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Rejecting Ruling, School Bars Student. Again

Simple Justice
March 11, 2008


The principal of the W. Tresper Clarke High School in East Meadow, New York, had a decision to make. He could do what most people would have done, and accepted the ruling of the New York State Division of Human Rights, and allowed 15 year old John Cave, accompanied by his service dog "Simba", to attend school, or not.

Timothy Voels, the principal, decided to block the door to the school, according to Newsday.

Despite a state order in his favor, a hearing-impaired Westbury teenager was barred Tuesday morning from bringing his service dog to school.

John Cave, 15, his mother, his twin sister and a family attorney were met at the entrance of W. Tresper Clarke High School in East Meadow by principal Timothy Voels, who refused to allow the dog inside the school. The Caves and attorney Paul Margiotta then left, and John Cave did not return to school.

There are two levels of concern raised by Voels action. On the first level, there is a student who is being harmed by a public school. The principal, I would expect, would argue that bringing a service dog to school will "disrupt" other students, and it is his responsibility to care for the majority over the individual. It is hard to fathom that anyone could believe such tripe in this day and age. Except a principal.

The second level is respect for the determination of the agency responsible for enforcing laws relating to non-discrimination in New York governmental subdivisions, such as school districts. The message from East Meadow is that they answer to no one. They will decide what will happen within the walls of their schools, and no outsider will tell them otherwise.

As usual, a young man is lost in the arrogance of overly important people trying to prove their pre-eminence. This is a nice way of saying who has the bigger genitalia. And there is always some poor kid, some poor family, caught in the middle. But this time, Voels has gone too far.

The confrontation on Tuesday morning lasted less than a minute as reporters watched from a distance. Margiotta said Voels, who was accompanied by a sign language interpreter, told the family that the district would not abide by the state's ruling.

There is a pervasive stench of petty dictatorship that emits from school districts. They know better than anyone. They listen to no one. When the caught committing crimes, they always have a ready excuse, and smiling chorus of sycophants that will back them up no matter how vapid their rationalization. It would be a brilliant set up, if only it wasn't so damaging to students and families. Even the ones to foolish to realize that they are played for fools.

So here's a petty tyrant, whether it's Principal Voels, the district superintendent Leon Campo, or the school board (which exists to rubber stamp the "professionals"), doing harm to students, one at a time. It's hegemony in a little pond.

John Cave, the 15 year old who only wants to go to school, deserves better:

With Simba lying at his feet, John Cave said he was nervous before going to school Tuesday morning. "I didn't get enough sleep last night, so I'm going to go home and rest," he said.

If I was his father, I would hold him and rock him until he fell asleep. He sounds like a fine young man.