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Local Control Delirium: Senator Must “Think About” Whether Schools Can Expel Gays

So I got a chance to speak with State Senator and Lawrence County Commissioner Bob Ewing at this morning's District 31 crackerbarrel at BHSU here in Spearfish this morning. He says he likes House Bill 1087, the school gunslinger bill. He says our schools are safe, we have great teachers, but some remote school districts really feel a need for the protection of lethal weapons in their school buildings. He thus wants to make every tool available to those few schools who feel a need for more security. As long it's done with total local control, says Senator Ewing, he's o.k. with it.

I posed Senator Ewing this philosophical question: Suppose a school district was asking for the authority to expel all openly gay students. Suppose that school district contended that unique local conditions, like strong religious views, meant that the presence of openly gay students in their school buildings caused serious classroom disruption. For the sake of maintaining a safe educational atmosphere for the most students possible, the school district decided that it needed to expel any student known to be homosexual. Would the Senator be o.k. with giving school districts total local control over expelling homosexual students.

After a long pause and a few tentative phrases, Senator Ewing said he'd "have to think about it."

Have to think about it.

That's what we teachers do: ask questions to get students thinking. But Senator Ewing, some answers don't require much thinking. The answer to my question is simple, found (among other places) in the South Dakota Constitution, Article 8, Section 1:

The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all; and to adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.

Equally open to all. I don't see except in towns that hate fags there, Senator Ewing.

Local control be darned: expelling gay kids for being gay is not a "suitable means" for securing education for all. Neither is putting more firearms in our schools.


  1. grudznick 2013.01.26

    Local control means locally controlling those things that are legal and constitutional not your grass-man argument about your town deciding to go and do something unconstitutional.

    Your town can't decide to just do something unconstitutional. They could decide to do something that's constitutional and legal if this law passes.

    That's local control. When a fat old man can out debate your 7th grade grass man arguments you gotta think you're spending too much time with Mr. Sibby. I'm just sayin...

  2. grudznick 2013.01.26

    Mississippi's Sovereignty Commission has as good a chance of working as Mr. Howie has of being Governor. Damn you Mr. Howie for overgodding on us 2 years ago.

  3. mike 2013.01.26

    I don't support gay marriage but I think this falls under discrimination.

  4. Dana P. 2013.01.26

    what the?? just when I think "I've heard it all"...... Mr Ewing, you gotta be kidding me......

  5. shelly 2013.01.26

    was at the sioux falls legislative coffee and the talking points were identical. 'still local control, some west river towns are far from law enforcement, no school HAS to do it, blah blah blah.' very well orchestrated. it's almost as if . . . as if they were TOLD what to say . . . hmmm.

  6. Karl Kroger 2013.01.26

    I followed up on the same point in Pierre with (I'll let you guess who) - - I asked about exceptions to the local control argument, like slavery and segregation. My legislator granted the idea of exceptions, but not to those issues--believing that they would have eventually and more effectively sorted themselves out. Wow.

  7. Steve Hickey 2013.01.27

    Again Cory, when the smoke clears on the gun issue I'll be looking forward to you posting an extensive listing of the various issues which are too important for local schools to decide. Is curriculum one of them? If a district wanted to cease teaching the theory of evolution will you champions of local control be okay with it?

    Of course,,, a local school district should not be allowed to exclude anyone. Yet certain Christian t-shirts are forbidden by some schools ruled by the intolerant. I'm simply trying to keep up with the evolving rules of the game liberals play. Correct me if I have this incorrect... okay to be gay, act gay, have gay groups, teach gay tolerance to kindergartners, etc, etc-- not okay to sport a Christian t-shirt, a pro-life t-shirt, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc. A guidance counselor in the middle school my wife taught in here for many years once told her; "not every bully in this school is a kid."

  8. Karl Kroger 2013.01.27

    The reality is we all (liberal and conservatives) want to regulate (ban/allow) that which is most important to us. And if we can't be certain everyone will adopt, or at least allow for our values at a local level, then we seek to pass laws at the state level. And if we're not pleased with our state's or other states' governments, then we want federal legislation.

    I think most people are fine with Christian t-shirts. Though there are some shirt that are simply not in good taste--be they liberal or conservative Christian t-shirts.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.27

    Grudz, it's broader than that. It's not just about the constitution; it's about effective education policy and rational cost-benefit analysis. No provision in the constitution bars untrained individuals from carrying guns, but the training amendment to HB 1087 forbids that. The Legislature is perfectly comfortable imposing mandates (unfunded ones at that!) for no constitutional reason whatsoever.

    Some local actions are simply wrong. Legislators are using local control as a way to dodge their responsibility to dodge allowing schools to do obviously bad things just for the sake of fear and ideology.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.27

    Steve, I've never banned a Christian shirt. I've never been in a school that issued such a ban.

    Pierre mandates K-12 curriculum standards and tests for every school district. Pierre mandates teacher certification standards. Pierre will soon mandate the Danielson framework for all teacher evaluations. Pierre mandates data collection and reporting requirements. Pierre mandates fire drills and removal of fire hazards. Pierre limits where a district can operate its buses.

    Please, GOP reps, stop pretending to be champions of local control. Think about the inconsistency of what you are saying to defend this one dangerous, fear-based bill with the standard legislative oversight of education and with our commitment to basic universal human rights.

  11. Rorschach 2013.01.27

    This whole discussion is ridiculous. The people pushing this idea must walk around in constant fear of being hit by an asteroid.

    A kid is less likely to die in a school shooting than to die in an airplane crash.

    A kid is less likely to die in a school shooting than to die from abuse at home.

    A kid is less likely to die in a school shooting than to die from the flu.

    A kid is far less likely to die in a school shooting than to die in a car crash.

    A kid is far less likely to die in a school shooting than to die in a shooting somewhere else.

    The likelihood of a shooting at any particular school is extremely small. Shall we now build a wall around playgrounds just in case? Shall we lock up our kids in prisons to protect them from crazy gun-toting people outside? Or shall we live our lives not in constant fear of being hit by an asteroid or some other such unlikely happening?

  12. larry kurtz 2013.01.27

    1) middle schools should be eliminated.
    2) high schools should insist on business casual except on Fridays.
    3) women and men in high school should be instructed in separate classrooms.
    4) school boards should have an elected representative from the high school student population
    5) teachers must be union members
    6) districts should have the flexibility to experiment with curricula, including year-round sessions
    7) American Indian languages should meet the world language requirement

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.27

    R, you read my mind:

    Larry, I've considered having separate French classes for boys and girls. Your business-casual proposal would put an end to the boys in my classroom wearing their trousers prison style to show their underpants. I'm not fond of required union membership, and I'll never support year-round school, but every item on your list probably has evidence of producing more concrete good for schools than anything the South Dakota Legislature has taken up yet this year.

  14. larry kurtz 2013.01.27

    Teachers are losing their local control, Cory. Soon, you will all be replaced by jack-booted thugs.

  15. grudznick 2013.01.27

    The constitution doesn't say you can't smoke weed but there are laws that prohibit it.

    Laws can refine the bounds of society inside the bigger picture that is painted by the constitution. The constitution can't nitpicky spell out how much raises should got to schools every year. It says they should be funded. The laws will decide how much.

  16. Sam Peil 2013.01.27

    Rep. Hickey, Are you saying that all decisions about education in SD should be local control?

  17. Sam Peil 2013.01.27

    Rep Munsterman discussed HB 1133 yesterday at the legislative forum when asked about year round schools. He presented this bill as having the potential to fund ideas such as this as pilot programs. It is on the Ed Committee agenda for tomorrow.

    "FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to establish an innovation grant program for school districts and to make an appropriation therefor."

  18. Steve Hickey 2013.01.27

    No Sam. Like last year I supported a measure that gave some local control but not total local control. My point is Cory led the total local control charge last year and they are running the other way right now. Cory can say kids are more likely to get struck by lightning but the SDEA gal who testified against this bill told of a student with a hit list and a diagram of her school building getting caught. Unintentionally she made the case that these ARE real threats in SD schools right now. We don't let kids out on the playground during a lightening storm so Cory is actually helping make the point that we need to protect kids from these threats.

  19. larry kurtz 2013.01.27

    How many of your congregation is armed during services, Steve?

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.27

    Local control was indeed one argument I offered against HB 1234, which would have harmed education. You were trying to mandate a bad policy, merit pay, as the default policy for the state of South Dakota. I did not want you to mandate that bad policy. Now you are trying to open the door for locals to implement a different but also harmful educational policy. I'm not guilty of inconsistency in trying to defend schools from bad policy. You are guilty of bad legislating in trying to pass bad policy.

    The SDEA president's testimony: you do revel in using your opponents'; words against them, don't you, Steve? But o.k.: the school removed that threat without a gun. Did she testify that the armed guard was necessary to remove that threat? You give me one instance that did not require an armed response. You give me no instance of the threat the bill sponsors are afraid of doing any actual harm in South Dakota, ever. No one testifying gave you any such evidence that school shootings are a pressing problem here. You heard testimony from folks skilled in using firearms that, even if there is a threat of armed violence, guns in schools are a dangerous response. Why are we advocating a dangerous, harmful solution for a problem that the experts on education and guns are telling isn't there and would be made worse by your proposal?

  21. grudznick 2013.01.27

    You should be asking your bosses on the school board to simply excercise their power to say "no, we won't allow our employees to carry pocket pistols."

    That's all they need to do. Say no. Don't you trust them?

  22. Rorschach 2013.01.27

    Nice try, Rep. Hickey. It's one thing to keep kids inside during a lightning storm. It's an entirely different thing to say every day is a lighning storm.

    Is Chicken Little our new role model in SD?

  23. Taunia 2013.01.27

    3) women and men in high school should be instructed in separate classrooms. // Why?

    Steve Hickey:
    "not okay to sport a Christian t-shirt, a pro-life t-shirt, etc" // What South Dakota school banned this? Further, would you support Hindu/Muslim/Jewish/et al tshirts worn in school?

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.27

    Grudz, knock off the trademark GOP ad hominem. Opposing HB 1087 isn't about trusting or not trusting anyone. It's about opposing bad school policy. Yes, if you pass this bill, I will go to my school board and tell them not to be stupid. But we shouldn't have to have this fight. The Legislature should recognize here, as it does on so many other issues (some listed in my 07:26 comment above), that it has a constitutional duty to maintain an good public school system. It has an obligation to forbid local districts to implement bad policy.

    It's just like with civil rights. It doesn't matter if I trust my school board or not to protect the rights of homosexual students to get an education. If my board and I and everyone else in town agreed that we should kick the homosexuals out, the state would still have an obligation to march in and say, "Quit being idiots. These kids get an education, too."

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.27

    Taunia, my support for that split is mostly situational. Some days in class I find the mix of guys and girls I have doesn't work. They have different management issues. Sometimes I wonder if both groups that I have right now would do better in all-boy/all-girl classrooms.

    But then I can also point to a couple of classrooms where the guys and gals interact splendidly, where'd I never trade that mix.

    But in none of those scenarios is my effectiveness as their teacher and protector enhanced by my carrying a gun.

  26. Steve Sibson 2013.01.27

    "Why are we advocating a dangerous, harmful solution for a problem that the experts on education and guns are telling isn't there and would be made worse by your proposal?"

    Because we have Article VI, Section 24 to the South Dakota Constitution. I agree, local control is not relevant when we are dealing with constitutional rights. HB1087 needs to be amended to state that South Dakota's constitution makes federal gun-free zones invalid.

  27. Barbara 2013.01.27

    For Rep. Hickey, please get the story right. The t-shirt story is from Canada which has a very different restriction on free speech than the US. Hate speech is illegal there. The school in Nova Scotia suspended a teen in part for wearing a "Jesus" T-shirt and in part for the accompanying unwanted proselytizing to other students. The T-shirt (which the teen wore every day) said: "Life is wasted without Jesus" and was interpreted as hate speech according to the school because:

    xxx “If it said My Life is Wasted Without Jesus, that would be fine” because it expresses a personal belief, she said.

    But the T-shirt he wore went further by telling non-Christians their lives are wasted, she said.

    The school has asked Swinimer to replace it with a shirt that communicates his Christian faith without violating others’ beliefs, but he has refused, Pynch-Worthylake said.

    The school has no concerns with a student asking others if they would like to hear about his Christian message.

    “We’re good with that,” Pynch-Worthylake said.

    But she said it is not OK for a student to impose his or her beliefs on others who have different ideologies. xxx

    The decision was extremely controversial and in the end, the student was allowed to return to class but chose not to; a forum was held at the school to discuss the issue with facilitators and as I recall the student refused to take part.

    I don't know of any other schools where Christian T-shirts have been banned and found none on a quick search. And even in this case from another country with different laws about free speech, it wasn't the "Christian" shirt, it was the perception of an intolerant message on the shirt and the intolerant behavior by the wearer of the shirt on an ongoing basis that led to the action. But none of this has any bearing on schools in SD. Or the folly of HB 1087.

  28. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.01.28

    Thanks for the Canadian clarification, Barbara! Rep. Hickey knows HB 1087 has serious shortcomings, so he knows he needs to throw up the rhetorical smokescreen to get us talking about anything but those shortcomings.

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