Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Guilty til Proven Innocent and Other Prejudices

My latest letter to the editor of the notoriously small-town right-wing rag, the Orange County Register, which has actually done admirable reporting on the local story of the Tesoro High School students:

Dear Editor:

As usual, the ignorance and illiteracy of readers of the Orange County Register speak for themselves. The most troubling aspect of the publicity of the story of the two Tesoro High School boys who are suspended for writing journals is the lack of understanding of the facts. Three letters from November 14 illustrate that rumors and gossip will always trump reality:

Dianne Weie, Ladera Ranch, writes, “My understanding is that these boys wrote journal entries for a class assignment that were so blatantly violent and obscene that their teacher now fears for her own safety.”

No one knows what was written other than the teacher and several administrators, as the contents have been sealed by the school district. If anything should be taught, it is that in these United States a suspect is innocent until proven guilty, not tried in the press.

Weie also writes, “…their teacher now fears for her own safety.”

Weie, and anyone else, doesn’t know that. All that has been reported is that the teacher is too upset to attend school or hearings regarding the students. This could be because she is embarrassed by her abrupt actions in turning in the journals to the principal, especially after she may have told the class they were to be kept private and she or anyone else would never read them.

Julie Grable, Lake Forest, writes “Shame on them [the boys' parents] for not supporting the school and not taking this time to teach the boys about the consequences of their actions.”

How are children supposed to learn from their mistakes with zero tolerance and expulsion immediately upon suspicion?

Gail Hetland, Rancho Santa Margarita writes, “What place does writing a personal journal have in the school curriculum, anyway?”

Any writing on a regular basis makes the writer improve, but hey, I’m no expert on this—is Gail?

The competent reporting on this case by the Orange County Register is not done justice by reading between the lines and making stuff up. But I forgot that in CAPOUSD [Capistrano Unified School District] the overwhelming constituency still believes Bush and company didn’t lie to get us into the Iraq War—people here make up stuff all the time to suit their pre-conceived notions.

David Goldenberg

I'll let you know if it's published...

Update 11/21/05:

The above letter didn't get published in the Orange County Register. Surprise!!

However, The following one did on 11/19:

While I wholeheartedly agree with David M. Agrela's overall opinion in "Private writings, public punishment" [Orange Grove, Nov. 10]about the sad case of the two Tesoro High School football players, Scott McKnight and Sam Smith, I must point out the glaring omission in the discussion: The journal writings of the two boys that got them in trouble have not been released to the public. In fact, outside of some school administrators, no one but the students, their teacher and the principal has seen the actual wording of the journals

Without first-hand knowledge of what was written, discussion of this case has to be based on hearsay and innuendo, which further exemplifies the "insanity" of overreaction by the school district and the teachers' union.

The methodology of the school board and the continued ruination of these two boys' high school careers are no doubt a sign of the times and the so-called policy of zero tolerance toward perceived life threats. I have zero tolerance for trumped-up judgment based on rumor-mongering and hysterical fear, which in the absence of the actual verbiage of the journals, remains just that - rumors.--Orange County Register Letters, 11/19/05


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