A parent has complained about a technique used by one of our coaches. According to the parent, the coach has a habit of blowing his whistle as loud as he can right close to the ear of a student. The coach seems to think this is funny and a good way to get the attention of a kid. I’m the principal and I am responsible for supervising this coach. So I’m the one who is now getting the medical bills. The parent says that the coach has damaged the kid’s eardrum and has sent me a couple of bills from a doctor who is treating the student for hearing loss. I asked the coach about this and he admitted that he has done this occasionally. He downplayed it all, but I figured I ought to take some corrective action. So I wrote him up, reprimanding him for using an inappropriate disciplinary technique and risking injury to students. Today I got a certified letter in the mail from B.D. (Bulldog) Owens, Attorney at Law. Mr. Owens alleges that I have violated the Whistleblower Act. He says this:
Please be advised that your letter of reprimand directed to my client, the aforesaid coach, is an act of RETALIATION for WHISTLEBLOWING in direct violation of the TEXAS WHISTLEBLOWER ACT, for which you CAN and WILL be held PERSONALLY LIABLE.
Any suggestions? DID NOT REALIZE THAT THE WHISTLEBLOWER ACT APPLIED TO BLOWING THE WHISTLE.
DEAR DID NOT REALIZE:
Actually, the Whistleblower Act does not apply to the physical act of expelling air through a device. Moreover, the Whistleblower Act does not use the term “whistleblower.” Thus we have no definitive legal answer to the burning question: is it Whistleblower? Or Whistle Blower? What the law actually says is that it protects a person who “in good faith reports a violation of law.” Thus, the term “Whistleblower” is best thought of as a metaphor. So we think Mr. Bulldog Owens is way off base here and way too overly literal in his interpretation of the law. We think you did the right thing to reprimand the coach, and if anybody pays those medical bills it should be the coach—not the school.
DEAR MR. DAWG:
I am a junior in high school and my grandfather told me I could get a straight answer from you. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about. At our school during Homecoming Week we vote for Trojan King and Trojan Queen (we are the Fighting Trojans!). And it has always been the tradition that the kids who are running for King and Queen hand out candy to the kids as they get ready to vote. It’s no big deal—it’s been going on for years. So this year my boyfriend and I decided to run for King and Queen. We are both way cute and popular to the max. (My grandfather said you would understand that “to the max” thing). So we figured that we had a good chance to win. But just to make sure, we decided to do something a little different—something to distinguish us from the other candidates. So instead of candy, we handed out condoms.
Well. You would have thought the world was coming to an end. Word got out in the community about our campaign technique and it “hit the fan.” (My grandfather told me to use that expression: what does it mean?) The PTA called a special meeting to discuss the “decline in morality among our young people.” The school board lowered the superintendent’s evaluation ratings. The leader of the local Tea Party was interviewed on the radio about the controversy and she said, “This kind of shameful behavior is a direct result of Obamacare and the failed leadership of this president.”
But the worst thing that happened was the principal told us that we could not be Trojan King and Queen. He told us we had violated the rules of the school and could not serve as Homecoming King and Queen. We won the election, Mr. Dawg! In a landslide!! And I think the condoms had a lot to do with that. Think about it. The other candidates are handing out candy, which contributes to obesity and tooth decay. We were handing out prophylactic devices that promote safety, health and responsible population growth. What’s the deal here? I know that what they did to us is not fair. Is it legal? I have looked through the Code of Conduct and it does not say that you can’t distribute condoms. Just doesn’t say that at all!! WANTED TO BE HELEN OF TROY. ALAS.
DEAR WANTED TO BE:
We give you points for creativity, but as far as legalities, we think the principal did the right thing. Schools in Texas are prohibited by law from distributing condoms “in connection with instruction relating to human sexuality.” T.E.C. 28.004(f). We think your principal was wise to prohibit the distribution outside of the classroom as well. Principals have a great deal of discretion in dealing with honorary offices like Homecoming King and Queen. We are sorry that your hopes have been dashed, but if you read about your role model, Helen of Troy, you will see that she overcame many obstacles before her face launched a single ship. Best of luck and best wishes to your grandfather.