Wednesday, 15 April 2015 12:50
ACLU's Formal complaint about North Louisiana school core identities is upside-down
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acluYou may be forgiven for wondering whether the world has turned upside down upon learning in north Louisiana schools it seems more important that girls wear tuxedos at proms than supporting school leaders who give witness to values that build character and respect the dignity of all people.

 In Monroe, controversy ensued when several Carroll High School girls were told they couldn’t attend prom in that traditionally male attire. Jurisprudence is that schools have wide latitude in placing restrictions on free expression, in that these are reasonable if connected to the educational mission of the school. Certainly disruption of something such as a sponsored school event qualifies, given the hostility that could ensue from attendees interpreting this attire as a symbol of behavior they see offensive that they are forced to condone, and that many school teachers that would chaperone the event reputedly said they would not do so if that were allowed to happen. This got up the dander of at least one pro-homosexual interest group that called the refusal “harmful” and would “censor” the aggrieved girls’ “core identity.”

But children are children and even at that age many engage in more than enough buffoonery, including cross-dressing at formal functions in order, if nothing else, to assert their independence and to inject a little levity onto that experience in their lives, which within a relatively short time will seem to all but a handful insignificant. That the district has allowed this at other times, without riots breaking out even if previous tuxedoed lasses may have desired to signal that they prefer to behave homosexually, undercut any argument that the event would end badly. The Monroe City School District properly will allow girls to appear dressed as penguins at the soiree.

By contrast, another interest group, the Louisiana state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, didn’t seem concerned about the “core identity” of students’ and their families relative to its efforts to “censor” messages from the principal of Shreveport’s Walnut Hill Elementary/Middle School, regardless of whether trying to excise out the philosophy behind those messages would prove “harmful” to their development as human beings. Last month, it posted a fussy note to the Caddo Parish School District that alleged constitutional violations about such communications, which included as examples a newsletter to parents asking for prayer for success for their children on standardized exams, making in this other references to a Christian God and prayer, and pointing out a web page on the school site extolling the virtues of participation in a student-run prayer group and endorsing its message.

The scolds at the ACLU claimed all of this constituted “coercion” towards accepting religious belief. The CPSD said it would investigate to see whether there were violations of the U.S. Supreme Court-defined standards as to what constitutes impermissible transmission of religious belief in public schooling and, if so, to instruct that these do not occur in the future. The school community through social media and at an event held at a nearby church expressed overwhelming approval of the principal’s messages, which stressed that accepting Christian principles led to ordered lives and proper respect of others that facilitated success not just in school but also in life.

Of course, the ACLU proved over-sensitive in its hyperventilating paroxysm about the communications. Sending a request to parents to pray for students contains no religious content in instruction, and testifying about Christian faith to them might seem gratifying to some while boorish to others, but it still has nothing to do with instruction. In a school public forum lauding the student prayer group, if informational, violates no jurisprudential stricture, although the lengthy explanation of why it’s to be considered beneficial might be the only thing of questionable constitutionality.

But all of this is considered egregiously wrong by the ACLU, for the reason that this modern-day Torquemada never has been interested in a truly neutral application of religious belief in the public square. In fact, it and its fellow travelers wish to supplant that with irreligion, masked by way of a purported desire that no favoritism be granted to religion instead covering its unpublicized lust that religion be supplanted by a secularism that disparages religious belief and ideas from it that have shaped American culture; thus, the overreaction.

So we are left with public schools taking heat for not letting girls dress in traditionally male attire in a way that provokes and in trying to promote good behavior and character by testifying to adults about religious belief that encourages those traits. It makes one wonder whether public schools didn’t do a better job in educating both in the formal sense of knowledge acquisition and informally in molding moral and ethical adults back when in their halls of learning there was less student self-expression and more religious expression.

Jeffrey Sadow

Jeffrey Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.   He writes a daily conservative blog called Between The Lines

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