It’s time to push back

I don’t think there is anyone who has paid any attention to current events for the last few decades, and who has studies history, who doubts that our individual rights have been slowly eroding away. No, i’m not going to talk about what the NSA is or isn’t doing. There’s been more than enough written about that. Besides, on one level, I can almost, sort of understand the mindset of the folks who put those rules in place. But it is the idiotic erosion of rights that really bothers me.

The first doesn’t actually fall into an erosion of “rights” but most definitely is idiotic and falls close to the “rights” side of the column. Fort Worth has had in place for some time a policy where city employees (or contractors) drive through neighborhoods, checking what you put in your recycle bins. The basic justification for this is two-fold. First, it’s trash so you no longer have any expectation of privacy in it. That means they can look through it without getting your permission. The second justification the city gives for this action is that it needs to stop people from putting the wrong items into their recycle bins.

Now, on its surface, this doesn’t seem too bad. It’s not a job I’d want. However, Fort Worth isn’t satisfied with that approach. After scaring people with the threat of having their recycle bins searched — and potentially being fined if they violate the rules too often — the city is going one step further. Now they are going to start searching your trash to see if you AREN’T recycling items. The plan is if they find items in your trash you haven’t recycled and should have, they are going to call you and talk with you about why you aren’t recycling.

I have a couple of issues with this. The first is that recycling isn’t mandatory. Or at least I don’t believe it is. The second is that the city has already used intimidation tactics to force people to be more careful with what they recycle. I’ll lay odds it has caused at least some folks to stop or limit what they are tossing into the recycle bin. But the real issue I have is a monetary one. Fort Worth, like so many other cities, has ongoing financial problems. There are things in the city that need to be fixed or renovated but the money isn’t there. So why is it so important that they spend additional monies on becoming the trash police instead of using that money to repair roads or improve library buildings? Then there are the issues of will the city employees be calling the cops if they find something they think might be illegal and, if they do, how will the cops prove up chain of evidence, etc.? There are so many potential issues with this new policy. But it all comes down to this: does the city have a right to tell its citizens what they can or can’t throw into the trash or that they have to recycle certain items?

That’s a pretty mild case, true, but it is indicative of the nanny state that we are finding ourselves in more and more. Worse is what one school — and a number of employers — did.

A school in Minnesota initially gave a student detention after she posted a message on her Facebook page the administration thought was threatening. Basically, the student, Riley Stratton, posted that she didn’t like a teacher’s aide because she was “mean”. The post was not made from a school computer. At the time, Riley was in the sixth grade.

But it doesn’t stop there. After she was given detention, she was called into the principal’s office because someone — allegedly a parent. Whose, I’m not sure except it wasn’t Riley’s — had alleged Riley and a boy were using Facebook private messaging and email to discuss — gasp — sex. The administration demanded Riley turn over her Facebook password and let them look at her posts and emails. If she didn’t, she would receive more punishment. Oh, and just to make sure she was thoroughly intimidated, a sheriff’s deputy was there to look at her postings as well.

In tears, scared and not wanting to get into any more trouble, Riley agreed and gave them her password. There was never a signed permission slip obtained from her parents to search her phone. Of course,“It was believed the parent had given permission to look at her cellphone,” according to Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt. Funny how that is now a district policy. I guess hindsight really is 20-20.

Needless to say, Riley’s parents were as furious about what happened as their daughter was upset. Even though Riley was brought into the principal’s office based on a complaint by a third party and not for something that was currently happening, her parents weren’t advised nor invited to be there when their daughter was, in their words, interrogated. I’d be upset too if I found out my child had been brought in to answer questions with a law enforcement officer present and no advocate there to look after her rights and best interests. And I would have done just what they did. I’d have found an attorney to take the district to court.

You see, as Riley’s ACLU attorney noted, Riley was doing only what kids have done for decades and longer. She was complaining about teachers and those who work at the school. She didn’t threaten anyone. There is no way what she said should have fallen under a Zero Tolerance rule. She was expressing her personal feelings that the aide in question was mean and didn’t like her. She wasn’t using school computers or internet to post the comment. She was at home.

There has to come a point when we finally say “enough is enough”? Our kids can’t protect themselves from bullies without fearing they will be punished for standing up for themselves or someone else. They are punished for wrong speak and wrong think. Schools have taken to policing them even when they are off-campus and not involved with school activities. Now schools, like employers, have started demanding access to private social media accounts. At least in this case, Riley and her parents found an attorney willing to take the district to court and they did “win” a settlement and the district has amended its policies.

I’ve had enough of Big Brother telling me what I should eat and drink, think and say. I know a lot of others have as well. It’s time we stand up and let our voices be heard for a change. If not for ourselves then for our children and grandchildren. Otherwise, they will truly find themselves living in an Orwellian future none of us want to imagine.



    1. No, Big Brother only thinks he knows best. I think it’s time we let him know he’s wrong — possibly with a frying pan up side his head [vbeg]

  1. I have told my daughter that she is to refuse all requests to search her or her stuff. She is to repeatedly ask for me. And if they attempt to search her anyway, she is to scream “bad touch” and that she wants her daddy, as loudly as possible.

    Hurt my little girl and a nice big lawsuit settlement is what you hope for because, trust me, other possibilities are worse.

    1. David, I agree wholeheartedly. I told my son the same thing when he was in school and even when he went to college. The school is not the parent and not the guardian of my child. The school is there to educate and, if it isn’t doing it’s job, my child will go somewhere else. At least that’s the way I looked at it when he was still in school and it is what I tell folks now.

  2. I am shaking my head– this was the sort of thing we heard happening in the Soviet Union was I was a child and teenager. It wouldn’t happen here– Plus the police representative should have known that questioning a child without a guardian is illegal.

    1. Cyn, I know. The issue with the cop being there is one that is happening more and more because of the constant presence of “resource officers” on public school campuses. They are all too often pulled into these sorts of meeting and find their duties as law enforcement officers in conflict with their role as the school security officer. The only reason we probably haven’t heard more about it is because most juvenile proceedings are sealed and closed to media coverage.

  3. The thing about recycling, which I rarely find discussed, is that you have to do it because in the eyes of the eco-righteous, your time is worthless.They don’t care how long it takes you to go through your trash (and even more, spend time puzzling over what category something that is half one thing and a quarter another goes in: strictly speaking you should peel the labels off tine canes because paper is not tin)

    One thing you learn about these people is that you are nothing more than a small person and a relatively worthless individual. Your time has to be spent how they think best and you sorting through the trash is a great way to keep you occupied. They feel so much better for it.

    1. I know. They are the kissin’ cousins of the GHHers, who want you to either drink the koolaid with them or go off and die like all the other dinosaurs.

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