[LCSD] Correlation is not causation

From the Lebanon Express:

Fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse (ICP) at Lebanon High School believe they are being unfairly singled out by a ban on clothing items associated with the group and have asked the school board to intervene.

Good for the students.  Why do I say that?  This:

“ICP is a hardcore rap group identified with gang activity throughout the U.S.,” Shanks said, adding he has no reason to suspect any of the band’s followers at LHS are engaged in criminal activity.

“I want to make clear that students identified as Juggalos are very mature and polite. Every time we’ve spoken, they’ve shown me the utmost respect,” Shanks said.

Finch points to Dylan Debutts, charged by the Linn County Sheriff’s Office with six counts of attempted murder last June in connection with a drive by shooting in Albany, as a former student who wore a large Hatchet Man medallion while attending LHS.

Look, there’s no excuse for what happened last summer.  But just because someone wearing an ICP shirt did something bad does not mean that the ICP shirt had anything to do with it.  Correlation is not causation. Shanks gets at that in his quote above when he notes that he’s never had any problems with any of the students who wear ICP-related clothing, yet he and Finch still seem to support this ban.

To put it another way:  People who wear shoes commit crime all the time, but we don’t ban shoes, because there is no meaningful link between wearing shoes and crime (note:  This is also why being forced to remove one’s shoes at the airport is an idiotic policy).  It’s the same here with ICP apparel – there is not a shred of evidence presented by Finch or Shanks that there’s a meaningful, causal relationship between behavior and the clothing in the LCSD.

So why pursue a ban?  Well, there are lots of common reasons:  Fear on the part of officials that something bad might happen as a result of the presence of clothing because something bad happened somewhere else; the misconception that banning clothing is an acceptable means of control, or will somehow change students’ minds; fear of the unknown; etc.

I don’t think any of those are good reasons, for two reasons of my own:

1.  Banning is a coercive response:  Do X or you’ll be punished.  This is not a particularly good way to treat students (and yes, I know it happens all the time; this does not change my opinion).

2.  It offers no attempt to meet students on their turf or try to understand why it is that students are wearing the clothing in the first place.  In the article, Jessica McNeil does a great job explaining what students see themselves getting out of wearing the apparel, the why, etc.  I hope someone is listening.

What would I do?  Well, rather than try force students to do something, if I were interested in seeing some style of type of clothing disappear from the school, I would try and find a solution that involves convincing students that it’s a bad idea to wear that type of clothing in the first place.  Getting students to make the choice to wear something else is going to be – by far – the most effective path to success.  I would also try and find a proactive way to assist students and parents in replacing the clothing, since that’s clearly going to be a roadblock.  Bottom line:  Banning something doesn’t require getting broad buy-in from parents, and doesn’t even ask why students are wearing the clothes in the first place.  Both things need to happen.

A bonus bit from the article:

Male teachers are leery of saying anything to female students about clothing that exposes too much skin because they are worried about being accused of sexual harassment or inappropriate remarks, Finch said.

There are some contradictions in the policy when cheerleaders are allowed to wear skirts that, if not part of a uniform, would violate the dress code, making its enforcement something of a “gray area,” Finch said.

McNeil scoffs at the notion male staff cannot enforce the dress policy.

“You’re an administrator. You should be able to find a way to respond,” she said. “They have enough female hall monitors to control that.”

Zing. She’s got a point – there are female hall monitors and female teachers all over the place.  If a male teacher is uncomfortable addressing this, he should think about why his demeanor comes across as creepy get the name of the student and contact a female staff person to address it.  That’s a pretty simple solution.

Oh, and what’s going on when cheerleaders’ skirts are so revealing they would otherwise be banned?  Is that a tacit admission on the part of Finch that a) such skirts would be considered inappropriate except b) cheerleaders are considered school-sanctioned eye candy?

Great.  The LCSD is sanctioning the viewing of teenage women as objects.  That’s disgusting.

NOTE:  I’m not claiming that Finch is in the wrong in regards to noting the policy contradiction – in fact, he might be making the same point about the policy as I am by noting it.  The ridiculuosness of the contradiction is what I’m pointing out.  Just so we’re clear.

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4 Comments on “[LCSD] Correlation is not causation”

  1. rh Says:

    Do you think it is true that the ICP clothes are the only clothes that some of these have? Bull****. That is no roadblock. I am not in favor of the ban, but buying new clothes and “I can’t afford them” is not a valid reason.

    Unless someone can show me a person in LHS that caused a problem because of his or her ICP clothes, leave the shirts alone. The ICP kids will probably be the best behaved if allowed to wear the shirts, as they know people will ban the clothes if the kids get out of line.

    I vote for school uniforms. And I have always felt the cheerleaders can wear sweatpants.

  2. CitAll Says:

    The question here is whether or not the shirts are profane and/or otherwise offensive. We do not get to define what offends others, they do. We do not get to define what makes a hostile work/school environment. They do.

    Racism, sexism, handicapism, all in the eye of the beholder.

    Communication is the key. Did anybody talk about the association between this band and horrible gang crime with the students before making the ban? Maybe so, I have no idea. Did students refuse to be sensitive to these concerns? Again, could be.

    If so, then the question is begged- “How much offensive behavior is to be allowed in a crowded place like a high school before adults intervene?”

    I am not sure what I think about the ban yet but I am sure that high schools are full of bullying and petty social jostling that seriously interferes with students perceiving them as safe and inviting places. Likewise the people for whom it is a workplace.

  3. rh Says:

    Well, that would mean as a teacher or other person in the building, I could be very easily offended. I could then get ANY rock t-shirt, religious shirt, Obama/McCain, shirt, etc. banned because it “offended” me. And no, I can’t just decide what a hostile work environment is, there has to be some guidelines. I am on a diet, and a co-worker keeps eating doughnuts for breakfast. That is creating a hostile work environment, and temptation to me. Talk about a minority being able to set all the rules. I don’t like Oprah, I think she is racist, so from now on, all Oprah shirts, hats, etc. are banned. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Harry Potter is of the devil, lets ban the shirts, and burn the books.

    Have the shirts ACTUALLY offended somebody, or did a teacher read an article on the band and freak out? As a former 80’s high school graduate and rock t-shirt wearer, I saw nothing offensive with the shirt the young lady was showing to the paper.

    I really don’t like the color pink, I am going after pink clothes next…

  4. Roxy Says:

    OK, so ICP lyrics (and the band) are vulgar and offensive to many. But what about other groups/artists? Eminem talks about beating his girlfriend/wife/whatever and dragging her corpse off into the woods while his daughter watches. And in another song he raps about killing her then driving around with her dead body, making it wave to people and say “hi.” Or NWA? Dr. Dre? Afroman? Country’s Miranda Lambert’s “Gunpowder and Lead” or the Dixie Chicks “Earl” song?

    Are they going to ban these concert T’s too? They are violent and talk about drinking, drugs, and some are pretty damn disrespectful to women.

    Drawing back on my high school years, I remember some of the rednecks with trucks used to fly the Confederate flag on their trucks and wear T-shirts with the flags. Were they a gang? They were all friends and hung out together. (BTW: I didn’t think they were a “gang” just trying to illustrate here.)

    While I personally CAN NOT stand ICP, I think the slope is too slippery to ban them. Plus, there are a lot of ICP spin-off type bans that are under that same label and I imagine if they follow through with the ICP ban kids will just try and buy shirts from the other bands on the label, which I imagine are on par with ICP.


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