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Everyone vs. Everyone Why South Park's Treatment of Sexual Harassment in Schools is no Joke

First of all, let me just say this: I'm not a stick in the mud. I get what the creators of South Park are all about. They're making fun of 'normal' points of view taken to silly extremes. Their brand of satire requires several pieces to work. First, the issue has to be one that involves two sides or more. Second, both sides of the issue have to have something valid to say, when expressed rationally. Finally, and most importantly, for their brand of humor to hit the target, both sides have...

First of all, let me just say this: I'm not a stick in the mud. I get what the creators of South Park are all about. They're making fun of 'normal' points of view taken to silly extremes. Their brand of satire requires several pieces to work. First, the issue has to be one that involves two sides or more. Second, both sides of the issue have to have something valid to say, when expressed rationally. Finally, and most importantly, for their brand of humor to hit the target, both sides have to have gotten out of hand - silly.

When they make fun of both sides - with the kids usually being the voice of question and moderation (I've learned something today...') - that's funy. But what about when SP's writers make fun of only one side - in this case, the victims of a pernicious and dangerous course of conduct - when that side hasn't expressed any extreme or silly points of view? Still funny? Still fair game?

Not so much.

I watched a recent episode addressing sexual harassment in schools. I don't know how old the episode is, because in it, Mr. Garrison is still "Mr." Garrison. But now is when I saw it, so now is when I'm having this reaction.

I get making fun of political figures and celebrities and their causes - they have resources, they have thick skin (or they should) and they're no strangers to criticism and lampooning. I get extending this concept to movements and causes even without political or celebrity backing when the movements get silly or extreme.

But helpless kids? Kids being abused in schools by their peers using wolfpack tactics, physical violence and damaging psychological attacks? Kids falsely depicted as performing sex acts using technology available at the public school level? Kids who all too often think violence or suicide is the only way out?

Really? That's funny? I guess I'm getting old. I don't think it's so funny. I suggest that the writers of South Park have crossed out of acceptable bad taste into unacceptable stupidity.

Kids commit suicide over this. I doubt very much whether the South Park writers know any of these kids personally or their families, or they wouldn' t have written this episode.

Really what this was, was yet another attack on the use of litigation to address wrongs, as if the founding fathers, were they brought back to answer for how they drafted our Constitution, would have to apologize for creating Courts at all.

The episode suggested that any attempt to hold school officials responsible for failing to prevent or stop this conduct is somehow stealing from schools and students.

I shouldn't have to keep saying this: As long as people have no fear of being held accountable in Court, they will not work harder, spend more, or otherwise go the extra mile to do the right thing. Sorry, but I don't trust the inherent goodness of school administrators and board of education officials to do the right thing in the face of sexual harassment without the threat of being called to account in Court.

In fact, there are not nearly enough law suits holding school administrators, school boards and school professionals responsible for sexual harassment of which they are aware and which they fail to stop. Teachers and administrators take the view that it's just "kids stuff." Because kids are doing it to other kids, it's not to be taken seriously.

Every study to which we have access suggest that the vast majority of kids who suffer damaging sexual and same sex sexual harassment at school don't report it. Of the small minority of students who do report it, most suffer retaliation from other students such as being labeled as "rats." They often find that the harassment is increased in intensity or even that administrators and teachers simply side with harassers who might be better students or have more social pull at the school.

I sincerely hope that the South Park guys don't know kids whose lives are altered or damaged as a result of what happens to them at this vulnerable period in their lives.

I won't suggest that they need to apologize, because they never admit they've gone too far, but I will suggest that they've made fools of themselves. As long as Courts are there to hold people accountable, our society will endure without resorting to violence to settle disputes. If access to Courts to sue for damages is taken away, any way that happens, you're left to trust bureaucrats, corporate types and others to do the right thing without fear they'll be held accountable if they don't.

Do you think they will?

We've had Courts of one kind or another since civilization began. We cannot go on without them. Don't let politicos - or irony - sell you on the idea that going to Court is anti-American. Oppression is anti-American.

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