Is Evel Knievel a Pimp?

Wed Feb 2 21:50:29 UTC 2005

        Bear in mind that these are different areas of the law.  The Knievel case was about the law of defamation (slander/libel).  The hypothetical case against your school district would be based instead on the student's right to be free of arbitrary and capricious governmental process or on the student's right to free speech.

        The free speech claim isn't going to get far if the student was insulting another student at school, whether the student meant nerd or penis, so the student would have to proceed on the arbitrary governmental process theory.  Assuming that your school district's rules are clearly set out somewhere (e.g., what you describe would not be sexual harassment in the legal sense even if everyone understood "dork" to mean a penis, but the school certainly could proscribe that), then the student would essentially have to show that the school district's policy, as applied, was so unreasonable as to be unsustainable.  For example, if a teacher overheard a student call another one a nerd and the student were suspended because the teacher erroneously understood a nerd to be a penis, then the student might have a claim.

        This is not legal advice.

John Baker

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf
Sent: Wednesday, February 02, 2005 4:21 PM
Subject: Re: Is Evel Knievel a Pimp?

This is an interesting verdict. In our school district, guilt is determined by the hearer's perception (maybe not even the one to whom a comment is directed), not the intent of speaker.  So, "You're a dork!" is sexual harassment if anyone in earshot understands 'dork' to mean the male member.  Showing another definition, such as "fool, nerd, etc." in a dictionary is no defense. My question is whether a kid can take the school district to court after having been punished for sexual harrassment after saying "you're a dork', using the -I-meant-nerd-not-male-member-and-here-it, ie.nerd,-is-in- the-dictionary-defense.  Would our school district have to change its policy?

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