I received this email (15 Sep 2003, 9:13 PM):
In today's Reading Eagle, the editorial was about frivolous lawsuits that have recently been dismissed in Pennsylvania. The following is a direct quote from the editorial and is presented here without comment."The second case came out of Beaver County, where a judge dismissed a mother's claim that a school district violated her 13-year-old daughter's constitutional rights when it suspended the girl from May through October for having oral sex with a boy on a school bus. The woman claimed it was not clear in the school district's written policies that having oral sex on a bus is unacceptable behavior."
My response follows (17 Sep 2003, 10:00 PM):
I'm surprised that you didn't comment on this one; most of the fun in circulating an anecdote is in the commentary.
My short comment: Ridiculous.
My long comment: I'm waiting for this story to hit the mainstream corporate media, and for all the blowhards on Fox News to blame it (like everything else, from 9/11 and the recession to the Middle East "peace" process, the blackout, and probably Hurricane Isabel) on Bill Clinton. Some people - not just in Beaver County - will always point the finger at others rather than accepting responsibility for their own failures.
UPDATE: Newsweek ran a cover story ("Civil Wars," from the 15 Dec 2003 issue) on litigation abuse. This passage struck me as quite similar to the alleged Pennsylvania incident, and made me wonder if they are both urban legends:
In Kentucky, a mother sued her daughter’s school after the girl had performed oral sex on a boy during a schoolbus ride returning from a marching-band contest. The woman blamed poor adult supervision, saying her daughter had been forced.
Linda McDougal responded in "My Turn: I Trust Juries—and Americans Like You" (from the 22 Dec 2003 issue):
When the subject is tort "reform," I've learned to pay close attention, because most of the cases that make the rounds on the Internet and talk shows are urban legends, either misleading or flat-out false.
A simple Internet search told me that the board of education had determined that the girl had been the victim of a sexual assault. Prior to this conclusion, the principal had suspended her for 10 days. After this conclusion, she was suspended again, this time for not reporting the assault.
This was the last straw for the mother, and why she filed her lawsuit. Among her demands: that the board set up training for its employees on dealing with sexual assaults. Ask any parent whether this was a reasonable response to what happened.
UPDATE: The original Pennsylvania story is apparently true. The Beaver County Times article "Pupil's expulsion appeal denied" discusses the case:
School administrators suspended the girl and a seventh-grade male classmate, also 13, for 10 days on May 19 after several other pupils reported that the pair had oral sex that day on a bus while returning from a field trip to Independence Marsh in Independence Township.
The Times is not identifying the children or their parents because of the nature of the case.
Both children admitted to middle school Principal Thomas Ralston that they had consensual oral sex on the bus in front of other pupils.
During an expulsion hearing June 2 before the school board, the girl said her behavior was the result of peer pressure.
According to a transcript of the proceedings, the girl said that before leaving the marsh, she and another girl had discussed performing oral sex on the boy, and the other girl said they should do it.
"She said because she thought it would be cool and she thought all of her friends would look up to us," the girl told the board.
On the bus, the second girl tried to get a second boy to let her fondle him, the expelled girl said.
Meanwhile, the girl who was expelled was sitting next to the first boy. She said several other boys sitting around them began egging them on, one calling them chicken and other names, and another saying he wanted to see some action.
"Then I looked at (the boy) and said, 'Well, what are we supposed to do?' and he said we were going to lose our friends if we didn't," the girl said.
Neither the bus driver nor two chaperones noticed what was going on. Administrators learned of the incident after several pupils told a guidance counselor, who reported it to Ralston.
When confronted by Ralston, the girl and boy were remorseful and ashamed about what happened. Prior to the incident, neither child had been disciplined at school.
Both were expelled until Oct. 29. They were offered admission to the school district's alternative-education program and can be reinstated to mainstream classes as long as they comply with the conditions of their expulsion.
They also have to be examined by the school's student assistance team to determine whether they should be referred to the county's mental health agency for counseling. If they are referred, they must complete the counseling. They also are banned from all school functions during the expulsion.