2005 March 22 Tuesday
Federal Court Decision For Berkeley School Defeat For Education

So-called civil rights activists won't be satisfied until they have wrecked our entire society.

A closely watched civil rights lawsuit involving the Berkeley Unified School District was settled out of court yesterday. African American and Latino students who filed a federal class action lawsuit, Smith v. Berkeley Unified School District, in August 2004 for being wrongfully expelled from Berkeley High School will be allowed to return to classes. The students alleged that they were denied their constitutional right to a formal hearing before being excluded from school for various disciplinary reasons.

"This is a noteworthy victory for the students and the community," said William Abrams, co-counsel on the case and senior partner at the law firm Pillsbury Winthrop LLP, who represented the plaintiffs on a pro bono basis. "Now that their due process rights have been enforced, the students can get back to the classroom and move forward with their education."

This is a noteworthy defeat for teachers, well behaved students, and the community.

I wonder whether William Abrams recognizes the right of better behaved students to not be assaulted or threatened or to not have their class time disrupted by unruly students. The victims of court rulings of this sort are the better behaved students who are prevented from learning by ill-behaved students and the teachers who are afraid (with good cause) of violent adolescent males. Better teachers are scared away from the schools which have the most dangerous students. Students are distracted from learning and are presented with the worst sorts of role models in the form of the most dangerous students.

The civil rights movement legal activists have become a mockery of what they purport to defend. Turning every institution in America into an extension of the legal system does not make the society more fair overall. Putting more obstacles in the way of school administrators who are trying to maintain a safe learning environment does very real harm.

The court should butt out of areas that are better controlled by elected school boards, elected local governments, and elected state governments. Judges acting as legislators are a bane on American society.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 March 22 03:08 PM  Education

John S Bolton said at March 22, 2005 3:50 PM:

Unfortunately, it is not enough to tell a vicious shysterocracy to not reach for power they shouldn't have. For them the increase of freedom for aggression is what everything is all about. The worse the situation in the public schools, the better their chances are of getting despotism set up. This is how they miscalculate also, though, in that the unleashing of subhuman aggression in the public schools brings closer the day when the majority can tolerate them no longer, and then there will be a death also of the power grabbing hopes of the left. Hopefully it will also be noticed how these selfless tribunes of the downtrodden feel fully empowered to rudely sacrifice the interests of their helpless clientele. What damnation is upon these unprincipled, wretched, grasping shysters!

Kurt said at March 22, 2005 4:35 PM:

Reason #537 for school vouchers and school choice.

bb said at March 22, 2005 5:09 PM:

I can't believe this. Why can't these groups protect the truly innocent who have been severly punished for Tylenol or butter knives? There seems to be a complete inversion of justice in the school system. Truly troublemaking kids are let off hook, while the innocent are persecuted in the name of "zero tolerance."

GUYK said at March 22, 2005 6:03 PM:

Johnny can't read. But Johnny's self esteem so the little illiterate is passed to the next teacher who has to spend more time on classroom discipline and obeying federal mandates, such as changing the diaper of mainstreamed physically challenged, that the teacher doesn't have the time to teach Johnny to read. But his self esteem is too important to hold him back until he learns to read. Johnny stays in school until he is legally no longer required to attend. During this time he is a contuous troublemaker and spends more time in detention than a classroom. And, he still can't read. Maybe an extra year at a lower level could have stopped the problem at the source by teaching Johnny to read.

I left the military in 1983 so I cannot speak for the situation now. However, in 1982 at least 20% of new enlistees required remedial reading classes to be able to understand the written instructions of technical orders and manuals. This was an indication then of how poorly the public school system functioned. From what I here from people in industry the situation is not any better now. here in Florida the high school is some 40%. Although some later receive a high school diploma through a GED the rate is a scandal.

I don't believe that more money will solve the problem nor do I believe that the quality of teachers is really a problem. I do believe that letting teachers do their jobs and establishing and enforcing discipline in the classroom will be a start in a better school system.

Bill Wyatt said at March 22, 2005 6:15 PM:

This result, not significant in itself and perfectly predictable from a 40-year line of precedent, is merely another symptom of the ongoing collapse of self-government. A collapse for which the voting public is alone responsible. Yes, the legal system is a cancerous growth on the body politic -- spreading into every system and organ, where it wreaks a hundred small havocs and chokes out freedom of private action. Yes, judges are increasingly incapable of recognizing, let alone respecting, the boundary between resolving disputes and imposing their own policy choices. Yes, elected politicians of all stripes allow this encroachment with little complaint. Yes, lawyers in ever-increasing numbers are the vanguard of this perpetual social revolution. But none of these groups is the cause of our political decay (and none of them is its ultimate solution). All simply act to maximize their own self-interest, will continue to do so as long as they can, and will fight like tigers to protect the power they've already accumulated and the wealth and prerogatives that flow from it.

As long as voters continue to look to government as a "service provider" and the problem solver of first resort, control of institutions of all sorts will increasingly flow to a professional governing class whose interests and institutional imperatives differ from those of the public generally. And as that professional governing class (and its private sector allies) accumulates power, it becomes increasingly difficult to dislodge. In my view we are near a tipping point (and in many large urban areas, beyond it).

The only solution that I see, and at this point it is a very long shot indeed, is to develop a voter coalition to (1) starve government of resources at all levels and prevent it from using tax dollars to subsidize its political allies,(2) publicly and persistently attack the ideological roots of the welfare state, especially its egalitarian ideal and its focus on identity groups and the "political correctness" that insulates them from the consequences of their actions (and lest you be misled, the most powerful identity groups are not ethnic, but consist of women, the elderly and public employees), and (3) force the simplification and/or repeal of as much law and regulation as possible (which has the dual benefit of increasing freedom in the private sector and reducing the aggregate income of the legal profession, some fraction of which is recycled back into the political process on the side of increasing government). In practice (and again, it is a very long shot), this means focusing on those few candidates willing to promise concrete reforms (e.g., reduction of particular taxes or repeal of particular laws) and then holding them accountable (think "Contract with America"). It also means becoming involved in judicial elections, which have traditionally been the preserve of the legal profession alone.

As long as political institutions exist, along with the fiscal machinery that supports them and their political allies, groups will organize to capture them and use them to advance their own goals. The only way to minimize the extent to which we are forced to advance someone else's goals is to limit the exent of those public institutions. I'm open to other ideas, but I'm not optimistic about their efficacy.

Engineer-Poet said at March 22, 2005 7:19 PM:

Ahem.  I note that this dispute was settled out of court, in one of the most left-leaning areas of the nation.  No precedent was set.

What stops some saner school district from actually fighting such a nuisance suit and getting a decision (and on appeal, a precedent) that punishing or expelling disruptive elements is part of their job?  Nothing that I can see.

GUYK said at March 23, 2005 4:29 AM:

I concur

PacRim Jim said at March 23, 2005 8:59 AM:

If the bitter fruit of political correctness must be consumed somewhere, Berkeley is the place. Perhaps the aftertaste will be salubrious.

Ryan said at March 23, 2005 10:35 AM:

PacRim Jim said:

"If the bitter fruit of political correctness must be consumed somewhere, Berkeley is the place. Perhaps the aftertaste will be salubrious."


The taste will be ignored so as long a single rich person lives in the US and can be blamed. For these people, everyone is a victim of "class warfare" (funny how they are the only people who ever notice). Bill got it, so long as citizens rely on the government to solve all of their problems, they will never restrain themselves from making obviously bad choices. Don't worry, rich Uncle Sam will clean up after you.

crush41 said at March 23, 2005 3:10 PM:

In a conversation I had with my cousin awhile back I remember her saying, "I don't think our generation is going to produce anything or have any real leadership." From my own personal experience, there's some prescience in that statement. In a middle school science class there was a kid who regularly hurled the f-bomb at the spineless teacher who would order him to the school office. Of course he never obeyed, and she generally did nothing about it. The few times that the principal was sent in, the kid would be taken out of the class but would be back the next day, threatening to sue anyone who touched him again. The class always descended into chaos by ten minutes in as everyone else fed off his disruptiveness and her lack of discipline. Occasionally I would come near blows with the out-of-control kid, but still I learned nothing, being otherwise preoccupied with feeding the classroom gerbil paper towels.

That's the most extreme example, but most of my classes were out of control. That was about six years ago. Thankfully, my siblings are in private school, as the public school system has deteriorated further. I figured there was nothing I needed to learn anyway, as I performed pretty well on the standardizing testing. It was not until high school honors courses that I took anything valuable away from my educational experience. By chance I discovered the internet and abruptly realized I essentially knew nothing, which is frightening given that I probably know more than most of my peers.

Not really sure where I'm trying to go with the anecdotal stuff beyond attempting to convey firsthand what public schooling is like in one of the nicest districts in Kansas. Privatization of education and school vouchers are the only way I see to buck this trend. The negative effects of a decade-plus discipline void in the US public school system is only starting to be felt right now. It scares me to think what it'll be like in fifteen years. I don't see many future Parapundits, etc among my contemporaries.

GUYK said at March 24, 2005 4:20 AM:

Crush 41: I went to public school in rural Okla during the 1950's, graduating from high school in 1960. The school was small and didn't offer much variety in highschool in subject matter. But what was offered was well taught and students were expected to learn.Classroom discipline was never a problem. Those who did not want to be there were simply kicked out. Those who were not old enough to be permently expelled were taken before a judge who laid down the law. It was either reform and conform or face reform school.

However, parents of the area and era had an interest in school and education. Most were products of the great depression and they well understood that education was the only way their children could improve their lives. Parents today do not seem to have that attitude.

Stuka said at March 24, 2005 6:00 AM:

What we are engaged in isn't exactly a class war. It is a race war.

crush41 said at March 24, 2005 11:04 AM:


That's the difference in your generation and mine. With the exception of a few magnificient teachers who were able to will the students to want to learn--which is now the only way knowledge can be transferred--I took virtually nothing away from my public schooling. The hard sciences were especially bad--I think we'll really start feeling the effects of this educational malaise in the next ten years or so. Your teachers controlled the classroom, but my peers controlled it.

Ryan said at March 24, 2005 3:33 PM:

There was a real difference between the above and below averages in public when I attended (1994 HS grad). In AP science and math classes we were always challenged. In AP English I read more Tony Morrison than Shakespeare (PC literature selection is a different problem). I was also a teacherís aid for lower level science classes. Those classes featured stunning exam questions like "What continent do you live on?" and "How many oceans are there?" and this was for high school juniors. I was asked why the oceans don't freeze, an often asked question. It was like talking to a peanut butter sandwich trying to explain it. I was in a "magnet" program where they ship white kids into minority schools with the promise of "better teachers and advanced classes". They claim it promotes racial harmony. All it really did was artifically inflate test scores.

I think it was Dennis Miller who said "the worst thing was can do to someone is ask nothing of them".

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