By Jason Baran
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 16, 2002
The Arizona Court of Appeals dealt a heavy defeat Thursday to concerned citizens who want to keep our streets safe.
Apparently, the fine folks in Tolleson are facing some dangerous traffic conditions around noon on weekdays. In fact, collisions are occurring. These aren't just fender-benders either.
People are getting hurt. Something is wrong and somebody needs to take responsibility. A few of the people injured in one incident decided that somebody is the Tolleson Union School District. So, they filed suit.
The three were injured in a collision involving a student at Westview High School who was rushing back to school during the student's lunch hour. They argued that the school was responsible because it had a duty to keep students off the streets, and that it had put the community in harm's way by placing a time limit on the lunch break.
The student's "rush hour mentality" caused them to drive with reckless abandon, and at the root of it all is the school's lunch policy.
On its face the case sounds reasonable. But neither the trial judge, nor the appellate court thought so. The trial judge threw out Collette v. TUSD, and on review the Court of Appeals gave it three thumbs up.
They ruled the school couldn't be held accountable for behavior it couldn't control. After all, the accident occurred off campus, didn't involve school vehicles and the student wasn't participating in a school activity. Moreover, the court found no reason to believe students who leave campus for lunch without permission are more dangerous than those with permission.
Legally, this is probably the right decision, but that's for attorneys and the State Supreme Court to decide. It's the right decision because it puts the burden on the shoulders of those who rightfully should bear it.
Individuals in our society have a penchant for diverting responsibility. Never should it have appeared reasonable to the victims of this wreck that it was anybody's fault other than the driver of the car that hit them. Honestly, it wasn't a yellow school bus that smashed into them at over seventy miles an hour.
The victims have a legitimate claim for damages against the student ÷ and maybe the parents if he's under eighteen years of age ÷ but not against the school. The kid did something stupid and should take the heat for it. Let's keep it at that.
The idea of sequestering high school students is certainly nothing new and the reasons behind it have some weight.
Some, but not all, high school students drive recklessly. Some adults do too. This doesn't mean we should have a lock down on campuses across Arizona. If it did mean that, workplaces around the state should lock their doors and keep their employees from speeding around during lunch.
The problem lies with the individual students. They either aren't taught by their families to behave themselves like the driver's license wielding adults they are, or they lack the strength of character to refrain from irresponsible behavior.
The same theory applies to carding at the movie theater. Some parents got together and strong-armed theaters into asking for proof of age before granting access to movies.
They thought this would cure the world of all the malignancies caused by kids' exposure to potty language, violence, nudity and intense drama through movies. A seventeen-year-old asking to see the driver's license of a twenty-one-year-old is not going to make the world a better place.
This excruciatingly irritating dance that I suffer through every time I want to watch a serious movie is the result of some people trying to cover up their own failings.
Had these oh-so-concerned parents taught their kids the difference between reality and make-believe, and right and wrong, we wouldn't have to submit ourselves to a rule void of statutory basis to prevent young adults from misbehaving. The fact of the matter is that they don't hear anything in a movie theater that they don't hear in the halls of school. Irresponsible behavior must be cured at home.
Instead of condemning the courts for releasing the scapegoat, we should applaud them for illuminating the nature of responsibility and preventing the expansion of government beyond its reasonable place.