Morse: Books don’t break law
County Prosecutor David Morse has ruled that the books causing a controversy at Howell High School do not violate any state law.
He was asked to investigate several books by Vicki Fyke of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education last month. But in a letter to Fyke sent Monday, Morse said the teachers disseminating the books are exempt from laws against distribution of sexually explicit material to minors because the curriculum was approved by the Howell Public Schools Board of Education.
I think Dave Morse and his staff handled this well. While the paper, which has a clear agenda on this, will give him hell for waiting a couple of weeks, I'm glad he and his staff took their time to research the facts and did not make a rash decision.
I didn't look at the school code since it would take too much time. Morse believed that the exception covered the law. He also covered the non-exemption and used a standard similar to the legal definition of pornography. He either read the statute different than I did, wanted to use that standard to gain a conviction if he prosecuted, or wanted to make sure it could survive a constitutional challenge. I do not know which. There is no legal case law on the state level that I saw defining "explicit matter." An attorney I know has the following saying to gun owners when there is a unclear law "Don't be a test case". It looked as Morse was cautious here and did not want Howell Schools and Livingston County to be a test case. I agree with him on his decision not to prosecute as I do not believe it would withstand a constitutional challenge. I'll take his word for it on the school code exemption as I was not sure of that and didn't have enough time to find out.
I have not read the federal statutes. If I have extra time, I will.
As for appropiateness of the books themselves for school curriculum - I believe some are and some are not. I do not believe "Bluest Eye" belongs as part of the curriculum. I don't have a problem with "Slaughterhouse 5". My own stance is somewhere in the middle between the LOVE Group and the School Board. My major problem is with the process involved in the approval. All the reviews are from "professionals" and from the ivory towers and there is not the checks and balances from the citizenry. If there was, I doubt we would have the controversey to begin with and we can get back to the meat and potatoes issues facing the schools - budgetary and financial concerns. I also think part of this was due to personal animosity between the Board/Admins and LOVE Group. If all sides got together and sat down and discussed these matters coming to an agreement, I don't think this would have been the media circus it turned out to be. A little leadership, especially by the school, would have gone a long way.
At worst, this was a good learning experience for law school.