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"Middle School Issues Ban on Intentional Flatulence":

So reports Village Soup / the Knox County Times (thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer). Apparently "it seems some Camden-Rockport Middle School eighth-grade boys are ... making a game of seeing who can expel the loudest and grossest flatus"; the school responds by threatening detention for "intentional farting."

Reader James Paternoster asks whether the school can do this. I answer yes, and it should, both to avoid distraction and to teach students how to behave. And detention seems a sensible punishment -- enough to be something of a deterrent, but not something that would interfere with the students' education or be otherwise excessive (as expulsion or a long suspension would be).

True, I'd hate to try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case that a fart was intentional. But school discipline isn't a criminal case, there's no need to prove the intent beyond a reasonable doubt, and often the students' statements, giggles, and other behavior will give a perfectly adequate clue to the clueful teacher. Perhaps experience will show the school that for some reason this policy won't work, but it certainly seems to me to be worth trying.

EarleJ:
This strikes me as rather unfair. It may be that some of the fellows have eaten sack lunches of bean burritos or chitterlings and can't help themselves. We need to embrace diversity in nutrition, and the resultant noisesomeness thereof.

And what of those who are incontinent and use Depends? What of the various hissings and gurglings, the stinks and smells? Are they now to be outlawed?
2.5.2008 7:04pm
genob:
Surely this fits within the definition of "speech" somehow. What are their first amendment rights?
2.5.2008 7:06pm
NYU 3L:
genob--Seeing as how a banner saying "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" can be prohibited at a disorganized school event, I think intentional farting in class can probably be safely punished.
2.5.2008 7:13pm
Wugong:
"...often the students' statements, giggles, and other behavior will give a perfectly adequate clue to the clueful teacher."

No way. I put forth that ANY fart, intentional or accidental, will produce very similar giggles, guffaws, etc.

And both students and teachers should be wary of reporting such activity, given the age-old legal maxim "he who smelt it dealt it." Furthermore, claims of innocent will inevitably be countered with the theory that "he who denied it, supplied it."
2.5.2008 7:20pm
Wugong:
Oh, and let us not forget the problematic questions brought up by the dread "silent but deadly" emissions.
2.5.2008 7:21pm
Post no more:
Send in Mucasey, and his obscenity task force from DOJ.
2.5.2008 7:29pm
genob:
Not sure if the "Bong Hits" case really applies. It's holding was fairly narrow and based on "promoting illegal drug use." The only "drug" promoted by the audible flatulence is Beano perhaps.

But under the Tinker case, which allows administrators to restrict speech that will
"materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school" it seems clear to me that this kind of wanton farting would qualify.

But as anyone who sits in close proximity to one knows, Wugong's SBD problem is also just as disruptive and ought to be banned as well....

Now for the 5th Amendment implications of the "smelt it dealt it issue."
2.5.2008 7:33pm
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Based on media coverage, one would think that one of the most pressing problems plaguing American public schools is an epidemic of pointlessly draconian discipline. Does anyone really believe that? Or is the point that detentions for passing gas are a "man bites dog" story, whereas crime, violence, drug use and mayhem in the classroom--not to mention illiteracy and general disregard for education--are just too commonplace to be worthy of mention?
2.5.2008 7:38pm
Bender (mail):
There's need for a new legal principle: "A raspberry from the anterior end of the alimentary/esophageal tract may be protected by the First Amendment, one from the posterior end never."
2.5.2008 7:43pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
Shouldn't this be covered under the broad heading of "disruptive behavior"? Doesn't matter if it's farting, belching, or flicking boogers, if it's distracting from the lesson, the kid gets punished.
2.5.2008 7:50pm
Jaldhar:
Does the ruling have any bearing on the important legal doctrine of qui olfecit ipse fecit?
2.5.2008 7:52pm
A.:
Next up: School bans having a sense of humor, objecting to selective enforcement, social ostracism.
2.5.2008 7:57pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
And detention seems a sensible punishment -- enough to be something of a deterrent, but not something that would interfere with the students' education or be otherwise excessive . . .
Like, say, the gas chamber?
2.5.2008 8:02pm
anon e mousey:
"True, I'd hate to try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a criminal case that a fart was intentional."

I would actually love to see you try to prove this to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Sample questions:

Ms. Witness, could you tell whether anyone pulled the defendant's finger?

Ms. Witness, were you able to tell who smelt it?
2.5.2008 8:03pm
TomHynes (mail):
My wife is afraid I am turning into one of those old guys who farts without even knowing it. I am constantly having to claim "No, that was intentional. I knew it was coming out". Sometimes I raise an arm in the "fair catch" sign beforehand.
2.5.2008 8:17pm
EH (mail):
Ms. Witness, when you found out who smelt it, did you or did you not have proof that that person dealt it?
2.5.2008 8:22pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
TomHynes wrote:
My wife is afraid I am turning into one of those old guys who farts without even knowing it. I am constantly having to claim "No, that was intentional. I knew it was coming out". Sometimes I raise an arm in the "fair catch" sign beforehand.
I think that qualifies as too much information.
2.5.2008 8:28pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Will the school be observing the time honored presumption of "He who smelt it dealt it"?
2.5.2008 8:39pm
Bruce:
Is there any school where intentional flatulence is *not* banned?
2.5.2008 8:57pm
John Neff:
One could get a grant to study the social consequences of the propagation of gastrointestinal acoustic waves in a middle school environment.
2.5.2008 9:40pm
Waldensian (mail):
If you think about it, "expulsion" is actually the perfect punishment for this crime.
2.5.2008 9:48pm
delurking (mail):
I don't know, if some kid intentionally lets one rip right after some else mentions support for particular political candidate, we could see another Supreme Court case.
2.5.2008 9:49pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
They are middle-schoolers. I think there is a solid argument in support of punishing all of them on the grounds that they are probably guilty of something.
2.5.2008 10:08pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Hang the suspects! If they weren't up to something, they wouldn't be so bloody suspicious!
2.5.2008 10:15pm
Jacob L (mail):
I had a similar incident happen to me while I was attending Winona State University. I often had frequent and random hiccups that to some apparently seemed fake and I remember having an episode during a speech class and the professor pulled me aside and told me that she was going to ban me from class if I insisted on continuing to distract the class in such a manner by belching. She claimed that I was trying to focus attention on me, but I felt that if she were more interesting then it wouldn't be a problem!
2.5.2008 10:27pm
Truth Seeker:
If any middle schoolers are reading this, you might consider an alternate trick: Get word around that everyone is to drop a book on the floor at the same time. Like, "10:36 everybody drop a book." They can't put everyone in detention!!!
2.5.2008 10:41pm
On the Way to the Bar (Exam) (mail):

If any middle schoolers are reading this, you might consider an alternate trick: Get word around that everyone is to drop a book on the floor at the same time. Like, "10:36 everybody drop a book." They can't put everyone in detention!!!

Sure they can... they may have to use the gym for that afternoon's detention, but a whole grade can be put into detention in some schools.
2.6.2008 12:34am
MH:
I actually got a detention for farting back when I was in junior high. It wasn't a school policy, just a teacher having a tough time that class. He said next person who makes a sound gets detention.
2.6.2008 1:00am
Anon Y. Mous:
But what of the potential health risks of holding it in? Perhaps EV's medical self-defense theory might be of use.
2.6.2008 1:38am
BT:
Wouldn't this potentially be a useful activity for science class? The teacher could demonstrate how to correctly and safely light a fart and then discuss the chemical make of up of flatus. (Isn't there a car named Dodge Flatus?) This could be a real positive and turn kids on who have no interest in math or science. You know, I think I missed my calling as an educator.
2.6.2008 2:57am
BT:
In reference to the above, I think that is what they call a teachable moment.
2.6.2008 3:08am
What a Hoot (mail):
I for one am more than a little concerned that a fart-tax for "intentional" greenhouse "gas" emissions will be levied against us tax payers as has been the case with cattle farming...This IS the State of Maine you know
2.6.2008 7:23am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
Dan Simon:

"Based on media coverage, one would think that...."
Based on the media coverage, I would think that many journalists have a middle-school sense of humor, and can't pass (so to speak) up the chance to write a piece about farting.
2.6.2008 8:51am
oledrunk (mail):
If I have read Miss Manners correctly, this is one of those behaviors that cry out not to be noticed.
2.6.2008 9:03am
Tom952 (mail):
"And detention seems a sensible punishment -- enough to be something of a deterrent, but not something that would interfere with the students' education or be otherwise excessive (as expulsion or a long suspension would be)."

Or perhaps, a suspension of long expulsions would be in order.
2.6.2008 9:08am
TaxLawyer:
Bravo for the use of "clueful." Although ut's in the main dictionaries (I just checked) I hadn't heard or seen it used before this post. Perhaps that's because I'm clueless. But a great word, in any event.
2.6.2008 9:11am
rarango (mail):
I do hope this thread is immortalized! What is it about flatulence that unleashes such spritely commentary! Well done, commenters. Now I can wipe off my monitor.
2.6.2008 9:41am
titus32:
I don't know, if some kid intentionally lets one rip right after some else mentions support for particular political candidate, we could see another Supreme Court case.

That's what I was thinking--another bong hits for Jesus. I would love to see the Justices wax philosophical on either side of that case.
2.6.2008 11:16am
Tom952 (mail):
Or detention with mandatory retention.
2.6.2008 11:30am
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
"threatening detention for "intentional farting.""

Why, back in my day, we would have been held strictly liable. This country's going down the pan, I tell ya.
2.6.2008 11:56am
JH:
Hi. I'm a seventh grade student at CRMS (camden rockport middle school), and it is quite true that many of the boys in our school enjoy making loud farts on purpose. This is really disruptive, and I think that our teachers are doing the right thing by giving detentions to a few of the boys. To clarify, though, there is no precise rule about flatulence, just about being disruptive.
2.6.2008 12:26pm
connie (mail):
Only in America.... but I have to admit I bought my bumper sticker http://www.zazzle.com/stop_teenage_flatulence_bumpersticker
More power to the boys!
2.6.2008 2:12pm
JNN (mail):
For anyone interested, go to this link
http://www.fivetowns.net/CRMS/CRMS/index.html
and connect to the real CRMS newsletter..Tuesday Times on the left side bar. Here you can read the school's response to the irresponsible article written in the Village Soup.
Unfortunately, the reporter did not check her facts, interview any 8th grade teachers or students, and neglected to mention that she did contact the principal who told her that the student newsletter was not school sponsored..It was merely a humorous 3 sentence story written by 2 girls that was passed out to their peers at snack time. Apparently a parent was given the 'newsletter' by her son and felt it her 'duty' to bring it attention to the paper...again another person who did not check her sources. If any of you are teachers, you know the type of parent I am talking about.
Needless to say, shoddy reporting has led to a lot of wasted time by busy teachers and administration.
There is no farting rule at the school.
2.6.2008 2:58pm
The Cabbage (mail):
This comment is silent, but deadly
2.6.2008 3:12pm
M.E.Butler (mail):
What on earth would this mean for Edgar Marsalla?
2.6.2008 6:14pm
RONALD RYAN (mail) (www):
In terms of the obscenity exception to free speech, in cases such as this a Court opinion might include, "I can't give a precise definition, but I know it when I smell it."
2.7.2008 3:57am
Ralph Phelan (mail):
JNN:

You have just gotten a very important life lesson in the nature of "professional" journalism. Remember it any time you read a news article about Iraq, the Presidential race, your state's budget, or anything else: it was probably written with a similar amount of care.

Your experience is not an anomoly, it's the norm.
2.7.2008 8:09am
Mordecai:
Someone dig up Nifong... the test case will be perfect for him.
2.7.2008 10:57am
elscorcho (mail):
I had a friend in high school who was given detention for excessive flatulance until he provided a doctor's note that stated he could not control his flatutant outbursts. It only added to his incentive to let one rip.
2.9.2008 3:08am