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DEAR DAWG:

Should I be concerned about the fact that our school attorney now has a “tip jar” on her desk?  Am I now expected to tip? What’s the standard for that?  On top of the personal anxiety this creates, I fear it leaves a bad impression. I’m the superintendent and I met with the lawyer along with our board president last week. The tip jar was staring us in the face the whole time, though nothing was said about it.  As we were leaving, the board president reluctantly dug a $1 bill out of his pocket and dropped it in the jar. In the elevator he asked me: “are we not paying our school attorney enough?”  I’m already concerned about our lawyer’s car. She’s driving a 1987 Subaru with bad tires. I don’t want one of those lawyers who ostentatiously  flaunts her wealth with fancy cars and designer clothes. But it does seem that a competent lawyer should not be depending on tips. This kinda looks like maybe she’s not being very successful. The old car. The bad tires. The tip jar. It all makes me nervous. What do you think? APPEARANCES MATTER.

 

DEAR APPEARANCES:

We searched the State Bar website for guidance on this and found nothing.  Apparently, legal ethics neither require nor prohibit lawyers from having tip jars.  Everyone else seems to have one these days, so why not? However, the Dawg’s personal view is that a lawyer should get a tip only for extraordinary service. Ask your lawyer to explain the Rule Against Perpetuities. If she can do that in a way that you understand, I’d say she gets a tip. And it should definitely be more than a buck.

 

 

DEAR DAWG:

We received a job application from someone who is still using aol. com.  Can we just toss that one out?  What about people who put the apostrophe in “y’all” in the wrong place?  You know, some people write “ya’ll.”  I MEAN….REALLY?

 

DEAR I MEAN….:

Absolutely. The law protects people from discrimination based on race, sex, age, disability, national origin, religion and sexual orientation, but not from using outdated technology or poor grammar.   Furthermore, even when the apostrophe is correctly placed, we think “y’all” seems inappropriate in a job app.

 

DEAR DAWG:

This “candy cane” case—when will it end?  Are these people who filed the suit really Christians?  If I understand correctly, they are not only trying to establish a point of law, but they are also seeking to impose monetary damages on the principal who had to make a judgment call about the distribution of gifts and literature. Principals have to make a hundred judgment calls a day.  Is it Christian to sue the poor guy just because you disagree with one of those difficult judgment calls? I THOUGHT ONLY THE HEATHEN DID THAT SORT OF THING.

 

DEAR I THOUGHT:

Yes, the plaintiffs in the endless “candy cane” case are seeking to recover monetary damages from the principal. That’s why the court is dealing with the legal doctrine of “qualified immunity” (see page       for the latest ruling).  As to the morality of such a legal strategy, the Dawg takes no position.  Of course we did review the New Testament to see what it says about litigation. We found little encouragement in the Good Book for litigation, even when one has good cause to file suit.  In fact, there are references to “turning the other cheek.”   On top of that, we found a scripture verse that promises great things to those who are persecuted for a righteous cause. This is interesting, since virtually every plaintiff in every lawsuit feels “persecuted” in some way.  The New Testament says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Matthew 5:10.  It does not say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for they shall have a cause of action under Title 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and, with a good lawyer and the support of well-funded interest groups like the Liberty Institute, may recover monetary damages from school officials who, in good faith, erroneously interpret the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” Doesn’t say that at all.  We suppose it depends on what you want.  If you want the “kingdom of heaven” you are grateful for the persecution you have endured “for righteousness sake,” because you are promised “the kingdom of heaven.” But if you want money, you sue your persecutor. Your local federal judge can award you the money, but lacks the authority to give you “the kingdom of heaven.”

 

 

DEAR DAWG:

I was strolling down the hallway last week and I glanced into one of our classrooms. The teacher had set up what I guess is a “time- out” room in the corner with a big cardboard box. What caught my attention was the label on the front of it: BAD KID FORT.  Does this present any legal issues?  NO ONE WAS IN IT!

 

DEAR NO ONE:

Yes! The Wood County schools in West Virginia got zapped by the federal Office for Civil Rights when its investigation showed that a teacher placed a student with autism into a “Bad Kid Fort” due to disruptive disability-related behavior in the class- room.  OCR issued its ruling on August 27, 2013 and we found it at 62 IDELR 187.  The student was confined to the “fort” only on one occasion, and he still could see the teacher and the whiteboard in the classroom. But OCR concluded that this was illegal harassment based on disability. The teacher was suspended without pay for five days.  So we think it would be a good idea to take down the fort! Or at least re-label it as a SCIDLE: Self Contained Individually Designed Learning Environment. We have laws about “timeout” in Texas. See T.E.C. § 37.0021.

 

Got  a comment or question for  the  Dawg?    Send  it to jwalsh@wabsa.com.

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