Liberty High bans taped-mouth protest

When is a silent protest too “distracting” for school? asks Greg at Rhymes With Right.

At the ironically named Liberty High in Virginia, administrators told students they couldn’t tape their mouths shut to protest abortion because it was a distraction.

In Tinker v. Des Moines, the U.S. Supreme Court said students had a First Amendment right to wear black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. Greg asks:

Now tell me, how does tape over the mouth in any way rise to the standard set in this case — “substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others” — in light of the fact that the tape would be in no way more disruptive than the black armbands in Tinker?

This seems like a fairly clear violation of Tinker. It’s not uncommon for student protesters to tape their mouths. On the annual Day of Silence to protest harassment of gays, students often duct-tape their mouths.

Bullying worries

Bullying and harassment are a serious problem in local schools, say 74 percent of respondents to a Public Agenda survey. However, illegal drugs and lack of respect for teachers raised even more concerns.

Parents were slightly less worried about bullying, drugs and respect.

Physical fighting and cheating in schools are lesser concerns for both the total public (59 percent and 55 percent, respectively) and parents (55 percent for fighting, 48 percent for cheating).

More than a third of Americans say they were bullied in school, but only 8 percent say they were bullied “a lot.”

The 'mean girl' myth

Despite the South Hadley High bullying case, there is no epidemic of “mean girls” attacking other girls, write Mike Males and Meda-Chesney Lind in a New York Times op-ed.

We have examined every major index of crime on which the authorities rely. None show a recent increase in girls’ violence; in fact, every reliable measure shows that violence by girls has been plummeting for years. Major offenses like murder and robbery by girls are at their lowest levels in four decades. Fights, weapons possession, assaults and violent injuries by and toward girls have been plunging for at least a decade.

If one group is more prone to violence, it’s middle-aged men and women, they write, but you don’t hear about “mean middle-agers.”

Of course, Males and Lind are looking at criminal acts, which are easier to track than the typical girl-on-girl harassment, which is mean but not criminal.

Bullies charged after classmate's suicide

Nine Massachusetts teenagers face charges for bullying a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide. Two boys are accused of  statutory rape; a group of Mean Girls are charged with  stalking, criminal harassment and violating the victim’s civil rights.

Insults and threats followed 15-year-old Phoebe Prince almost from her first day at South Hadley High School, targeting the Irish immigrant in the halls, library and in vicious cell phone text messages.

Phoebe, ostracized for having a brief relationship with a popular boy, reached her breaking point and hanged herself after one particularly hellish day in January — a day that, according to officials, included being hounded with slurs and pelted with a beverage container as she walked home from school.

Phoebe’s mother had complained to school officials about the bullying to no avail.

In Massachusetts, public anger was turning from the Mean Girls  — so mean they left vicious comments on Phoebe’s Facebook memorial page — to the teachers who repeatedly failed to protect Phoebe, but were not charged criminally.

District Attorney Elizabeth Scheibel said Phoebe’s persecution was “common knowledge” at the school, and even witnessed by teachers, who said nothing.

South Hadley parents have formed an anti-bullying group. Massachusetts is considering an anti-bullying law.