March 14, 2007

Rule #1 from the MLK Version of Civ Pro: Defy the Injunction, Go to Jail

by PG

I took civil procedure from Prof. Jack Greenberg, who was on the Brown v. Board case and worked for the NAACP from 1949 to 1984. This meant that class frequently included an anecdote about how a civil procedure topic related to the civil rights movement. One that I particularly remember is the day we discussed injunctions and Prof. Greenberg told us about Dr. King's attempt to march on Good Friday 1963, getting slapped with a constitutionally-questionable injunction against his doing so, defying the injunction and getting jailed (during which time he wrote Letter from Birmingham Jail). The takeaway lesson seemed to be that even if an injunction itself ought not have been issued, if you violate it, you're still going to get punished. Unfortunately, this concept doesn't seem to have penetrated the minds of middle and high school students who deliberately go against rules with which they disagree. First there were the gifties, now there are the vagina warriors:

"We want to make it clear that we didn't do this to be defiant of the school administration," said Megan Reback, one of the three girls, who all received one-day suspensions for using the word during a reading of "The Vagina Monologues" at the forum last Friday. "We did it because we believe in the word vagina, and because we believe itís not a bad word. It shouldn't be a word that is ever censored, and the way in which we used it was respectable."

School administrators said that the girls, all 16, were suspended not for using the word but rather for insubordination. The principal, Rich Leprine, said on Tuesday that the girls were told not to use the word because young children could be in the audience, but that they used it anyway after agreeing not to. "When a student is told by faculty members not to present specified material because of the composition of the audience and they agree to do so, it is expected that the commitment will be honored and the directive will be followed," Mr. Leprine said in a written statement. "When a student chooses not to follow that directive, consequences follow."

The girls say they never made such an agreement.

The notion that children shouldn't hear the word "vagina" is as silly as banning a children's book because it has the word "scrotum," and requiring the Vagina Monologues to be recited without the word "vagina" is equally absurd. Nonetheless, if the young women in question were so determined to deliver their monologue with integrity, they should have either convinced the administrators to let them do it, or refused to participate if they could not. One can simultaneously think that the school administrators were wrong for making the rule, and that the students were wrong in disobeying it; the suspension was justified, but the school should change the rule going forward. I admire people who defy authority in order to do what they believe is right, but the admiration is severely dimmed if they then whine about getting punished -- you're not a heroine unless there was a real risk involved.

March 14, 2007 07:03 PM | TrackBack
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