DR. WALLACE: I'm a 15-year-old girl, and one of my teachers calls all of the girls in my class "dear." If a girl raises her hand, he'll say, "Yes, my dear." When a boy is called on, he addresses him as "buddy." All of his students are called this, so I'll admit in advance he does not single anyone out or play any favorites. But it is still so very weird! Can this be considered harassment? If it is, I'd like to get him fired and then sue him.
I asked my girlfriend if she would help me turn this guy in to the school board, and she said, "I'd be crazy to complain about this teacher, I'm getting an A in the class, and besides, I don't believe he is harassing his students." Well, no wonder she likes him. She's an A student, and I mostly get C+ grades even though I participate just as much in class as she does. Sometimes I wonder why I even keep Miss Smarty-Pants as my friend. How do I get this teacher fired? — Unhappy Student, via email
UNHAPPY STUDENT: I think you're overreacting. I agree it would be better if the teacher addressed each student by his or her name, but calling it harassment to use the terms "buddy" and "my dear" is grossly expanding the definition of the word "harassment."
In any case, I suggest that you open the lines of communication with this teacher. Before you even think about filing a complaint against him with the principal or school board, try talking to him to understand why you're not getting the grade you think you deserve. And don't bring up your friend's grade; it's irrelevant to your situation. If your conversation isn't satisfactory, have your parents talk to him.
If you and your parents feel his attitude is truly discriminatory, the next step would be to have your parents meet with the principal. Bringing a harassment complaint before a school board should be the last resort, not the first.
DR. WALLACE, I THINK YOU'RE MISTAKEN
DR. WALLACE: I've read many columns where you tell teens that school administrators have the right to search a student's locker without permission. I think you're sorely mistaken. Teens have constitutional rights just like adults do! We all know that a search warrant must be obtained before a search can commence on a citizen's home. Well, the very same fact is also true for a student's locker! We live in a free democracy, not a communist state!
Please check out your information before you pass it on as fact. School principals who do open lockers without permission do so because they know that a student is not aware of the search laws that actually exist. I bet you, a former principal, don't even know the law. — Not Falling for It, via email
NOT FALLING FOR IT: I've indeed covered this topic before, but I would be happy to give you the same facts and answer that I've stood by (correctly) for years. Teenagers' rights are indeed protected by the Constitution, but they don't have all the same rights and privileges that adults have. The Bill of Rights guarantees teens freedom from unreasonable searches, but there are qualifications to this freedom on school grounds. A 1985 United States Supreme Court decision states that if school officials have reasonable suspicion of illegal behavior, a student's locker can be searched without permission.
A little bit of knowledge without full situational context can cause an individual to be quite misinformed. Your letter is a good example of this. I do appreciate that you have been interested enough to read this column regularly and proactive enough to write in to share your specific viewpoint. Thank you.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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