My Turn: Starr's involvement in 'Bong Hits' issue reeks

School Board continues to spend money on losing legal cause

Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2006

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The Juneau School Board's latest action on the "Bong Hits for Jesus" issue reeks of political action with religious overtones, rather than a school discipline issue. This becomes abundantly clear in the choice of Kenneth Starr as the attorney to represent the School Board, in attempting to take this issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Starr is a partisan and religious zealot who has already unnecessarily spent over $80 million of public money fanatically pursuing a politically biased cause. The fact that he will now represent our Juneau School Board is very offensive and repugnant to me. To authorize spending even more public money on this losing legal cause borders upon malfeasance in office in my opinion - no matter the attempts at justification. A wise old saying goes, "When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you should do is quit digging."

School Board members must be capable of separating personal prejudices from actions on public policy issues, and be able to discern the differences between their own personal positions and legality. This is clearly not true in the present instance. Attacking, or even appearing to attack an individual's basic constitutional rights is a foolishly improper action for any public body, doing so in our collective names. Those responsible should be ashamed.

Few persons advocate the use of drugs by Juneau's school population, but that does occur. A basic reality check shows that the School Board has grossly and repeatedly overreacted to what was essentially a student prank, off the school grounds. The board now acts "foolisher and foolisher," by obstinately and improperly continuing to keep this issue on the front burner. That's not intelligent management, in my opinion.

They have already created a folk hero in Joseph Frederick who can now only go on to further notoriety and fame, which is perhaps the only benefit from the School Board's expensive actions so far. I don't think, however, that will enhance our efforts against student drug use; it may well have the opposite effect. Again, that's very ineffective management in my opinion.

School Board members are elected to act in the best interests of the Juneau School District and our public school population. Their latest act strays seriously away from that primary focus. I can imagine that many Juneau citizens might resent their spending even more public money to pigheadedly pursue this unnecessary issue.

More importantly, I predict the School Board will lose this fight - just as Kenneth Starr lost his last one. What will the members possibly say to their constituency then?

• Erik Lie-Nielsen is a Juneau resident and business man.

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