One reason I react so strongly to the lack of common sense in school administrators is because I had a personal experience with an expulsion threat over the issue when I was in high school. Yes, the “Goody Two-Shoes” honor student was called in to the principal’s office and threatened with expulsion over an issue regarding guns. It didn’t happen because I knew enough to know that I wasn’t breaking any rules; the situation that sparked the “report” to the administrator was a clear case of protected speech. The fear of a lawsuit and enough bad PR to cost the new principal his job was enough to convince him that he really didn’t want to go down that path.
What was my crime? It was having a discussion about a fairly new (only a couple of years old at the time) concealed carry law enacted in Oklahoma after I was asked to give a speech in class on the topic of gun control. In other words, I was having a reasonable, non-threatening discussion with peers in the library (our “class” for those of us in the academic competition programs) on a timely political topic relevant to assigned school work. (For the record, I read my first Dave Kopel article in preparation for that speech.) Yeah, try throwing me out of school for that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he came to his senses. Regardless, I still get pissy over the incident because shouldn’t he have come to his senses when the “report” was made? Common sense would tell a person to ask some probing questions about the incident, especially since the report was coming from a student with some issues getting along with others against one of the top students who had literally never been punished in her entire time at the school.
It bothers me because if the principal had threatened any of the other people at the table in my discussion group, some of them may not have known to fight back. They would not have known that such speech did not give them the right to kick you out of a public school. I don’t believe he would have expelled them, but I do think he would have tried to hold the threat over their heads and left them believing that he was doing them a favor. That bothers me, especially in a public school we were required to attend. It shouldn’t be up to students to stand up to administrative bullying.