My Money Isn't School Property, Either

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The fact that many conservatives do not see the various rights they defend as related to one another (in contrast to Ayn Rand) is painfully obvious in the brouhaha subsequent to a Virginia school suspending several students for playing with toy guns on (gasp!) private property.

An editorialist for the National Review complains that schools are not parents. Lenore Skenazy also doesn't think the kids should have been suspended -- despite the fact that the kids were apparently firing pellets in the direction of a bus stop and leaving marks on some students in the process. (The NRO writer notes that this incident was also one of many disciplinary problems for these students.) Both of these commentators complain of the school's "overreach", which is understandable coming from someone who is looking at the school as a government entity. Shouldn't government entities have limited jurisdictions?

There may also be a real issue with the punishment being excessive, in today's context of anti-gun hysteria made worse by the bureaucratic impulse to cover one's backside. Let's set this aside for the sake of argument. Let's assume the worst: that the school is dealing with students who constantly misbehaved and who injured others as they waited to be taken to school. It might be useful to  consider how a private school might handle such a situation. Or, better, it might be useful to consider what any business might do regarding a disruptive customer whom its proprietor learns has harassed some of its better customers. Yes. The businessman could refuse further service. That wouldn't violate anyone's property rights. It wouldn't smack of the school treating the student like "property". It might or might not be overzealous, but it would be the action of a private individual. It would be anything but government reaching beyond its proper scope. The parents of the expelled student could look elsewhere for schooling.

It is hardly difficult to see -- outside the context of government schools -- that the school may have acted appropriately, or might need to act similarly under pretty similar circumstances. That said, while conservatives are right to raise an alarm over government overreach, they are missing a chance to note that the inappropriate involvement of the government in education (By what right does the government loot my wallet to pay for this?) is having the very undesirable side-effect of weakening the lattitude of school officials to decide who belongs in school and who doesn't.

I have only one question for anyone complaining of "overreach" only now: Why is it okay to take my money to educate someone else's children, but not for the school to remove a few bad apples?

-- CAV

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