The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 19, 2013

Our View: Deputy acted outside of ethical boundary

The Free Press

— Thumbs down: To Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputy Jacqueline Muellner who seized a citizen’s video camera while a bloodied man was frisked and loaded into an ambulance in a public place.

The deputy said she took the camera to protect the injured person’s privacy and cited the man, Andrew Henderson, for obstruction of the legal process. That’s a fine sentiment except that taking another’s property without permission is known as theft and seizing it without a warrant is usually illegal. And usually judges and juries get involved in privacy issues in what is known as the criminal justice system.

Because the individuals were all on public property, filming is within a citizen’s rights, as a Ramsey County Sheriff’s spokesman later conceded. The American Civil Liberties Union will be representing Henderson at no cost.

This kind of police overreach is not helpful to citizens who more and more find themselves having to get their own information to either reveal wrongdoing or protect their own rights.

Cars/bikes both to blame

Thumbs down: To motorists and bicyclists who spend too much time driving distracted and ignoring the rules.

There has always been a long-running blame game between cyclists and drivers, with cyclists saying motorists cause accidents and drivers saying bikers are reckless.

Turns out they were both right.

A new study of 270 bike-motor vehicle crashes in Minneapolis found that bikers’ actions contributed to 59 percent of the accidents while drivers actions contributed to 64 percent of accidents. In many of the accidents both the biker and the motorist did something wrong, which is why the numbers add up to more than 100 percent.

So stop arguing and everyone — on bike or in car — pay better attention. Motorists: Keep an eye out for bikes. Bikers: Traffic rules apply to you, too.

Thanks for the advice, Abby

Thumbs up: To Pauline Friedman Phillips, alias Abigail Van Buren, who died Wednesday in Minneapolis at the age of 94 after decades of penning the “Dear Abby” syndicated newspaper column that captivated readers for so long with homespun wisdom and thoughtful advice.

“Dear Abby” is a long-running institution. Van Buren’s advice made common sense, it cut across barriers and it entertained. Readers were often shocked at the twisted, mixed-up lives led by those who asked questions of the columnist, but we were also captivated by the straight talk revealed in “Abby’s” responses.

Phillips will be remembered not only for the advice, but for her tolerance. She was a trailblazer in that way — just one more reason she was appreciated.

Leave this teacher behind

Thumbs down: To the Ohio teacher who has sued a school district because of her phobia of children.

Yes, you read it right. A teacher claiming she can’t be around young kids.

The suit was filed after she was reassigned to teach junior high after being a high school teacher a number of years. Now, anyone who remembers junior high, or has or had kids in junior high, knows it can be a funky time. Lots of hormones surging, lots of energy, lots of peer pressure — all passing up brain development. It can add up to some challenging moments.

But a teacher’s objection to the assignment has been turned into a silly lawsuit that makes a mockery of her profession. She said her fear of young children falls under the federal American with Disabilities Act and that the district violated it by transferring her in the first place and then refusing to allow her to return to the high school. That is not the kind of protection the ADA was designed for.

She doesn’t have to like her new assignment — and no doubt she’s feeling stress — but to say she can’t be around young kids is a sure way to guarantee that no one else is going to ever want to hire her as a teacher. Of course, at age 61, it’s likely not her intent to teach again. Winning this lawsuit would be providing her with a retirement cushion she doesn’t deserve.