The Counsellor's Corner
Earlier this month the Glendale Unified School District was served with what appears to be a unique lawsuit. The school district has been sued by an individual named Patrick Wilson who contends that the district does not properly educate its children. I have heard of student complaints and parental complaints about individual teachers; most men have experienced the one-eyed shop teacher who scared the heck out of us. This suit, however, appears to be like none other that I have come across.
Mr. Wilson is a resident of La Crescenta and unfortunately within the complaint filed against the school district he not only makes his points but dilutes them in that he engages in name calling. Not only do courts not like to see that in a lawsuit but it lessens the quality of the lawsuit in the eyes of the judge, as name calling clearly serves no productive purpose. It is the legal equivalent of the negative advertising done by Al Checci in our recent primary and you saw how far that got him.
Mr. Wilson cites the State Constitution and various Education Code sections to make the fairly obvious point that "Every activity of a public school must be focused on valid educational purposes achieved by suitable means..." Mr. Wilson further indicates that, "Students must be instructed in principles of truth; all instructional materials must be accurate, objective, and suited to the needs of pupils... Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils the principles of morality, truth, justice, patriotism, and a true comprehension of the rights, duties, and dignity of American citizenship..." So far so good; I don't think anyone would argue with Mr. Wilson up to this point.
Here, however, is where the wheels fall off. Mr. Wilson spends the remainder of his lawsuit attempting to distinguish between students being taught opinions and beliefs versus being taught facts or knowledge. Mr. Wilson alleges that the school district is... "ignorantly encouraging stupidity in plaintiff's children, upon whom it harmfully inflicts its false claim that the children are learning; falsely claiming they are being taught, by confusing true belief and true opinion, with knowledge."
If it is Mr. Wilson's children who are the alleged victims of the school district's methods, then they should be the plaintiffs in this case, not Mr. Wilson.
It should also be noted that Mr. Wilson is representing himself in this matter, which is generally not a good sign. What that usually means is that one has searched high and low through Glendale and the surrounding areas and has not found even one young, hungry lawyer willing to take on the cause.
Mr. Wilson apparently attempted to rectify this situation before filing suit. He indicates that he contacted the school district's superintendent, James Brown, in an attempt to get his suggested curriculum changes put forth. Mr. Brown indicated that the school district has been conducting school this way for over two hundred years and he believed what they were doing was appropriate.
The key here is that Mr. Wilson claims that because the school district does not distinguish between believing versus knowing, in other words, because the school district teaches beliefs and opinions rather than knowledge, that the teachers are therefore "promoting and creating stupidity, as undisputedly thinking one knows something when he or she does not is recognized as being stupid."
In paragraph 21 of his complaint, Mr. Wilson, in one of the more clear aspects of his complaint, states what he wants: "Plaintiff seeks to enjoin defendant Glendale Unified School District from promoting stupidity in his children..."
So there you have it. Mr. Wilson is apparently of the opinion that the school district teaches beliefs and opinions as opposed to facts, and that students are not learning from these beliefs and opinions as they would be learning if they were taught facts.
This is only the beginning; I look forward to the school district's response. It is expected that when someone files a complaint and the other party has yet to answer, things are supposed to look good for the person who has filed the complaint as only his side has been heard. Unfortunately for Mr. Wilson, that is not the case here, and if, through his 24-paragraph complaint he does not leave the reader thinking he is right before the reader has heard from the school district in response, he is in trouble; and Mr. Wilson is in trouble.
Charlie Unger is a criminal defense attorney in the Glendale law firm of Flanagan, Booth & Unger, and a therapist at the Foothill Centre for Personal and Family Growth. Mr. Unger writes a bimonthly column on legal and psychological issues.