by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
"Lawyers spend a great deal of their time shoveling smoke."... ...Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Commentary of the Day - February 10, 2003: Gimme an 'A'... or Else! Guest Commentary by Erik Deckers.
The American Legal System: We don't make the grade. We make the grade BETTER.
At least that's what one Memphis, Michigan high school senior thinks.
Brian Delekta, a student at Memphis High School (official motto: "Yes, there's a Memphis in Michigan") is suing the Memphis Community School District to get a grade overturned and a restraining order on class rankings. Of course, it's not a real lawsuit without a monetary demand, which is why he also wants $25,000.
However, it's not known whether the $25,000 would affect his amateur standing on his high school hockey team, or if it would prevent him from suing the Michigan High School Athletic Association when his team lost a game.
It seems that young Brian was taking a work-experience class through the St. Clair County Intermediate School District, and working as a paralegal in his mother's Memphis law office. Not surprisingly, Diane Delekta gave her son an A+.
However, the highest grade the St. Clair District gives is an A, so that's what they stamped on his report card. Subsequently, the Memphis district only recognized the A, and didn't count the plus (their own grading system includes pluses and minuses). And so Delekta, who finished his junior year at the top of his class, got his knickers in a knot over the missing plus, which he believes could prevent him from being class valedictorian.
Diane Delekta said her son performed all the duties expected of a paralegal, and completed the checklist of things a work-experience student must perform.
"It was what he would do if he were a paralegal in a law office," she said in a Port Huron Times Herald story. "He prepared documents, met with clients."
Also not surprisingly, Diane is representing Brian in his noble pursuit of truth and justice.
Brian's concern is that the lack of a plus will be a lead weight on his class ranking, and result in a faster-than-gravity plummet all the way down to second or -- God forbid! -- even third.
So what kind of lesson does young Brian learn from all this? If you're not happy with a result, legal recourse is the best recourse? If the top grade your mom gave you doesn't count, you should file a lawsuit?
"Mommy, Billy Snodgrass beat me in my gym class relay race. Let's sue!"
I think the lesson Brian should have learned is: Do your research ahead of time! If you're going to work for your mom, and she's going to give you an A+, make absolutely sure one school district will recognize the other school district's grading system.
If this is anyone's fault, it's Brian's for not making sure that the grade would be given an equal value in both districts.
Circuit Court Judge Daniel Kelly will review a motion on the restraining order on Monday, February 10. The restraining order calls for class rankings to be frozen until the lawsuit is settled.
However, School board President Harold Burns is concerned about the class rankings. Burns told the Times Herald that if Judge Kelly prevents grades from being released until the suit is resolved, students might not be able to apply for scholarships that rely on their rank.
Of course, people who think Delekta is just being a whiny crybaby would consider it a delicious twist of irony if he got the pants sued off him by students who lost valuable scholarship money over the delay. . . not that I'm suggesting anything.
So what does Brian get out of all this if he wins his case? What will he do if he completely blows a test this year, and doesn't get the A+ he thinks he deserves? Will he sue the teacher for making the test too hard? And what about his future? What will he tell job interviewers?
Potential employer: Mr. Delekta, tell me about some of your biggest accomplishments.
Delekta: I sued my high school to become valedictorian. Then I sued my university because I slept through my morning classes. And then I sued my first employer because I wanted to be the top salesman in my division.
Potential employer: Uhhh, thanks Mr. Delekta. Don't call us, we'll call you.
If anything, Brian should just be given his A+. For one thing, it will stop his incessant whining, and save the school district $25,000 (although Burns says their insurance will cover it). It will also allow students to apply for much-needed scholarships, and prevent the Chess Club geeks from beating the snot out of Delekta. Finally, Delekta's top ranking should have an asterisk next to it, denoting that the ranking is tainted, and not a truly earned top rank.
But he'll probably sue to have it changed to a dollar sign.
©2003, Erik Deckers
Erik Deckers is a freelance writer from Indiana. He writes a weekly humor column that is published in a number of regional newspapers. It also is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.kconline.com/deckers.
All the IP can say is how do you spell f-r-i-v-o-l-o-u-s l-a-w-s-u-i-t?
© 2003 Dr. Mark H. Shapiro - All rights reserved.