Parental Rights

School Hair Police At It Again

Published September 14th, 2010 by tcarpenter

There is yet another story about a school district giving an in-school suspension to a boy for daring to have long hair.  And once again it’s in Texas, this time in the town of Itasca.  (There really must be something in the water in the Lone Star State.)

In this case, the authorities have suspended the sixth-grade boy, Kenneth Fails, for 14 weeks, apparently directing him do little but look at a wall all day.  His furious mother, Marsha Wisnosky, confronted the school board last night.  Their reaction?  Dead silence.  They would not respond to her complaints, the arguments she presented, or her request for a policy change.  They were the perfect symbol of an arrogant public school  bureaucracy.  How dare a mere peon parent criticize how they run their school system!

This case and others like it confirm the need for school vouchers or a program of school tax credits to produce a robust system of private schools.  As it now stands, about the only people who can send their children to private schools are the affluent or those affiliated with churches willing to provide a big subsidy.  The government-run schools (aka public schools) operate the way you would expect any protected monopoly to operate–with inefficiency, lack of innovation, and pervasive arrogance.

A robust private school system in competition with the government-run schools would enable parents like Wisnosky to have choices.  She could find a school that didn’t regard hair length on boys as more important than academics.  And parents who want their sons to look like Marine recruits could send their kids to authoritarian schools with strict dress and grooming codes.

The current arrangement denies the element of choice to most people.  Instead, we have a “one size fits all” model.  If pro-skinhead families are in the majority in your school district, your preferences simply get trampled.  Doesn’t sound very American, does it?

Bureaucratic Control Freaks in Texas Schools

Published December 17th, 2009 by tcarpenter

If you saw this story, you might assume that you slipped back in time to 1959.   The educational bureaucrats of Texas have suspended a boy–a preschooler, no less–for having excessively long hair.  The tot actually looks quite dapper–at least in any civilized part of the country.   Furthermore, he was growing his hair so that he could later have it cut and donated to a charity that provides wigs to cancer victims who have lost their hair from chemotherapy treatments.  One would think that he would receive praise, not be bullied, for such a generous impulse.

Even if charity had not been his motive, such idiotic regimentation should have disappeared by the end of the 1960s.  But apparently it hasn’t in certain authoritarian precincts in the South.  I have a suggestions for the Texas hair police, who apparently believe that every young male ought to look like he’s planning to have a career in the Marines.  You have enough of a challenge educating the next generation, and most of the public schools aren’t doing a very good job at that task.  Stop trying to dictate such things as grooming preferences.  This is supposed to be a free country, and you might at least try to maintain that illusion a little longer with respect to your students.

Death of Common Sense–New Episodes

Published September 29th, 2009 by tcarpenter

Just when you think law enforcement bureaucrats can’t get any more irrational, comes this story (hat tip to my Cato Institute colleague Dan Mitchell) from Indiana.  A grandmother ran afoul of the drug war laws by making two purchases of cold medicine for her family.

When Sally Harpold bought cold medicine for her family back in March, she never dreamed that four months later she would end up in handcuffs.

Now, Harpold is trying to clear her name of criminal charges, and she is speaking out in hopes that a law will change so others won’t endure the same embarrassment she still is facing.

…Harpold is a grandmother of triplets who bought one box of Zyrtec-D cold medicine for her husband at a Rockville pharmacy. Less than seven days later, she bought a box of Mucinex-D cold medicine for her adult daughter at a Clinton pharmacy, thereby purchasing 3.6 grams total of pseudoephedrine in a week’s time.

Those two purchases put her in violation of Indiana law 35-48-4-14.7, which restricts the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or PSE, products to no more than 3.0 grams within any seven-day period.

When the police came knocking at the door of Harpold’s Parke County residence on July 30, she was arrested on a Vermillion County warrant for a class-C misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.

The good citizens of Indiana can now rest easier knowing this nefarious drug lord has been apprehended.  Whatever happened to the concept of discretion by police and prosecutors?  Whatever happened to common sense?

And then there is this story about how a young couple lost custody of their young children for a month after a Wal-mart employee forwarded “bath-time” photos they had taken of the children to the authorities.  How many parents over the decades would have run afoul of such absurd suspicions of child pornography, if that standard had been the norm?

I’m interested in suggestions about how Americans can rein-in this runaway zealotry before it turns our country into something resembling the fascist and communist systems we used to abhor.

Inmates Running the Asylum, Episode 308

Published September 8th, 2009 by tcarpenter

Parents who dare to be affectionate to their children had better think twice about visiting Brazil with them after this episode.  I guess it’s nice to know that U.S. law enforcement bureaucrats are not the only ones who can be irrational zealots.  That realization, however, is mighty small comfort.  Why has common sense apparently died all over the world?