< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://caltechgirlsworld.mu.nu/" /> Not Exactly Rocket Science: Wow... Two semi-political posts in a row

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Wow... Two semi-political posts in a row

Have you all seen this thing out of Washington state? About the Mom who eavesdropped on her daughter's phone conversations and subsequently turned in the boyfriend for a purse snatching, only to have his conviction overturned because his lawyer argued that children are entitled to the same rights as adults when it comes to expectation of privacy? The same ruling that overturned the conviction also held that parents can be held in jail for up to one year for eavesdropping on their kids.

I'm not a mom yet, and I'm young enough to remember EXACTLY what it felt like to have my mom snoop on me (not that she did it a lot), but I have to say I'm completely against this ruling.

Since when do teens have ANY expectation of privacy in a house provided by their parents, and for which they pay no rent or bear any responsibility? Sure we all had the space known as "My Room" (as in "Get Out. This is MY ROOM." Slam.) but that didn't mean Mom or Dad couldn't go through it at will with or without our consent.

I have to agree with the parents who have come out against this ruling. The right of a parent to protect their child and to parent any way they see fit is paramount to the child's right to privacy. If other parents are using this kind of argument to keep prayer and Christmas songs and even the freaking Pledge of Allegiance (!!) out of school, saying to wit: the right to parent supercedes the Bill of Rights, then the same argument applies here as well.

The Right to Privacy is often cited as implied by the Bill of Rights. Therefore the same argument must trump. A parent's right to safeguard their kids is paramount to laws.

Ok, Ok, I know. It's despicable, right? You should trust your kids enough to not have to spy on them this way, right? Yeah, maybe in Perfect World. Look, my Mom and Dad probably trusted me more than any other kid I knew was trusted by their parents. Yes, I usually made good choices, but that doesn't mean that they weren't concerned, that they weren't careful. We keep telling parents that they need to know what's going on in their kids lives, that they need to ask and snoop and pry and do whatever it takes because otherwise their kids could go down the wrong path. Case in point: The anti-drug ads where the Mom or Dad finds pot in the kid's room and then leaves a passive-aggressive note in place of the stash. Isn't that snooping? What about internet use? In the state of WA parental spying on internet use is still legal, although eavesdropping on the phone isn't. So if I lived in Seattle or Spokane, my mom could read my email but not listen on my phone? So by extension she could read my text messages but not listen to my voice mail? Huh?? What's the freakin' difference?

This mom deserves a medal for doing the right thing, protecting her daughter, and sending the little bastard she was dating to jail. Who knows what might have happened to her daughter with this guy. What would have happened to the girl if she was with him when he stole the next purse? or held up a mini-mart? She would have gone to jail too as an accomplice, and the mom could have been held because she knew what the kid was up to and never stopped it. That would have been a real tragedy.

I'm just waiting for some ungrateful snot-nose like this to send Mom or Dad to jail out of spite for listening to their phone calls.

My kids are gonna frickin' hate me some day. Too bad.


At Thursday, December 16, 2004 10:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I felt compelled, finally, to respond to a post to your blog, mainly because I had a couple of points to make with respect to constitutional law. Case law in the last 50 years or so supports the idea that children are not non-entities without civil rights and civil liberties, merely the property of their parents. The "not a non-entity" proposition is supported by laws againt child abuse and child labor, among others.

What the courts have said in recent decades is that children have limited liberty, subject to a combination of what their parents and the state hold to be in their best interest. In a case dating back to the mid-60's (In Re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967)), the Supreme Court held that "...neither the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Bill of Rights is for adults alone," affirming that juveniles have a right to due process. Another landmark case was Tinker et al. v. Des Moines Independent Community School District et al. (393 U.S. 503 (1969)) in which the right of juveniles to free expression was upheld.

You wrote "A parent's right to safeguard their kids is paramount to laws." In many cases, the courts would agree. They might take exception, however, if "safeguarding one's kids" meant, say, objecting to medical treatment for one's children on religious grounds. A parent can't keep their kids out of school (without home schooling or the like) simply because they fear for the kids' safety at a public school. As to the specific issue of snooping on your kids, I think you're right, Sam... the courts would probably look at the household unit as an essentially private one, and snooping on your kids' phone conversations doesn't endanger the child. It's no different than a kid threatening to sue a parent over his freedom of expression being quashed within the home -- and who among us didn't experience that growing up!

I just wanted to clarify the legal issues involved. The right to parent does NOT, always and ever, supercede the Bill of Rights. Of course, you'll always have judges who make bad decisions in individual cases. But the bottom line is that the preponderance of case law suggests that the system looks at kids as being in an intermediate state between property and fully-empowered adults. The way I see it, that's where they should be.


At Friday, December 17, 2004 10:02:00 AM, Blogger Caltechgirl said...

You're absolutely correct, and thanks for the clarification. As far as the right to safeguard your kids being paramount, to me that means the right to withhold dangerous medical treatment (eg experimental surgery that could kill them) if you think there is a better alternative. However, that doesn't mean you can withhold ANY medical treatment from your child on a whim. How safe is that for them? Safeguard means look out for their best interests,not yours.


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