His father, an Army commander, was being deployed to Iraq, and 6-year-old Jack Dorman didn’t want to be in school in the first place. He suffers from separation anxiety and had been visiting a therapist. Sadly, the boy’s day got a lot worse after he drew a picture of a scene from one of his video games, which featured zombies and stick figures, wrote that he wanted to die, and was forced into a psychiatric ward by school administrators against his mother’s wishes.
“They said it was out of my hands,” said an outraged Syndi Dorman. “They said they were in control and they could do this and had already called an ambulance.”
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Ramon Cortines refused to apologize for the incident, which occurred on February 7, and continues to insist that the staff of Taper Avenue Elementary, located in San Pedro, California, acted appropriately.
Maybe Jack needed professional attention, and maybe he didn’t. Little boys like to doodle, and, at a time when one can hardly turn on the television without encountering a show about vampires or werewolves, it doesn’t seem all that strange for an innocent 6-year-old to draw a picture of zombies. Nor is it unusual for a child whose father is being sent overseas to serve his country to feel depressed. However, it is fair to assume that Syndi Dorman knows her son better than a group of public employees, and if he needed to be removed from the classroom, home would have been a better place to send him than a psych ward—particularly since the horrified, helpless mother made it very clear that she did not approve of the administrators’ decision.
This raises an important question: Just how much control do the employees of taxpayer-funded public schools have over the students under their supervision? Enough to impose conditions on a child against his or her parents’ wishes? Enough to do whatever they want without bothering to obtain permission? Government’s power has a tendency to expand, so what’s next on the rapidly growing list of Things Public Schools Can Get Away With?
There is a fine line between intervention and kidnapping, between protecting a child and violating his parents’ rights. The LAUSD crossed that line, and will almost certainly continue to stand between parents and their children if its seemingly limitless authority is not challenged. The decision might have been legal (or not, depending on how one interprets the Bill of Rights), but was wrong nonetheless.
When an agent of the state—whether a teacher, social worker, or police officer—steps between parents and their children, the parents are fully justified in doing whatever is necessary to protect their children from the harmful influence of a nanny state that thinks it knows better. Unfortunately, unjust laws might make it impossible for the parents to do so legally, but American history is full of daring acts of civil disobedience which, in spite of inviting retaliation from the state, eventually resulted in the betterment of our nation.
The preferable alternative, of course, is for parents to resist the temptation of a “free” education. It is difficult to imagine a shocking story of this sort unfolding in a private school, where the immutable laws of the free market require administrators and educators to satisfy parents, or risk losing their business.
Finally released after forty-eight hours, a traumatized Jack Dorman did not want to return to school. “He’s afraid they’re going to take him away again,” said his mother.
One 6-year-old victim of Big Brother has the right attitude. When will the rest of us learn?