Strange Stuff 19.2

Illustration: P.S. Mueller

6-year-old Tasered

Police in Miami-Dade used a taser (stun gun) on a 6-year-old boy who was wielding a piece of glass in a school office and threatening to hurt himself. After checking with a supervisor and finding out there was no policy prohibiting use of a stun gun on a child, an officer used the device, which delivers 50,000 volts of electricity. Police insist the action was appropriate and prevented the boy from injuring himself, but others in the community are calling for the department to tighten its policies regarding the use of tasers.

Living in Sin

Newly elected Republican Senator Jim DeMint from North Carolina says the government should not endorse homosexuality, and that if someone is “openly gay, I do not think that they should be teaching at public schools.” DeMint expanded this theme in an interview with the Aiken Standard: “I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend, should be hired to teach my third-grade children. I just think the moral decisions are different with a teacher.”

Location, Location . . . Test Scores

In praising the efforts of test-prep companies, Sheldon Smith, president of Test Watch in Glencoe, Ill., brought up an overlooked benefit: “It is also beneficial to the school because it increases real estate values in your community. Real estate agents tout those scores and prospective buyers want to know them.”

Recess Is Not a Crime

Elementary-school recess has been outlawed in Tacoma, Wash., since 1997. “If we want students learning to high standards, we need them in the classroom, not the playground,” said Karyn Clarke, a district assistant superintendent. James Harvey, responding in the Seattle Times, writes, “There’s no evidence that getting rid of recess increases learning. On the contrary, there’s a lot of research suggesting that regular exercise provides important social, physical, and emotional benefits. Kids, particularly, need time to blow off steam. It’s in unstructured play, free of the demands and weird views of adults, that children learn how to deal with each other.” Pressured by complaints from the public, Superintendent James Schoemake has given teachers and principals the right to dispense breaks when “necessary.”

Business Environment

The Texas Board of Education has rejected an environmental textbook for failing to adequately present the oil and gas industry’s position on environmental issues and for not reflecting “the conservative values of most Texans,” according to the National Coalition Against Censorship Newsletter. A federal district court in Dallas dismissed a lawsuit against the state by Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, who argued the textbook was rejected for “illegitimate, unconstitutional reasons.” School boards may reject textbooks if they disagree with the author’s viewpoint, held the court, if the board’s decision is “reasonably related to legitimate pedagogical concerns.”

Wal-Mart Heiress Outsources

An heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune had her name removed from a Missouri sports arena recently after accusations surfaced that she paid a roommate $20,000 to do virtually all her academic work at the University of Southern California. Paige Laurie is the granddaughter of Bud Walton, the brother and business partner of Sam Walton, who founded Wal-Mart. Laurie’s parents stripped their daughter’s name from the University of Missouri sports arena after Elena Martinez, a former roommate, went public with details of how Laurie paid her to write papers, prepare oral reports, and exchange emails with her professors.

Duck and Cover

On Nov. 5, an Air National Guard F-16 fighter jet accidentally fired 25 rounds of 20mm ammunition into the roof and parking lot of a New Jersey school. Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School is situated three miles from the Warren Grove firing range, where pilots get training in bombing and strafing techniques. Luckily, only one custodian was at the school when the shots hit at 11 p.m., and he was unscathed.