Fight Crime Plate Has Some Parents Fuming
Saw this else where and thought it was intersting.. I thought it was good of the school not to do anything in the begining but now there gonna force the lady to cover her plate...
Hope she sue's As in the article it says she has a good chance of winning if it goes to court
'Fight crime' plate on car at school has some parents fuming
By CHRISTINE PHELAN, Sun Staff
LOWELL -- An employee's car parked at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School lot has sparked fury among some parents ushering their children inside the school each morning.
The car -- a red, late-model Ford Mustang with a novelty plate on its front end reading "Fight crime, shoot first" -- irritated one parent so much that she complained to her son's pre-kindergarten teacher. The parent, who asked to remain anonymous, also took the issue up with school Principal Sandra Dunning earlier this week, as well as Superintendent of Schools Karla Brooks Baehr.
"Being a member of the staff, well, you have to be an example to the kids," the mother insisted. "You don't just do whatever."
"I can listen to parents and listen to their concerns," Dunning said. "But we do live in America. That's part of our democracy, free speech."
The parent, however, says the school's responsibility to provide positive role models to children supersedes the right to free speech, and that the offending license plate is a breech of the public trust placed in school employees.
"I don't think it's just a question of freedom of speech," the mother said, noting that while her son is still learning to read, the school's older students have full reading ability. "You don't leave it for the kids to see every day."
The First Amendment of the Constitution, which protects freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition and was added in 1791, stipulates that Congress shall not "(abridge) the freedom of speech."
According to Taylor Flynn, a Northeastern University professor and expert in Constitutional law, the school employee with the plate might actually find favor if the case found its way into court, particularly because, in her view, the evidence that students' education is being disrupted by the plate is on the lean side.
"However, I think there is a fairly strong possibility that a court would find that the staff person's First Amendment rights are being violated if the employee feels (directly or indirectly) coerced into covering the plate or is doing so over her objection."
Principal Dunning, who admitted she was "a little surprised" by the plate, initially echoed Flynn's concerns, saying that such a message might be considered inappropriate if it entered the building. But outside? Dunning said that's a different matter entirely.
"If anything disrupts the educational process, we do have the right to ask staff and teachers to maintain a code of conduct," she said. "What is parked in a lot or on a street is a different matter, however. Whatever happens in the buildingwe have control over."
"I think it's inappropriate," she said. "I think we all take responsibility to model appropriate language and behavior. Yes, they see all sorts of things on TV, in ads, that lots of people would find inappropriate as a model for a 5- or 6-year-old. But having (the license plate) there in the lot suggests we condone it."
The solution? Dunning and Baehr plan to mandate that the staff member somehow cover the plate upon arrival each morning, possibly with magnets and a cloth. The plate will be covered by the first day of school after February break, Feb. 28, Behr said.
"I expect cooperation on the part of the staff members to cover it up or obscure it in some way," Baehr said.
And when the staff member is not on school property -- and by that, Baehr means either in the building or in the parking lot -- "she's free to do as she pleases."
The parent who initially complained said she was happy with that solution, though put off that "going public" with the story was the route to compromise.
"I'm aggravated because they only did something when I said I was going to talk to The Sun," the mother said. "I feel that I had to go outside the school to solve a little problem, because this could have been solved within the school."
Christine Phelan's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .