Saturday, May 5, 2012

Legal Edumucation

It looks like the South Shore Regional School Board finally got themselves some.

This story has received so much play over the past week that I seriously considered not wasting my life time with it, but ... really, I couldn't resist.

Not when I've waxed poetic (or not) so many times before on exactly this sort of thing. (Ah, the good old days ... the fun we would have had with this at Lex's. But I digress.)

"Whazzup now?", you ask.

Let me see ... how to explain this?

Oh, I don't know. What say we just cut right to the stupidity?
The dispute arose after Grade 12 student William Swinimer was suspended from his school in Chester Basin for continuing to wear a shirt with the slogan, ``Life is wasted without Jesus.''

He says on his Facebook site that he did it to stand up for the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

Pynch-Worthylake says Swinimer and his pastor have agreed to take part in the debate that will look at how to ensure students' rights are not violated, while protecting other students from criticism.

She says it's not clear what the school will do if Swinimer wears the shirt when he returns to classes Monday.

Pynch-Worthylake said the school tried working out a solution with Swinimer before suspending him.

However, the 19-year-old says the school’s disciplinary action infringes on his right to freedom of religious expression.
“I do a lot of witnessing in school,” he said. “People talk to me and they ask me about my religion and I tell them.”

That has got him sent to the principal’s office in the past, Swinimer said.

“They say that it’s hate speech and that it hurts people’s feelings, but I don’t hate anybody.”
However, Pynch-Worthylake said the t-shirt's wording offends some people at the school because it tells them their beliefs are wrong.
“So let's recap, shall we?

A 19-year-old teen likes to take wear his favourite blankie T-shirt to school. Which just happens to read "Life is Wasted Without Jesus".  Apparently this T shirt makes at least some of the staff and students very, very unhappy. So unhappy that he is repeatedly asked not to wear said shirt. And when he doesn't heed these requests, he is given in-school suspensions. Repeated in-school suspensions.  Until this last 5-day out-of-school suspension given last week.

At which time he is warned, in no uncertain terms, that if he wears the T-shirt to school again, he will could be suspended for the rest of the year. The kid is in Grade 12. Hence, a suspension for the rest of the year means he would fail to graduate this year.

Want to hear the school board's reasoning in this regard?
If it said My Life is Wasted Without Jesus, that would be fine” because it expresses a personal belief, she said.

But the T-shirt he wore went further by telling non-Christians their lives are wasted, she said.

The school has asked Swinimer to replace it with a shirt that communicates his Christian faith without violating others’ beliefs, but he has refused, Pynch-Worthylake said.
Uh huh.

So it's okay to wear a shirt that says "My Life is Wasted Without Jesus"  but because the kid's shirt dares to state that "Life is Wasted Without Jesus", that might make someone else feel bad. And that's not just a problem.

Nope. It's A. Problem.

This whole thing is ridiculous in my mind but what really got me going on the subject was a news story last week stating that the Board intended to consult with a "human rights expert" on this issue.  I can only assume that they found someone with half a clue about human rights law, which is the reason they now say the kid can wear the T-shirt to school.

Really? Without a rest-of-the-year suspension?

Sure. With a little bit of back-tracking, of course.
“For us, it never really was about the one shirt,” Pynch-Worthylake said Friday.
Right. Gotchya.

Now, I realize that this kid might well have some other issues (around proselytizing witnessing to his peers). And I can fully understand how that might cause some problems at the school. But I think the Board was pretty clear in just about every news story - they wanted the shirt gone, it was wearing the shirt that got him suspended and would result in a further, harsher suspension.

So tell me, about that human rights edumucation. Just what will it take to get this simple concept through people's heads?

Listen carefully, class, I do not want to have to say this again.

And, yes, there will be an exam.
  1. Although there is a right not to discriminated against (on certain enumerated grounds), there is no right not to offended.
  2. And, as I've said before "... rude and insensitive remarks do not constitute discrimination. They are simply rude and insensitive remarks. Period. Full stop."
I know, I know. My snarkinesss is showing, Just a wee bit. My apologies but it's been a bit of a long life.

But seriously, people, should you doubt what we face .... yes, I do realize it's the "media", but please, I do expect somewhat better in Canada. The CTV Atlantic News ran a poll* the other day asking what people thought about this issue. 

The three choices looked something like this.
  • It's okay. Everyone has the right to wear whatever they want to school. It's free speech.
  • Religious messages are okay in school as long as they don't discriminate against another religion.
  • No religious messages at all should be allowed at school.
Anybody see a problem with these choices?

The closest one that worked for me, personally, was No. 2. But that implied stated that a religious message could "discriminate" against another religion. And, frankly, I can't see how that could work. At any rate, it certainly didn't apply in this case.

Oh well, it's nice to see that at least some people in our Province are imbued with the least common sense of all. Which, by the way, would include a national atheists’ organization, the Atlantic Jewish Council, the Islamic Association of Nova Scotia and a provincial opposition leader.


* For anyone truly worried about the state of "free speech" in Nova Scotia, you should be happy to know that close to 75% of the respondents to that CTV poll picked either No. 1 or 2, above. And the majority picked No. 1.

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