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Law of the West

by John Scorsine
Peyton, Colo.

It would take little to convince me that there is a grand conspiracy in the travel industry. No, it’s not about seemingly non-competitive pricing or how a flight is reported as having departed “on time” so long as it pulled away from the gate ” doesn’t matter if you sit on the tarmac for the next two hours waiting to take off. It’s about layovers and airport stores. It is as though the airlines schedule you for a couple hours in every airport ” really an overpriced mall ” just so you have to browse. My layover addiction is bookstores.

This last trip to D.C., however, I appreciated the layover in Chicago. I got a chance to stumble on a book by Bill O’Reilly that I had to buy and read ” it’s a quick read. Now, I am not a fan of Mr. O’Reilly, and I don’t think I have ever endorsed a product before in this column, but you have to give credit where its due. I bought the book because I wanted to see what sort of dribble he was professing now ” I was surprised. His latest book, “Kids Are Americans, Too,” brings into 160 pages more good sound advice and commentary than a year of these columns can. (There still is a far amount of O’Reilly ranting though.)

In this short book, Bill O’Reilly takes up some of the cases involving children rights that we have heard about. He provides insightful and reasonable commentary about the rights at stake and the responsibilities that are brought along with the rights. Some of the questions he answers include:

– Can the police force open a student’s locker and search without a warrant?

– Does a school’s student newspaper have a right to be critical of the school’s principal?

– Does a parent have the right to listen in on her child’s telephone conversations?

– Can a parent force his child to worship in a certain faith?

– Can a school keep students from wearing clothes that are considered too revealing?

– Can you wear a T-shirt to school that says whatever you would like it to?

– Can girls force their way on to the boys’ sports teams?

Some of the answers might surprise you!

In practicing law, I have often lamented that we hold children to a double standard. We will charge 11- and 8-year-olds (third graders) with violent crimes as adult offenders, holding them to adult standards of thought and behavior. Yet, we will deny them the rights that are commensurate with the behavior that is expected of them. School officials routinely attempt to limit the rights of children for the laudable purpose of creating a proper learning environment, though the real motives behind, say, school censorship seem a tad more self serving. Of late, schools seem to be more a portal into the juvenile justice system than a safe environment in which to err and thereby learn.

Mr. O’Reilly puts things even into a more clear perspective. Of late, it seems that the good kids are the ones being held to ridicule and the children that are acting out receive all the attention. Against that framework, he explains not only the rights a child may have but the process of sensibly exercising and protecting those rights. Yes, O’Reilly can be read encouraging tact and negotiation over confrontation ” I didn’t believe it either.

The book is oriented and written so that it will appeal to the middle school and high school crowd ” it should be read by parents and children alike and then become a springboard for a discussion of good citizenship. (I know a seemingly archaic term these days.)

Don’t get me wrong, this book is not a literary or scholarly gem. And, I certainly haven’t changed my unflattering views of Mr. O’Reilly ” none of which I will share here. But, this book does what O’Reilly does best, it provokes, prods and encourages discussion and debate. It is a civics lesson that can be stuffed into a Christmas stocking.

The information provided in this column is based upon general principles of law and should not be relied upon in any manner. It is not the intent of this column, its author, publisher or the Fence Post to provide legal advice to any person. You should address specific legal questions to your family lawyer. In Wyoming, the State Bar can refer you to competent lawyers in your community by calling (307) 634-7823. In Colorado, call the Metropolitan Lawyer Referral Service at (303) 831-8000. Readers in Nebraska can receive referrals from the State Bar Association by calling 1-800-742-3005.


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