Friday, September 22, 2006

I love stories like this, LXVIII

Now that school has been back in session for a few weeks, we're seeing more school follies again. This time it's (I presume) a social studies teacher setting fire to American flags on two separate occasions in his classroom. "Authorities" won't be pressing criminal charges:
Bill Patteson, a spokesman for the county attorney's office, said the evidence failed to meet the standard for a charge of criminal wanton endangerment -- an act causing a significant risk of serious injury or death.

"Based on the evidence that we had, we could find neither of those elements present, (and) we could not recommend prosecution," he said.

Steve Tedder, a spokesman for Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Stengel, said his office also would not pursue criminal charges.

"The issues are with the policies and procedures of the school board, not with the criminal justice system," Tedder said.

How about the school itself?
teacher Dan Holden won't return to teaching until the Jefferson County school district decides whether he violated school rules with his unorthodox lesson on freedom of speech. He has been assigned to noninstructional duties.

Although flag burning is constitutionally protected speech, the district hasn't decided whether Holden acted appropriately, said Lauren Roberts, a spokeswoman for Jefferson County Public Schools.

Holden hasn't commented publicly since he burned the flags.

Administrators said Holden told them he wasn't making a political statement, but rather was trying to provoke students to think about free speech, discuss it with their parents and write about it.

How about the fire department?
A 98-page investigative file released yesterday by the Louisville Fire & Rescue arson squad found that Holden left the students with the burning flags while he went to get water to extinguish them.

"On two occasions, teacher set fire to combustible material (flag), allowing material to burn in garbage can and on desk, then left the classroom filled with students in an attempt to find water to put the fire out," the investigation concluded.

What do parents think?
Patrick Bissig, whose daughter was in Holden's class, agreed with the decision.

"I did not look for him to be prosecuted," he said. "He doesn't need to be fired. Reassigned? Perhaps. You dabble in sensitive areas when you burn a flag."

Were the students affected?
One student told investigators that smoke from the fire made students cough.

"It was smokey (sic), cause I'm like allergic to smoke and the whole room was full of smoke and like I was coughing, a lot of people was coughing," the student said in a transcribed statement in the file.

Asked whether the fire was frightening, the student replied: "Not really. I just thought he could have dropped the flag and could have, you know, made the whole classroom on fire."

OK, then! Everybody seems to be all right with this. Nobody's self-esteem was besmirched. A little smoke in the classroom is all. The school hasn't quite decided what to do, but they're leaning towards letting the whole thing just settle down quietly.

Don't you just wish somebody would be quoted in a story like this – a typical bland say-nothing story if I've ever read one – as saying that the teacher did a reprehensible thing, that he was stupid and that the "lesson" could easily have turned recklessly destructive?

But what do we get? The school board hasn't decided what to do. The teacher has been removed from teaching duties temporarily until everybody agrees that nobody's feeling were hurt. The parents can only come up with "You dabble in sensitive areas when you burn the flag." The students inhaled a little smoke is all.

Gawd! Next time why doesn't he draw a red 'X' through a picture of Mohammed? Then we'd see some emotional juice!

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