Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

A School That Is So…

Posted by Adam Graham on March 4, 2007

Cross-posted from WhereIStand

"That’s so gay!" is common youth phrase that I hear all the time though I don’t use it.  A school and a Mormon family are landing in court over it:

When a few classmates razzed Rebekah Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, "Do you have 10 moms?" she shot back: "That’s so gay."

Those three words landed the high school freshman in the principal’s office and resulted in a lawsuit that raises this question: When do playground insults used every day all over America cross the line into hate speech that must be stamped out?

After Rice got a warning and a notation in her file, her parents sued, claiming officials at Santa Rosa’s Maria Carillo High violated their daughter’s First Amendment rights when they disciplined her for uttering a phrase "which enjoys widespread currency in youth culture," according to court documents.

Testifying last week about the 2002 incident, Rice, now 18, said that when she uttered those words, she was not referring to anyone’s sexual orientation. She said the phrase meant: "That’s so stupid, that’s so silly, that’s so dumb…"

"The district has a statutory duty to protect gay students from harassment," the district’s lawyers argued in a legal brief. "In furtherance of this goal, prohibition of the phrase ‘That’s so gay’ … was a reasonable regulation."

Even those who don’t think the phrase is acceptable don’t think the school’s action was advisable:

Rick Ayers, a retired teacher who helped compile and publish the "Berkeley High School Slang Dictionary," a compendium of trendy teen talk circa 2001, said educating students about offensive language is preferable to policing their speech.

"I wouldn’t be surprised if this girl didn’t even know the origin of that term," he said. "The kids who get caught saying it will claim it’s been decontextualized, but others will say, `No, you know what that means.’ It’s quite talked about…" 

And then a leader of the National Gay-Straight Alliance said this:

She said it is OK to discipline students for using the phrase after efforts have been made to educate them.

Get it, AFTER you’ve made an attempt. Instead the school decided to slap her permenent record for saying something quite common: And then there’s the whole discrimination aspect of this that’s troubling:

Rice’s parents, Elden and Katherine Rice, also claim the public high school employed a double-standard because, they say, administrators never sought to shield Rebekah from teasing based on Mormon stereotypes.

In addition, the Rices say their daughter was singled out because of the family’s conservative views on sexuality. They are seeking unspecified damages and want the disciplinary notation expunged from Rebekah’s school record.

So what it looks like happened is that the school decided to go ahead and pick on the Mormon kid again. Whether you agree with her faith or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the school was clearly playing favorites and joining in to persecute a girl who was already getting teased quite enough, thank you. After all, if schools aren’t there to forcibly teach kids politically correct values and punish non-compliance, what are they there for?

Hat Tip: Right Mind

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