Wednesday, May 20, 2015


There's a saying among lawyers that hard cases make bad law.  What they mean by that is that when laws are enacted in response to specific problems, the remedy may be worse than the original problem, or have nothing to do with the original problem, or consist of actions and processes that would not have prevented the original problem.

Several years ago, a coach named Jerry Sandusky, of Penn State, was found to be molesting small boys in the showers of the Penn State athletics complex.  It came to be known that others were aware of it, and most had done nothing; one person told the head coach,  Joe Paterno,  who convinced himself that no major action needed to be taken.  Sandusky was eventually convicted of child abuse, and as for Paterno, they took down his huge Rocky-like statue.

And then the politicians got involved, passing laws, setting requirements, and getting people excited and agitated. Which is where my family comes in.

My wife works in a local school as a personal care aide for a handicapped girl.  I volunteer at the same school as a mentor for kids who aren't doing too well in school.  My wife is very good at her job (not just opinion; she has both the comments of involved teachers and actual evaluations to buttress this).  Me -- well, I try, but I think I could be a lot better.

As part of the response to the Sandusky event, the lawmakers said that anyone who works with kids must have a federal crime records check done, a background check done, and other fun things.  These cost money (not a lot, but enough), and the person getting the checks gets to, as you might put it, write the checks. Without recompense.  This is true even if you're only a volunteer.  If you actually work for the school, you're required to tell people if you suspect that something shady is going on between educators and kids.  You don't need proof.  And its not limited to the school;  if you think that the grocery store's produce manager is messing around with the cute kid who works there, then as a member of the educational establishment, you're required by law to tell people.

Yeah.  No intellectual rigor there.

I'd already been contemplating making this my last year being a mentor, because I feel that I don't make much of a difference; this legal abyss adds significant weight to that thought process.  And my wife feels that while she would tell people if she thought something was going on, she would do it because of her morals, not because of a law -- and if she did not think so, she wouldn't, regardless of what the law says.

So much for the response to the hard case.

Now the politicians can go back to counting this weeks bribes, I guess.

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