Friday, February 18, 2005

Assault by Any Other Name

Sometimes when I read the newspaper I wonder what planet I'm living on. This ultra-sensitive society tests the limits of my patience as I silently scream to gods of common sense. My sensibilities are under assault daily and what used to be thought of as common wisdom has somehow been transformed into brutishness.

Todays episode of "As The World Turns Upside Down" takes us to the quaint hamlet known as Maplewood, Minnesota.

[zoom in on newspaper headline]
headline writer: (screaming) TEACHER RESIGNS; ASSAULT CHARGED

[pan down to first few paragraphs]
narrrator: (soap opera voice) A teacher at Maplewood's Carver Elementary School resigned last week after prosecutors accused him of taking one of his fourth-grade students over his lap and pretending to spank her.

The city's attorney charged David Birkholz, 59, of Woodbury with fifth-degree assault and disorderly conduct — both misdemeanors — on Feb. 3. The alleged incident happened in early January.

Maplewood Police Chief Dave Thomalla said a city employee heard about the accusation and brought it to the attention of authorities. Birkholz allegedly laid the 9-year-old girl over his lap, put the palm of his hand face up over her buttocks and slapped his other hand against his palm.

"Our number one concern in a case like this is the welfare of the victim," Thomalla said. "We take these reports very seriously, especially when a person is in a place of authority over children."

[cut to no nonsense average Joe spitting coffee all over the paper] (startled) Victim! Victim! Victim of what? A fake spanking? You have got to be kidding me?

[fade to black]

You might have guessed that the no nonsense average Joe was me. You'd be right. What is this world coming to when you can be criminally charged for pretending. I suppose my own son could turn me in for the numerous times I've raised my fist at him and said "Why I oughta..." In fact my son and I have faked our martial arts routine so convincingly that we have come away with fake bruises.

All kidding aside, is it just me or is this crazy? The worst part of this story is that I actually know Police Chief Thomalla. He goes to our church. He seems like a fine upstanding law man to me. I suppose being the position he's in he is beholden to political correctness and is forced to say things like "victim" as he inwardly cringes.

Continuing on through the rest of the article it reads like a glowing biography of a terriffic teacher and human being. It would be shame that this seemingly great teacher would be remembered for this. Growing up in the 60's and 70's I had my share of teachers for whom the real acts of "abuse" were considered normal. More than once I was hauled down to office by the short hairs. I remember old Mr. Thompson making the boys do push-ups with his foot on their backs for acting up during recess no less. No one ever once went home to their mommy and demanded she get him fired and charged for cruel and unusal punishment. I sure hope Mr. Thompson is out of the teaching business by now or the poor bloke will find himself behind bars some day.


TJ Willms said...

Your narrative styling is uncany!
I felt as though I was watching a CBS made for TV movie. Cases like this one our indicative of why our legal/Justice systems are in so much trouble. The concept of "the reasonable person" on which our courts and police rely has over the years become so twisted as to be unrecognizable to any truly reasonable person. It looks like the police chief does not have the guts to excersize his perogative of offical disgression, there by giving this foolishness further life. This is the same kind of thinking that leads to zero-tolerance policies in schools for weapons like butter knives and ping pong paddles.

Great post!

Timothy Birdnow said...

Hi Craig!

Five or so years ago my brother was teaching at a high school from which he was sacked because an out of control student grabbed his shirt and they both fell down! I am not making this up! This school had been sued by a student previously for 3 MILLION dollars, and so nothing a student did was out-of-bounds.

Everyone wonders why crime is rampant, why juvenile delinquency is so high? Gee, I can`t imagine why a kid who has never had any boundaries set gets into trouble!

Anonymous said...

Can you follow-up to see if the teacher plead guilty? Also, whether there was any punishment. . .

Anonymous said...

I had Mr. Birkholz as a 6th grade teacher in a team teaching arrangement in 1975. I thought he was a cool guy, and what I recall of him, and of discipline methods of the time, a false spanking wouldn't seem out of hand(no pun intended, really). In toady's world, things tend to be taken out of context and misconstrued to make innocent actions blasphemous. I do question Mr. Birkholz actions somewhat, but had he done it 30 years ago, I don't think anyone would have given it a secon thought.
Alan O

Anonymous said...

I also had Mr. Birkholz as a teacher. He stood a child up on a chalkboard when I had him for a teacher. He also lifted another student upside down. This was not an isolated incident.

Anonymous said...

this shory is about my sister and it doesnt say the real thing... it was after school and i went to go get my sister from her class room and mr.b told me to go over there he layed me on his lap and my sister said something and i jumped up... then he said "M***** come here you will do it" and her friend says"i will!" and he said for my sister to do it... and thats what happened and there was a guy who saw it and told our counclor and we had to talk to police and everyone! it was scary for me being in 2nd grade and my sister in 4th! thats my story... ); im now in 7th grade trying to forget it... but i always remember the day in court