Barb Caffrey's Blog

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Archive for April 28th, 2012

When Big Brother Goes Wrong: Pair Fired for Affair in AZ

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Recently, a student caught a secretary and a school principal kissing lustily on camera.  The two people, Stephen McClenning and Billie Madewell, are married to other people; worse yet, they kissed on school time.

The student, Myranda Garber, 16, posted the video of the kiss online at YouTube; it’s several minutes long.  Then, outraged condemnation followed — first other students were upset, then parents were inflamed, and then, of course, media outlets glommed on to the scandal, including the UK’s Daily Mail (where I found this article).

The narrative framing here is simple: how dare these two consenting adults kiss on school time?  (With the additional parental framing, to wit: My children saw this on school time?  For shame!)  They’re married!  It’s wrong!  And how disgraceful these two did this, when they should’ve been working!

Now, I put all those exclamation points there for a reason, which is this: the artificial “shock and awe” over two adults over the age of consent having an affair is way overblown.

Here’s the truth about this affair: it was stupid.  It wasn’t morally admirable.  It hurt the two spouses unnecessarily, and no matter how hot these two were and are for each other, it never should’ve happened on school time.

But notice the words I used there — stupid.  Not “morally admirable.”  Hurt.  “(Not) . . . on school time.”

Did you notice which words I didn’t use?  (Hint, hint: anything that says this was a shocking, outrageous thing to happen in the 21st Century, and how dare this happen in front of supposedly-innocent kids, is what I was going for.)

I’m not personally offended by this couple even though I am against married people straying outside their given vows and word.  Instead, I’m far more offended by the fact this 16-year-old student taped these two people kissing without their consent.  I’m also upset that no media source has quoted a parent, or a student, who seems to think this simple act was wrong, even though it was.

Just because “everybody does it” doesn’t make it right. 

In this case, the student was wrong to post a video of these two consenting adults publicly; she had every right to bring it to the school board, she had every right to bring it to her local news outlet, even — but to post a video at YouTube in order to shame these two while ousting them?  That’s not just outrageous — it’s disgraceful. 

That’s why my personal outrage is saved for the “Big Brotherish” aspects of this case.  For example: the student doesn’t feel any remorse; in fact, her mother is upset that the girl has had to have been pulled out of school rather than the fact her daughter was using a cell phone on school time.  Then, consider that neither the parent nor the child seem to feel that posting the video on YouTube was wrong, even though it blew up two families (which, granted, would’ve eventually blown up anyway) and was a blatant invasion of their privacy.

Worse yet, no lawsuits seem to be in the offing, because videos of this nature are now so commonplace that they hardly even get reported on any more (witness the lack of outrage by most United States newspaper outlets if you don’t believe me).

In American culture today, too much of what we used to expect as part of the United States Constitution — our right to privacy, which is codified under the Fourth Amendment — has been violated as a matter of course.  Everyone, seemingly, has a cell phone, and most cell phones have cameras.  People take pictures of everything and post it online, sometimes to make fun of someone doing something that’s minor but odd (such as picking your nose in public), sometimes to make fun of someone for not wearing any underwear (a la Britney Spears).

And no one thinks anything of this anymore, because so many people do it.

But that still doesn’t make it right, which is why I urge you to consider the following questions:

Where has the right to privacy gone? 

And why aren’t more people complaining to get the word out that the erosion of our personal rights must stop forthwith?

Now, all that said, I reiterate that these two lovers definitely should not have kissed on school time.  Getting caught doing that deserved reprimands and possible suspensions for a first offense (which as far as I know, this was); one of the two, probably the secretary as she was the lower-ranked person, should’ve started looking for another job.  (It’s a sad truism that usually the higher-ranked person, who is almost always male, tends to get away scot-free in such cases.)**  

Here’s the upshot: if the principal was a good educator, as he’s been alleged to be, and if the secretary was a good secretary who didn’t make mistakes on the job and actually helped the running of the school (as good secretaries the world over tend to do), they shouldn’t have lost their jobs for one indiscretion — especially as it was an indiscretion that was captured by a student who had a cell phone and felt the world had a right to know what these two people were doing.

And the fact these two lost their jobs over this seems extremely disproportionate, especially as the student, herself, has lost nothing at all.


** Note: I believe that the principal was far more at fault than the secretary; he’s the one in the position of power, and he’s the one who should’ve been fired if anyone was.  Yet the secretary was forced out — this is what I meant by “sad truism” — while the principal was allowed to resign.

This is wrong, as the principal had all the power in that relationship, both personal and professional.

If the school, the parents, etc., were really so outraged, the principal should’ve been fired instead, and the secretary should’ve been allowed to submit her resignation.

Written by Barb Caffrey

April 28, 2012 at 9:20 pm