Scott Tibbs
blog post
May 9th, 2005

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This should not have been a big deal.

A government school in Georgia outraged people around the country for suspending a student after he refused to end a cell phone call from his mother. She is on duty in Iraq. (Here are stories from and CNN.)

This went a lot farther than it should have. First, the teacher should have let him talk as long as he wanted. Given that this kid's mother is literally in a war zone, it could be the last time he ever talked to her. However, the kid apparently cursed at the teacher and was generally disruptive, so some punishment was warranted. Even under these circumstances, his behavior was highly inappropriate.

My concern with this story is that people got whipped up into a blind patriotic fervor without really examining both sides of the issue. Supporting the troops is very important, but jingoism is not. Had the kid been reasonable and respectful, I highly doubt this incident ever would have degenerated to the circus it has become.

The school's policy of allowing students to carry cell phones while forbidding use of those phones is stupid. If you do not want the kids using their cell phones for fear it could disrupt the educational process, ban the phones from campus. If a student needs to be reached in an emergency, they can always take a phone call in the principal's office. Somehow, this worked for decades.

The government schools get a lot of well-deserved criticism. I don't think this particular incident merits the outrage it has caused. My advice: lay off the school.