Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Can we get an apology here?

Today's NY TImes contains an update on Matthew LaClair. For those who don't know who he is, he's (at the time of this writing) a high school student who earlier this year caused a surprising amount of controversy by, well, conclusively demonstrating that his world history teacher was behaving entirely inappropriately for a public high school teacher. Matthew's tape recordings involve such things as the teacher -- remember, he's a history teacher -- telling students during class that if they don't believe that Jesus died for their sins that they deserve to go to Hell, that there were dinosaurs on Noah's ark, evolution has no scientific basis, etc. There's been a strong backlash against him in his community; several have said that he was provoking these points, that he's just seeking attention, that it was wrong to tape these lectures without approval, even that these statements were no big deal.

So far, the school's response which has been publicly known has been...to ban taping classes without instructor approval. We must take their word for it that there was some sort of discussion with the teacher to prevent him from doing this again, as it falls under the umbrella of "personnel matter".

Well, today's update is that his family has filed a torts claim notice, which is the first step to filing a lawsuit in New Jersey. The family says they're seeking a public apology and a correction of some of the statements made in class.

This strikes me as a strange thing to sue over. I do feel the school's actions are inappropriate. And though without knowing the situation in detail, I have a hard time coming up with any context in which these statements could be reasonably made in a public school history class. If this behavior was still going on, and he was suing to stop it, I'd find that laudable. But suing for an apology still strikes me as a bit wrong. Our courts are overbooked as it is dealing with matters of people breaking the law. Dealing with people's feelings being hurt in ways that aren't slander or libel strikes me as too much to add.

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