Sunday, May 13, 2007

Brokeback Lawsuit Insanity

While I agree that the teacher and school in question here should have gotten parental approval before screening the movie version of Brokeback Mountain in an 8th grade classroom, I find the reaction of these grandparents to be totally absurd. Tell me if I'm wrong here, but I cannot imagine that a 12-year-old child would require psychological treatment after watching this particular over-praised and over-rewarded movie. I don't want to offend anyone by saying this but the movie reminds me of chick-lit without the chicks.

The lawsuit claims that Jessica Turner, 12, suffered psychological distress after viewing the movie in her 8th grade class at Ashburn Community Elementary School last year.

The film, which won three Oscars, depicts two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

Turner and her grandparents, Kenneth and LaVerne Richardson, are seeking around $500,000 in damages.

"It is very important to me that my children not be exposed to this," said Kenneth Richardson, Turner's guardian. "The teacher knew she was not supposed to do this."

According to the lawsuit filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court, the video was shown without permission from the students' parents and guardians.
...
In 2005, Richardson complained to school administrators about reading material that he said included curse words.

"This was the last straw," he said. "I feel the lawsuit was necessary because of the warning I had already given them on the literature they were giving out to children to read. I told them it was against our faith."
These folks have already apparently demanded the banning of other material from the school, probably the usual banned book hit parade. I'm not condoning what the school allowed to happen because I think that parental approval should have been obtained before a film of this nature was shown to the students. I do think, however, that these grandparents were probably eagerly looking for their next complaint and that they are trying to parlay this one into a money grab, to boot.

19 comments:

  1. Americans seem to love giving money to lawyers :)

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  2. We do, indeed, Nick. On top of that, there are lots of lawyers who take cases based entirely on contingency fees...very little, if anything, paid to them up front, with all of their money coming from taking up to 50% of what they win in some misguided lawsuit.

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  3. Everything about this situation confounds me. That must be one sheltered 12-year-old. And we used to watch Shakespeare, native American Indian tribal customs, and other strictly educational films when I was in school. Of course, I was in eight grade before the invention of fire, and I know that lots has changed! But why Brokeback Mountain?

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  4. I also don't understand why they were showing Brokeback Mountain, or why they were showing an R rated movie without parent permission. In high school I had to get parent permission to watch an R rated movie after school hours.

    At the same time it's absolutely ridiculous what these grandparents are doing. Everyone wants a quick way to make a bunch of money, and everyone in America thinks the best way to do that is to sue. The joys of a litigious society.

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  5. I don't think they are over reacting. why should a 12 yr old be able to see a rated R movie in school that shows homosexuals having sex? No it doens't show nakedness, it doesn't need to, the first sex scene in that movie is very upsetting and I'm an adult. What the teacher did is criminal and I would also press charges and even sue, not to get money but to punish the ones who allowed this to happen.
    Another reason I homeschool my children...to protect them from seeing things like that.
    ~rebecca

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  6. Oh, and by the way, what those parents are buying with their lawsuit is ostracization for their daughter for the rest of her time in school. Sad they didn't consider her social life. Maybe she's going to be homeschooled now.

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  7. baabaanne, I have to think that the young lady in question is extremely sheltered. It appears that she's being raised by her grandparents, probably products of the sixties, themesleves, so maybe they are reacting in opposition to the times in which they grew up. I'm not criticizing their beliefs (and they should have been warned that this movie was going to be shown), only the fact that they are suing for half a million dollars and that they seem to have established some sort of pattern here. Perhaps the child should be in a different school setting entirely.

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  8. Matt, the school system messed up by allowing this to happen, IMO, and the teacher/s involved need to be reprimanded if they didn't follow school policy. Parents should have been notified beforehand, and alternative activities should have been provided for students who declined to watch the film. But a $500,000 lawsuit is ludicrous.

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  9. Rebecca, I'm not condoning the way that this happened. Permission slips should definitely have been gathered for each child in the class. Those in charge did wrong and should pay the price by being disciplined in whatever manner the school district sees fit. But getting some vulture lawyer involved in the mix is just as wrong, IMO. I just can't see it.

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  10. Rebecca, one other thing...

    I admire the fact that you are homeschooling your children. That is very hard work and it's the best way to instill the values in your children that are important to you as a family.

    But any child in public school is going to be exposed to multiple values...or even a lack of values in some cases. Common sense doesn't seem to be in evidence (at least to me) on either side in this case.

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  11. Dew, I suspect that you are right about the young lady being a bit on the outside looking in as the result of this thing. 12-year-olds can be tough on anyone in the herd who appears to be even a little different from the rest. She's likely having a tough time.

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  12. Hm, I'll bet it was the gradnparents who suffered the psychological distress when they had to try and answer the girl's questions about the movie.

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  13. That teacher was a complete idiot if she really thought "what happens in Ms. ______'s class stays in Ms. _______'s class." Students like to talk. Even at the university level. I don't trust any of them as far as I can throw them, and the first and last rule of the day for any teacher, sub or otherwise, is CYA.

    Speaking of pyschological distress, my history teacher showed a documentary of the Holocaust one year. No permission slips had to be signed, of course, but I had nightmares for a long time. The homeschoolers need to know that it's a losing battle to shelter children from everything strange, disagreeable or painful. Life's not set up like that.

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  14. Stefanie, I expect that you are right about that. Most grandparents, myself included, would be shocked to find out just what our grandkids already know about the world and what they are exposed to everyday.

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  15. bybee, I know what you mean. Both my daughters are school teachers and I know exactly what you mean. Today's world is filled with parents who want no responsibility for raising their own children but who want to complain about the efforts of others to do the job for them. It's a sad old world...

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  16. Argh, I left a LONG comment about the policies most schools have about movies and my own experiences. And it apparently didn't save! Oh well.

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  17. I guess I could try to say it again.

    Public schools have age-appropriate policies about what movies can be shown. The most relaxed schools simply have a rule like "Nothing above PG" for middle schools and "Nothing above PG-13" for high schools. The more lawsuit-paranoid schools have forms teachers have to submit to get every movie they might want to show approved by the school board or a review committee.

    So this sub almost certainly broke school policies and would never have been hired back to sub again in that district, even if no parents complained, let alone sued. Things get around in a school.

    So she made a really stupid mistake, professionally.

    But I'm always taken aback by parents' objections to what kids see and read in schools, especially high schools. The halls of middle schools and high schools are rated NC-17. Anywhere large groups of people going through puberty gather will be rated NC-17. Yep, even those church youth group bus rides to the wholesome field trips.

    I had the mother of a 16 year old student call the principal to object to a PG-rated curriculum-related movie I showed in class, because there was cleavage and a bra strap. I guess the mother has never really looked at how high school girls dress, but cleavage and bra straps are present in most classrooms. And even though the policy is PG-13 or below, the principal "borrowed" my PG movie, saying she was just interested in it, and "forgot" to ever give it back.

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  18. Sorry for the comment bombardment... I just wanted to say now that I've read the comments that I hope the juxtaposition of my first comment and Rebecca's didn't seem like I was reacting to her comment about homeschooling. I didn't even see it. And I homeschooled my kids for a couple years, too.

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  19. Thanks for taking time to make further comment. Mistakes were definitely made by the district and the teacher by showing the movie without parental permission. That's hard to argue with, and I personally do think that the grandparents are kidding themselves if they really believe that they are protecting their granddaughter by filing what I consider to be a frivolous lawsuit like this one. Unless this particular child has been living in solitary confinement she is not nearly as innocent as they perceive her to be.

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