See Dick harass Jane. See Jane file suit

By Eileen M. Ciesla
web posted July 19, 1999

It is 3 p.m. and the school bus has deposited its cargo on the curbside. The children scatter, lunchboxes and latchkeys swinging. A ten-year old boy scales his front steps in full bounds and shoves his key into the door. Books and bags fall onto the floor. The dog runs over and he pats him disinterestedly. It is TV time, two hours before Mommy and Daddy get home.

He grabs a Coke and some chocolate and lies down on the couch with the remote firmly held in his small hands. After catching the end of Pro-Wrestling, he starts surfing. MTV catches his eye. There he finds three college students stripping down to nothing and diving into a swimming pool. It is part of the Real World. He is transfixed. A girl walks naked through the Hawaiian house, unfazed and comfortable. Then there is a break for Chick Rock Week. Alanis Morrisette, dopey-eyed, drifts naked through Laundromats, subways, streets and intersections, thanking the camera for a series of abstract nouns. The VJs offer praise for her artistry, so obviously influenced by breakthrough artists like Madonna. We are reminded of her artistic genius in the next video, which finds a salivating, hazy-expressioned Madonna, grabbing herself with indescribable euphoria. Her dance moves revolve around quarter-time masturbation.

It is 9 a.m. and the school bell rings. A ten-year old boy turns to the girl who sits next to him and says, "I bet you touch yourself." She flushes and turns away angry. He relishes her reaction. So he says it louder. She appears flustered and tells him to shut up. He then grabs her shirt and starts singing, "Express Yourself". Her shame wells over. The teacher looks up and warms him, "One more time and you're in Court!"

On May 24, 1999 the Supreme Court ruled that in a case where a school receiving Federal money, failed to intervene where a student was subjected to persistent sexual advances by another student, thereby creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive and abusive school environment, the school would be held liable for damages under Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972. (Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education). Title IX stating that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal funding.

The case brought forth, involved LaShonda Davis, a fifth-grader in a Duluth, Georgia public school. She suffered from the sexually explicit, and vulgar taunts of a classmate for the better part of a year, while the school administration failed to discipline the foul-mouthed and often threatening student. Her grades dropped. Her father even reported a suicide note had been found, indicating that LaShonda's despair was quite real. Understandably frustrated with the school's indifference, the Davis' took legal action. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court.

With shockingly shallow reasoning, Justice O'Connor delivered the majority opinion of the Court, in which she was joined by Justices Souter, Ginsberg, Breyer and Stevens, finding that the concept of student-on-student sexual harassment and gender discrimination has its place in grade school. And as such, it cannot be tolerated under Federal law. Applying an artificial vocabulary onto an artificially created problem, public schools are now under the grim jurisdiction of the whims of jurisprudence. It is not hard to imagine the climate of fear that this will breed in school administrations. For years, afraid to discipline their students under the threat of liability, now they face the equally daunting task of distinguishing childish behavior from what now, in this collective thinking, constitutes a juvenile form of gender discrimination. And even more disturbing, taxpayers will have to pay for what a nation's cultural excesses have necessitated: the interference of the Federal government in all matters.

It is easy to sympathize with students who are held hostage by the increasingly vulgar and violent environments that are supposed to provide places of learning. The climate of public schools has deteriorated to the point of being ineffectual holding pens for the products of permissive households.

But acknowledging this, it is not the Federal government's role to settle local schoolroom disputes. This problem has recent and reversible causes. Advocates for children's rights have spent years undermining the authority of schools to hand out discipline to an increasingly discipline-free student body. Minors who are protected under numerous acts and provisions render schools powerless.

As Justice Kennedy pointed out in his eloquently argued dissenting opinion, in which he was joined by Justices Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas, "the practical obstacles that schools encounter in ensuring that thousands of immature students conform their conduct to acceptable norms may be even more significant than the legal obstacles"

But the majority opinion insisted that schools might readily diagnose and deal with those situations that can be accurately described as "sexual harassment" and take affirmative action. It is a concept conceived in a bubble. And it is a bubble that educational theorists inhabit with the liberal justices. Teachers' manuals offer examples of what may constitute, "student-on-student sexual harassment", from Kindergarten through third grade. Namely, a boy, being "put down" on the playground because he wants to play house with the girls. Other manuals offer that sexual harassment may be found in the sentence, "You look nice", depending on the tone of voice.

Further, as the dissenting opinion noted, Title IX, in no way provides for this kind of reading. Title IX applies to incidences of teacher-student discrimination. Discrimination, by logic, must fall "under a school's program". Meaning, discrimination must take the form of an authority denying a student equal opportunity to participate fully in the school's activities. Teachers represent the school's authority, and can be held liable as employees for their actions against the students who are under their control. How does, the albeit unpleasant, actions of a student, who does not fall "under a school's program" as an authority figure or employee, but is rather subjected to the school's program, render the school liable for the child's actions. Is it not the parents' role to answer for the immature child? And further, how do the acts of a student, who is the legal and moral responsibility of his parents, constitute 'gender discrimination' by the school board?

This is a surreal example of federalism overstepping its natural boundaries and creeping into every aspect of private life, in the absence of individual responsibility and in the aftermath of the crippling of school authority to take disciplinary action against its students. The Courts have had to assume the role of parent, church, and school. This decision is the cost of limitless of irresponsible freedom, the result of which is the imposition of tyranny.

Schools will now operate under a state of heightened sensitivity and paranoia. And for every legitimate claim of abuse, there will be thousands of other claims of exaggerated teasing. All claims will be heard and many will win. There is no cap on damages sought. The Davis case was brought for $500,000. Most schools are only apportioned with $679,000 a year. Citizens will bear the burden for the countless and uncontrollable instances of inappropriate behavior witnessed in schoolyards daily.

In the daytime, we will now indoctrinate our children with contrived and grim concepts that can only bend their minds, poison their thinking and twist their natural development, and then we will send them home to watch several hours of libidinous sex. It is a Braver New World, than originally imagined. Taxpayers bear the burden of a generation of hands-off parenting, and a sex-saturated culture. And the ten-year old boy will only grasp his crime partially. He will run home and forget about it, anxious to flip on MTV.

Eileen M. Ciesla was first published on the web in ESR back in April. Since then, she's written regularly for Right Magazine.

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