Saturday, December 5, 2009
Looking for a Constitutional Law hypothetical, either to adapt for your students or, if you are a student, to practice or to discuss with your study group colleagues?
Here's a problem focusing on "fundamental rights" and new doctrinal and theoretical developments that I used as a practice hypothetical for the last week of classes this semester:
I hope you can assist me with an issue that has suddenly arisen. A friend of mine - - - let me call her Ms. K. - - - teaches a program entitled “self-defense for girls” in the NYC Department of Education's "academies" for students who have been suspended from other schools. The mission of these academies is to enable "every student to succeed academically while developing socially and emotionally to become a confident and productive member of society." Ms. K's program, approved and funded by the NYC Department of Education, is aimed at improving "self-esteem and self-discipline" as well as providing "real-world usable skills."
Ms. K, who is highly trained in a variety of martial arts, regularly includes a unit on martial arts. However, all 25 of Ms. K’s students at a particular academy in Queens have been suspended for possessing the “kung fu stars” Ms. K required for class. A suspension from an academy means that a student is not able to attend any public school in the city.
Almost all of the students who have been suspended from the academy carried the “stars” in their back-packs; most of the students had the “stars” in little black foam-lined cases. I believe, although I am not sure, that Ms. K provided both the “stars” and the cases. Ms. K told the Principal that these stars were for the class, and that skill in throwing stars is vital for "female defense": “Skillful throwing of a star can stop a pursuer, giving the girl time to escape. A truly skilled star thrower could hit a dime at thirty feet, although of course with only a few weeks experience, the students are less accomplished.”
The Principal responded, “a rule is a rule.” (An excerpt from the rules is available below [Download here]; the Principal does seem to be correct that there is a rule prohibiting “kung fu stars” in the schools.) The Principal of the academy also stated that "these students are not regular students - - - they are students who have already been suspended and allowed to pursue the privilege of education at a special school. If these girls cannot abide by the rules, even when given this last chance, then we can all agree they are a detriment to themselves and society."
Ms. K does not agree. Indeed, she is outraged. She believes being educated in self-defense is a “fundamental right" vital to survival, especially for girls.
I told Ms. K that we have been considering "fundamental rights" recently and I am certain that every member of our class would be able to assist her. Please provide a brief memo objectively discussing the constitutional aspects of the situation, including any constitutional arguments Ms. K (and the students) might make, the likelihood of their success, and the important theoretical perspectives.
Happy Exam Season.