Thursday, December 01, 2005

No Wonder We're Losing Our Rights

We're being conditioned to give them up in school.

In Lowell, Mass., a girl is sent home for wearing camo.

FATIGUE FLAP: LHS student sent home for wearing camouflage outfit

Lowell Sun

LOWELL -- Shilo Lewis just wanted to blend in with the crowd.

She'd seen camouflage clothing in fashion magazines, on the streets of the city, even in Lowell High School.

But a head-to-toe camouflage ensemble got the high-school junior sent home from school yesterday.

“They took one look at me and said, ‘You have to get picked up,' “ Lewis said about school officials.

Lewis, 16, was wearing a camouflage bandana holding her waist-length hair in a ponytail, a camouflage jacket over a camouflage T-shirt, and a pair of camouflage pants.

“I think she looks great,” said her mother, Bette Lewis, who bought her the outfit. “She always looks nice. She always matches everything.”

Lowell High Headmaster Bill Samaras said military gear is associated with some local gangs, and could disrupt students' safety and their learning environment.

“This has nothing to do with the military. We allow Reserve Officer Training Corps to wear military gear because they wear it in a respectful manner. It's the gang relation. If it's controversial or if it has gang associations, we won't have it,” Samaras said.

This bothers me on two fronts. First, I'm a Navy brat and I've been wearing my old man's dungaree cutoffs, field jackets, and old BDU's since I was about 12. I carried my schoolbooks in seabags, field packs and bags purchased overseas while the old man was on liberty. This was the style in the 80's as it is now, but even if it wasn't, I and my fellow brats would have done it anyway because it was a part of our subculture, just as much having gray blankets that say "US" folded at the foot of our beds and putting olive drab batteries in our Walkmans and boom boxes. By time we reached late elementary school age, these things were a source of pride for us, and our parents were usually hip to it.

God help any school administrator that told one of us we couldn't wear camo to school. The general attitude among our parents was "I didn't fight for my country in Vietnam (or wherever) just to come and have my kids told they can't express themselves." They may not have always understood our fashions, but most military parents respected them because they realized that long hair or denim jackets with spikes or hip hop gear were a source of pride for one's specific peer group and that they indicated that we were taking pride in our appearance. These were values that my dad at least wanted to instill, even if the aesthetics were different than what he was used to.

Second, this shows either supreme ignorance or supreme malevolence on the part of the admistrators regarding the culture of their students. Here's a quick lesson. Gang members tend to wear baggy khaki's, plain white shirts or gear from athletic teams, and of course, their colors. The reason that they wear that sort of thing is so they don't stand out, except as a member of their gang. They wear baggy pants, of course, to conceal weapons. But their clothing is plain and uniform in order to both blend in and to deny a usable description to the police. When a gangbanger holds up a liquor store or commits a driveby, and the cops ask for a description from the victim, what they get is "a black male, average height, average build, wearing khaki pants, and a white t-shirt," or "a hispanic male, average height, average build, wearing a plaid shirt and a blue headband". Of course when the cops in South Central LA or East Houston go to look for the suspect, they see about a hundred people matching that exact description. It's kind of like going to a heavy metal show and saying, "have you seen a guy with long hair and a black t-shirt?"

Camouflage, of course, defeats that purpose because it stands out. Sure it's designed to conceal and break up one's outline in the field, but as youth fashion in an urban or suburban environment it's supposed to stand out. That's why it's worn. Kid's wear camo because they want to look cool and identify with other kids who share the same sense of aesthetics and cultural identity. There's nothing wrong with that. It is, in fact, constitutionally protected free expression.

Of course part of the problem is ignorant administrators confusing gang culture with hip-hop culture. Hip Hop culture often includes camo and all black attire, but it also includes visual elements taken from gang culture, such as the extremely baggy pants. Regardless of what someone thinks of kids wearing baggy pants halfway down their asses (which I personally think looks stupid), it doesn't equate to being in a gang. Administrators are simply making a spurious connection that has no basis in fact.

To use their logic, I must be a gangster because I wore a pair of khaki's to my business casual office job the other day. Never mind I was also wearing a company polo shirt and some dressy moccasins, because khaki's are associated with gangs therefore I must be a gangster. It's a handy excuse for malevolent or racist administrators to persecute students they don't like.

But there's more.

In Winona, Minn., Students are being punished for wearing"Bondage Pants". Now before I post the text of the article, let me explain what the hell these things are because I know some of you are scratching your heads. Bondage pants are basicly baggy pants, usually black, with a lot of zippers and straps and shit hanging off of them. Supposedly they are used in BDSM sex play as you can use the straps to tie the wearer up. thus the term "bondage pants." Now, I know some people who are heavy into lifestyle BDSM and I've never seen them wear bondage pants. Those folks usually prefer leather. But regardless, these pants are common among goth, punk, and metal subcultures because they are usually black and they look cool.

Minn. high school bans 'bondage' pants
November 29, 2005

WINONA, Minn. --Winona Senior High School has prohibited students from wearing a certain style of baggy pants because of safety concerns.

"Bondage" pants -- pants with several straps that hook from each back pocket to the opposite pant leg -- were banned about a month ago. The school's dress code committee decided that students shouldn't wear any strap that could be unsafe, whether made from chain or fabric, said associate principal Jeff Sampson.

Although the straps haven't caused any injuries at the school, Sampson said they could possibly hook students onto something or someone and would be especially dangerous around shop class equipment.

Junior Ed Chick and his friends said the straps would rip off the pants once caught and most are too high off the ground for others to trip over.

Students said the new prohibition is aimed at groups who some label as "Goth" or "freak." They said teachers have been less stringent enforcing the dress code among students in other groups who wear skimpy blouses, T-shirts promoting alcohol or pants that show underwear.

"We've all been yelled at or called to the office," said junior Carl Schreiber, who was told he couldn't wear pants with cuffs 1.5 feet in diameter because he could conceal a gun in them or trip.

Sampson said about 15 students have agreed to remove the straps, and "a handful" were suspended after refusing.

"Safety concerns?" Bullshit!

That's a flimsy excuse if I ever heard one. Moreover, here we see the increasing mindset of punishing someone because something might happen, or worse, because of what someone else might do.

I'll tell you, I've seen these things worn at clubs and in some of the most ferverous mosh pits to have occured and not once have these caused a safety problem. They damn sure aren't a safety issue in a school setting.

This sort of ban is more common across the country since the Columbine shootings. Right after Columbine you saw lots of schools banning black trenchcoats or black gear in general. In fact chances are a lot of you reading this are young enough to have experienced this personally. Never mind that one of the things that drove the kids at Columbine to do what they did was that they were made pariahs by their teachers, administrators, and more "normal" peers because of the way they dressed. And again it's the guilty by association mindset. The guys that did the shooting were wearing black trenchcoats so any kid that wears a trenchcoat or even watches too many Matrix films must be a potential mass murderer.

But here's the worst one I've seen in a while:

In Jasper County, Georgia a student was suspended when he disabled and removed a camera that was taping in the school restroom!

A Jasper County mother says her 8th grade son found a video camera taping in the school bathroom this week. But now, he is the one in trouble.

Cindy Champion says her son, Mac Bedor, and a few of his friends took the camera out of the ceiling because they felt it violated their privacy. Champion says her son brought the camera home to show her that afternoon. She says when she contacted the Jasper County Comprehensive School, she found out high school principal, Howard Fore, put the camera there. She says Fore told her he put the camera in the boys' bathroom to catch students vandalizing. Champion says her son is now suspended for taking school property.


"I had told the high school principal, Mr. Fore, that he needed to come up with another solution. That this wasn't appropriate. His response to me was he was going to continue to film."

Jasper County Superintendent, Jay Brinson, sent a faxed response to Eyewitness News. Brinson says high school principal, Howard Fore, placed the camera in the bathroom last Sunday to control vandalism. He says Fore put the camera there "to discover the identity of those doing the damage." Brinson says the principal did tell Cindy Champion that the camera would be installed again. But in his statement Brinson says, "The camera was not placed back in the restroom, and will not be placed back in the restroom."

Eyewitness News tried to contact the Ocmulgee Circuit District Attorney about the legality of placing hidden cameras in public school rest rooms. He covers that area. Eyewitness News was not able to get in touch with him. But, Eyewitness News did talk with Bibb County District Attorney, Howard Simms. He says cameras in public school bathrooms are legal because schools have more leeway on privacy issues.

This is beyond outrageous! Normally, when someone is caught taping people in the bathrooom they are convicted of a sexual offense and registered as sex offenders in a public database. But here it's ok because the principle was trying to catch vandals? I don't think so!

Maybe the principle was trying catch someone in the act of vandalism. Or maybe, someone in this school's administration likes to get their jollies by watching young boys go to the restroom. Either way it's a completely unacceptable violation of basic privacy rights.

Those of you reading this who have children, how would you feel about a school administrator watching your children go to the bathroom? What would you do about it? How would you teach your kids to handle it? As a culture, we teach our children not to get in a car with strangers and not to give out personal information on the internet in order to keep them safe from sexual predators. Are we supposed to then lay that aside because the person operating the camera happens to be a school principle. Again, I don't think so. Or as we used to say when I was in the Navy, "not on my watch!"

Besides the persecution and selective enforcement that is common among these cases and many more like them, there is one common theme that I think cannot be ignored, and that is the wish and consent of the parents. The girl who got sent home for wearing camo was sent home against her mother's wishes. The mother bought the outfit for her child and encouraged her to wear it to school. The kid who was sent home because he wouldn't have someone taping him while he went to the restroom was punished (I refuse to apply the word "discipline" to a case like this) against his mother's wishes. The story about the bondage pants doesn't really mention parents' response, so I've got to wonder how many of these parents consented to this policy. I'm pretty sure that most of the parents bought these pants for their kids so that at least implies consent for their kids to wear them to school.

I seems like whenever I read a story like this, whether it's about a kid wearing a peace symbol on his shirt or a muslim girl wearing the hijab, the school policy is always at odds with the parents' wishes. Wasn't there a case in the late 80's where a father in Pasadena, Texas sued the school district because his boys were sent home for having long hair?

It seems like schools want to take the place of surrogate parents. As valuable as compulsory education is, the schools are most certainly not surrogate parents. Who gave teachers and administrators the right to determine how parents are going to raise their kids? While schools do have a certain supervisory responsibility, and while that responsibility comes with certain rights, the ultimate decision on what those rights are lies with the parents who send their children to school. The right of a parent to raise their child as they see fit is as fundamental as any basic human right in existence. It's not a privelage to be granted by a public institution to be revoked whenever that institution sees fit.

Moreover, American schools seem to be the primary battlefront for political indoctrination by those who want to take away our constitutional rights. It follows because children are impressionable that if someone wants to create an Orwellian society where children turn their parents into the State, then first they've got to get those kids to come around to the "correct" way of thinking.

Think of any contraversial issue involving Constitutional rights, or any rights for that matter. For every one I'll bet you'll see a corresponding effort to "educate" children on the subject, usually by those who want to take away those rights.

For instance with my personal pet issue, prohibition of alcohol, you've got MADD in schools teaching about the evils of booze, even though the kids aren't old enough to drive, much less drink legally. Same goes with legalization of marijuana and the legal issues that go with it, such as vehicle searches and drug screening. You've got constant, relentless conditioning on that issue and how bad "drugs" are.

Gun control? You've got "gun free zones" around schools. Constitutionally protected free speech? you've got schools banning attire and slogans left and right. Unreasonable search and seizure? How about the random locker sweeps and parking lot sweeps that happen all the time? Freedom of religion? Anyone remember "See You At The Pole"? Pick an amendment and you'll find someone trying to undermind it in our nation's schools.

It's not a coincidence, people.


Anonymous said...

I am a 15 yr old freshman
that goes to wakeland highschool
in texas.

And i was dresscoded for
wearing a plain white shirt
that had a man with
a bandana.

It was not gang-related
to anything, no symbolic
posture, or finger symbols just
a man with a bandana.

When I lived in the ghetto
back in cali, we didn't have
any of these ridiculious rules,
and i was dress coded for
a gang related t-shirt

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