Thursday, November 30, 2006

But They Were Ninja Teddy Bears

OK, we're pretty sure homicidal fantasies in which mistreated and tormented students take bloody revenge on their heartless educorporate masters are about as common today as they were when we used to sneak out behind the bleachers for a biology lesson from Barbara Binder. In fact, we had this particularly anatomically correct reverie that resulted in the total elimination of the math department. It involved automatic weapons, jet aircraft, a bowling ball and Jane Fonda.

Actually, Jane Fonda didn't have anything to do with wiping out the math department, but she figured prominently in all our fantasies back then. Hmmm......................Oh, sorry. Where were we? Yes, offing your educational technician. Well, like we said, this is nothing new or unusual, so we were a little surprised by this.

Four teenagers were expelled from Knightstown High School over a movie, titled "The Teddy Bear Master." The boys, who are sophomores, worked on the teddy bear movie from fall 2005 through summer 2006. In the movie, the "teddy bear master" orders stuffed animals to kill a teacher who had embarrassed him, but students battle the toy beasts. "The thing that concerned us the most is that all the bears were brown," said Principal Jim Diagostino. "You can't tell me there's not a connection to terrorism there somewhere."

In a letter to school board members, the district superintendent said teacher Daniel Clevenger, who teaches seventh grade at Knightstown Intermediate School, felt threatened by the movie. "Now it's true that Mr. Clevenger also feels threatened by clowns and thunder, but that's no reason he should have to spend the rest of the school year locked in his bathroom," the letter concluded.

Indianapolis attorney Robert Kelso, who represents the school district, wrote in a document filed in court that the movie contained vulgar and offensive language, threatened and intimidated a teacher. "They called him Daniel the Spaniel," Kelso wrote. "While it's true he'll never be named one of the 100 most handsome men in the country, he is definitely more of a bulldog than a spaniel."

The Henry County prosecutor's office reviewed the movie but declined to press charges. "I had Daniel Clevenger when I was in seventh grade," a spokesperson for the Prosecutor's Office said, "This was a much less violent fantasy than mine was."

"It's a 14- or 15-year-old boy's idea of humor," said Jackie Suess, an attorney for the ACLU of Indiana, which is representing one of the students. "I'm sorry Daniel Clevenger was upset by it, but anyone who tells people that 'teaching would be a great job if it weren't for students' probably doesn't belong in the classroom in the first place."

Two of the boys are asking a federal judge in Indianapolis to order the students reinstated, arguing that school officials overreacted to a film parody and violated their First Amendment rights. "We're planning a sequel," one of the students said. "We're calling it "The Clown Master Comes To Knightstown Intermediate."

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