PM on December 29, 2002


Corporal punishment. Beat the bad attitude right out of them.
posted by monkeyman at 6:43 AM on December 30, 2002


Has no one else entertained the idea that perhaps this lawsuit isn't so much about this particular girl and her particular claim about trauma and free time and so forth, but about forcing a school to reconsider and reframe its disciplinary process for all students?
posted by Dreama at 6:47 AM on December 30, 2002


It seems everyone's reactions to this issue is directly related to their own experience in school. Well, that's hardly surprising, I guess. But it seems that's *all* most people are using to base their judgements on in this case.

School, despite being a universal experience, is not universal in its experience. Although it's intended to be a cookie-cutter institution, dealing with an infinite variety of personalities results in an infinite variety of experiences. So can we not look at this through our own experiences please? I don't care if you regularly got detention for dotting your "i"s and "j"s with hearts. That's not a normal occurrence. Nor is the profound, life-affirming bit of wisdom you acquired during your detention.

If this school is using detention in some discriminatory or extreme punitive way, yes it should be stopped. But if the student is suing simply because she was inconvenienced, that's sad. It seems western society is heading in both extremes simultaneously, with one group demanding exemption from all responsibilities while the other is seeking to eliminate the *possibility* of every negative activity.

It's not that we're teaching our children a bad example; we're just not teaching them anything at all.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:03 AM on December 30, 2002


If you can't give kids detention, how else are they going to be punished for breaking school rules?

With a lawsuit, duh.
posted by Hackworth at 12:12 PM on December 30, 2002


Metafilter: Beat the bad attitude right out of them

I haven't posted anything worthwhile here, although I have been checking over the past few days. I haven't actually siad anything really myself, because as usual everyone has been saying everything I'd ever want to say. Just short congratulations on another worthwhile discussion on the topic.
posted by feelinglistless at 2:05 PM on December 30, 2002


Or any topic for that matter ...
posted by feelinglistless at 2:11 PM on December 30, 2002


Living in Japan currently and here are some thought concerning the "homework" "schoolwork..."

I was always beaten over the head as a public school teacher in America with test scores from Japan and the fact that theirs was the near perfect system. The reality is far from this myth. In fact, most Japanese I speak to say they would gladly trade some of those higher scores for a system that encourages greater creativity, and questioning skills. Japanese students do not (in general) ask "Why?" or even more, "Why not?"

To homework/schoolwork:

1) Japanese schools are huge pots of rote learning. Some necessary (memorizing kanji, for instance) but most just cramming heads full of irrelevant information to be spit back on a test.

2) The reliance on irrelevant testing for entry into "elite" schools has fostered an entire industry of...

3) Juku - "cram" schools. Japanese children spend hours in school, including most Saturdays, only to spend more hours AFTER school cramming for the idiotic exams that allow them entry into the "elite" junior highs that allow them entry into the "elite" high schools that allow them a chance at entry into...you guessed it..."elite" universities.


One such student told me she slept in school because that was not worth her time and saved her energy for cram school.

Meanwhile, schools in Japan are dealing with deteriorating conditions in the classroom....keitai in classes (cell phones,) student behavior, bullying, insubordination....sound familiar?

One question concerning detention...is it strictly academic? (unfinished work, retake of test, etc) or behavioral? (infraction of school rules) Often, you can tell the child's attitude by the attitude of their parents. The first to come pounding on the principal's desk are those who do not reinforce the proper behavior and attitude at home.

My parents would have written the teacher a nice note promising to do all they could to help, after lecturing me on proper behavior, etc...

Just some thoughts...
posted by charms55 at 8:09 PM on December 30, 2002


shepd said this, I just added the ironic hyperlinks:
If you need to express your independent thoughts at school, release some flyers, wear a T-Shirt, talk to others (when they aren't in class).
The bottom line here is that we've put an age limit on human rights and freedom of expression. Personally, I'm of the "teach by example and experience" school of thought, so I don't quite understand the rationale of raising children to live in a free society by depriving them of those freedoms until they become of age and then, tada, everybody suddenly expects them to know what to do with their freedom and how to protect it.

It surprises me not a whit that mandatory education leads to environments where structure can only be maintained by arbitrary, authoritarian punishments. Come to think of it, are all those people who are saying, "oh yeah, but she'd so be fired for drinking a fizzy drink at work!" all that happy about the authoritarian structures at their working place? When was the last time you heard somebody gushing about how great their boss is? We put up with this crap as adults because it was drilled into us as children. I don't see why there couldn't be another way. People cooperate productively all the time without having to have threats dangling over their heads.

Here's an idea, how about instead of building a well-educated society by inflicting children with mandatory schooling, we actually create schools that children will want to go to and enjoy? Is making learning fun so fricking hard? WTF?
posted by Skwirl at 5:26 AM on December 31, 2002


Not to be flip, but yes, yes it is hard to make it fun. Or rather, it is hard to make it fun while still making it educational. If it were easy, all teachers would already be doing it. Since it is hard, teachers who can't be bothered to work hard don't do it.

I work very hard to make things fun. Hands-on science experiments take a lot of time to plan. Teaching grammar through drama and collaborative writing is harder than handing out worksheets. Planning field trips to interesting (yet educational) places takes a lot of advance work and a lot of phone calls. I teach the American Revolution (in part) by having the kids do a dramatic re-enactment of the trial of British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre. I teach the Industrial Revolution by having them create their own inventions. It'd be a lot easier to have the kids just read about it and take notes on it.

And still there are some things I cannot make fun, though I can help. I have to teach kids to write expository, essay-type writing. Only a handful of kids have ever found that enjoyable. I try to help by having them choose topics that interest them, which means I've got to manage 20 different research projects. It'd be a lot easier to just assign the same topic to every kid.

And, oh, the things I could do if I had the resources. A completely obvious way to make things more fun is to have every kid have their own computer - there are a million opportunities there if the teacher knows how to use them. But I have 45 minutes of computer lab time per week, and even then there aren't enough computers for every kid to have his or her own.

This post is probably insufferable, as it sounds like I'm setting myself up as the most interesting teacher on the planet. I'm certainly not - I try, but I have days where I know my kids are bored. But I'm frustrated when someone comes along and says something like "Is making learning fun so fricking hard?" - because if you have to ask that question, you've never been a teacher.

And on a slightly different note, a lot of people have slammed mandatory education. But I've heard nothing other than cheap shots. So: what is your realistic alternative to requiring every child to attend some sort of school (or be home schooled)?
posted by Chanther at 8:10 AM on December 31, 2002 [1 favorite]


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