In This Episode: We’re Back! We talk about another pack of clueless, ridiculous school officials who run rampant over students — and a meek “anything goes” school board. Plus a segment of No Longer Weird.
No Longer Weird: People “hiding” their guns in an oven thinking it’s a safe place …until someone turns on the oven. Recent example: Warren Man Shot by Gun While it Was in His Oven from WFMJ Youngstown, Ohio.
- Full list of No Longer Weird entries.
- For more info on Kit’s adventure, see article on the Camino and/or the Knights Templar.
- The photo of Kit at the Knights Templar castle is just below.
- The official video for the musical piece is at the end of the transcript, below (currently at 583 million views!)
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Welcome to Uncommon Sense, the Podcast companion to the This is True newsletter, with the mission to promote more thinking in the world. I’m Randy Cassingham.
Kit: I’m Kit Cassingham.
This week we’re discussing a story from issue 1250 of the newsletter, which will be included on the Show Page at thisistrue.com/podcast38
Before we get to that story, it’s been awhile since we had a new entry on the No Longer Weird list.
Kit: It’s been awhile since you had an entry.
Randy: It’s been a while since we’ve done any of this!
Kit: I can’t wait! Tell me more!
Randy: But the newsletter has still been coming out weekly, and we’ll talk about your absence a bit too. What’s No Longer Weird is people who forgot that they hid their gun — yes, a firearm, typically loaded — in the oven. That’s right, they thought maybe the oven in the kitchen was a smart and/or safe place to hide a gun.
Kit: I never thought of hiding mine there!
Randy: Probably not. But of course, these cases get into the news because someone turns on the oven, which quite literally cooks off a round of ammo — or more! — and either creates havoc, or shoots someone who happens to be in the kitchen.
Kit: Doesn’t do the gun any good either.
Randy: Probably not! The earliest one I found in a quick skim through TRUE’s archives was from 20 years ago, 1998, and in this case it was the police chief of Madison, Wisconsin. That story notes Chief Richard Williams had his gun in the oven and he himself set it for 350 degrees, popped something in to heat up, and the gun went off while he was waiting for dinner. To his credit, the chief suggested that the mayor give him a one-day suspension for violating his own department’s gun safety policy. (Volume 4) “Add Saltpeter to Taste”)
Kit: One day, huh?
Randy: Yeah, really generous, wasn’t it?
Kit: I thought they knew where to put their guns when they weren’t wearing them.
Randy: Yeah, you’d think they’d basically say, if we need to lock it up or have it somewhere, a safe is a good place for it.
Anyway, the more recent story that I passed on was in Warren, Ohio. There, a man hid his pistol in the oven and “didn’t know” that “a woman who lives in the house” — yeah, his wife maybe?—
Kit: Maybe not, maybe not.
Randy: …was starting to cook. Well, he realized it when a shot rang out, and he ran upstairs from the basement to stop the mayhem. But when he tried to grab the gun, guess what?
Kit: It was hot!
Randy: It was too hot. But he did manage to fire two more shots, hitting himself both times. I’m guessing that means the gun was a semi-automatic, even though the article actually does say “revolver.” The unidentified man was not surprisingly hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
Kit: I hope the woman was OK.
Randy: Apparently so: the story didn’t mention any injuries for her. My favorite part of this story wasn’t a detail from the story itself, but the call letters of the TV station where I got the story.
Randy: WFMJ. Anyone with gun knowledge has already chuckled, since FMJ is a common gun term for a type of ammunition: Full Metal Jacket.
So Kit, you were out of the country for a month and a half to take a little stroll. Remind us what you did real briefly.
Kit: I walked the Camino de Santiago, the “French Way” — there are a dozen or so ways to get to Santiago, but I took the more common route that was popularized by Martin Sheen’s movie “The Way”. I don’t know why we give Martin the credit since it was Emilio Estevez’s movie, but anyway….
Randy: Yeah, Martin Sheen starred in it, and his son Emilio was the producer and director.
Kit: Well he died, so he didn’t get to be in the movie!
Randy: Well yes, I guess in the plot….
Kit: It’s recorded, or promoted, as an 800-kilometer walk, which is roughly speaking 500 miles — 480 — but I noticed when I got my “compestello,” which is the certificate you get in Santiago when you’ve proven you’ve walked all this distance, they give you credit for walking 799 kilometers. Which tickled me! It’s like, “I’ve been robbed of one kilometer!”
Kit: But with all the false starts, and the journeys you take for meals, and tour in the cathedrals, and just all the things you do in addition to “walking” from Point A to Point B….
Randy: And occasionally a wrong turn.
Kit: That’s the “false starts” I was talking about, I’m sure I put in an extra 100 miles. So I tell people I walked 600 miles.
Randy: And that’s probably true!
Kit: May even be an understatement.
Randy: Your voice sounds a little thin, so what happened?
Kit: Is that how you’re describing it? I sound … weird! I got within about a day or two of Santiago, and, well, within a day of Santiago I started coughing, and it got worse and worse and worse, to the point that I took myself to the E.R. My walking partner went with me, and I was grateful for that — she’s a nurse — and it’s just nice to have somebody there to help translate the Spanish. Though it’s a very cool what this hospital had: I don’t know if I even told you about this. They have, for us foreigners, a guide who translates for you between the doctors and the nurses. But they concluded, after x-rays and treatments and stuff, that I had a respiratory infection and early stages of pneumonia. I guess I had “walking pneumonia”! Heh!
Randy: I guess so!
Kit: Oh, don’t make me laugh ’cause then I cough! But it was pretty extraordinary, and there isn’t a description. People say “Did you have a good time?” Yes I did. But my hairdresser asked me “What was the best part?” and I go, I can’t choose a “best” after walking for 37, 38 days, the whole Camino part of the trip, you can’t choose one thing. I guess if I had to, it was the sunrises. Because we were up walking before the sun, and I’d always take an effort to turn around and get a good sunrise picture.
Kit: Getting the compestello was pretty special too, but I told her I’d come up with five, and get back to her.
Randy: Every day when Kit had a good Internet connection, which was most places where she stopped to have dinner and/or sleep, she’d upload her pictures, and I’d grab them out of the cloud and post several to her friends online. I really had fun with that, and I’ll put one on the Show Page that I think is a perfect example: it not only shows Kit on the move, with her backpack and other gear, but she’s in front of a fortress of the Knights Templar.
Randy: Now, this group of knights, also known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, was a military order established by the Roman Catholic Church first founded in the year 1129, and is mostly known for their …umm… “work” during the Great Crusades. You saw a lot of evidence of the Templars along your route, but most notable to me was the photos of their castle — and I’ll probably butcher this… in Villafranca el Bierzo?
Kit: Villafranca el Bierzo.
Randy: OK, close enough. And I loved the castle even had a moat. The knights began to settle in the León province in the 12th century after King Alfonso IX ordered them to the region to protect — yes — the pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago, even 900 years ago.
Kit: The pilgrims have been walking that for a little while.
Kit: And there’s evidence of the Knights Templar all across northern Spain. My friend Kathy introduced me to their existence when she and her husband drove through Portugal maybe two years ago. She was saying she’d go out of their way to see their castles and cathedrals and things.
Randy: In addition to that copy of the photo on the Show Page, I’ll put links to a Wikipedia article about the Camino and the Knights Templar.
Randy: So let’s turn to a story in this week’s issue, #1250, that really stands out for me, about public schools. I’m not going to read the story, but it’s going to be the Story of the Week and will be included on the Show Page. It’s called “You Must Love Big Brother” by Alexander Cohen, a This is True contributor, and is about a High School in the Northern Lebanon, Pennsylvania, School District where assistant principal Benjamin Wenger is apparently so power hungry, it’s his policy to require the students to smile when they’re in the hallways. When these angst-ridden teens who are going through the trials that kids normally go through that doesn’t make them smile, they’re referred to guidance counselors. And if they refuse to “talk about their problems,” they’re sent to detention.
Kit: Oh no.
Randy: But wait, it gets worse. While the officials at the school in the town of Fredericksburg are screwing around writing up students for not smiling, and dress code violations, they are at the same time ignoring bullying — and it’s not the kids saying that, it’s parents and teachers talking to reporters, and the teachers asked that their names be withheld so Wenger doesn’t take retribution on them. Still, one 14-year-old girl did come forth, and let her name be used: That’s a brave girl! Adreanna Gundrum. She was a cheerleader, and says that after a football game, she had to flee her bullies, but guess what: they chased after her. “Lucky for us some state troopers were standing there,” her mother told a reporter. And because of that, the girls “didn’t get too physical” with her daughter. “The school resource officer was there, and we thought, ‘OK, it is on record now, so now the school will do something.’” Well, sort of: who was called in to the principal? The bullied Miss Gundrum of course. The student says of the principal, Jennifer Hassler, “She said I was the problem, and I should start being the solution.” That’s right: blame the victim.
Kit: That is so pitiful.
Randy: This isn’t the first time the school has been in the news recently: vice principal Wenger and principal Hassler — good name for her, by the way — were recently accused of playing catch with a sex toy in the office during school hours. Meanwhile, state law in Pennsylvania does require that school administrators deal with bullying, and the school board for this school has a policy not about smiling, but bullying: “Any staff member who receives a bullying complaint shall gather information or seek administrative assistance to determine if bullying has occurred. If the behavior is found to meet the definition of bullying, the building principal must complete the appropriate written documentation. The building principal or his/her designee will inform the parents or guardians of the victim and also the parents or guardians of the accused.”
Doesn’t sound like that’s happening. Her mother says the bullying first started on social media, and “then it rolled over into school.” Mrs. Gundrum of course complained to the principal, and here’s the response she got: “Principal Hassler actually told me that maybe I need to raise my children better and that she felt my daughter was the bully. She asked if I was sure that it’s not my daughter causing the issue. The girls picking on her were about double her size and it was about five girls on her.” Even the school resource officer — a police officer assigned to the school who witnessed the football incident — tried to intervene in a meeting between Mrs. Gundrum and the principal. “The resource officer said, ‘We need to handle this. This can’t go on anymore,’” the mother said. “Principal Hassler interrupted him and said, ‘We are not punishing anybody. Can’t you just see if you can get over it. We need to teach our children to be the solution and not the problem.’” There’s that sanctimonious BS again.
Kit: It… it makes me speechless.
Randy: So teachers say that for every five disciplinary referrals they make to administrators, one is addressed. And of the “multiple” referrals for bullying, none were addressed, but, they say anytime a student questions why nothing is being done, administrators take it as the student disrespecting the “principal’s authority” and that results in disciplinary action. Mrs. Gundrum has taken her daughter out of school. “I told my daughter, ‘If they touch you again you can handle it on your own now,’” she said. “That was how we had to handle it because there was nothing else we could do.”
Kit: Sigh. Talk more about this sex toy thing?
Randy: Ah, good question. That only came to light because one parent, Arlo Miller, kept pushing on the school board to do something about it. Nothing happened until he pressed harder. He says the only reason the school board addressed the sex toy incident was because he filed complaints with both the state and federal Departments of Education.
“When I spoke to the Department of Education — Safe Schools, I reported to them what happened. I sent them proof,” Miller said. “It seems odd that within 24 hours (of me calling) … all of a sudden come Monday morning the agenda paper is leaked that they are going to take a vote on these three people” — the administrators.
Yet the school board voted not to demote the two high school principals and, by the way, a middle school principal who was also involved, so one of the school board members has resigned. At the close of a school board meeting, board member Beth Heckmen said, “As my integrity is very important to me, I cannot continue to serve on a board that does not hold themselves or the administration accountable. I apologize to the voters, but clearly I am a better advocate off the board than I have been on the board.” She resigned effective immediately, and added, “Now the validity of them being able to hold students accountable is completely gone. Students will never respect them again.”
Kit: Well where were they playing with this toy?
Randy: Apparently in the [school] office. The toy in question was described by Mr. Miller as “a pink phallus about 10 inches long and about 3 inches thick with a suction cup at its base,” which was “found in a locked locker room that only athletes have access to. It was stuck against a wall.” Also, in a letter to the school board, “The teachers said they are concerned there was no investigation immediately after the sex toy was found. Without an investigation it is unknown if the presence of the toy was a one-time prank by students, something used in hazing or a remnant from a sexual assault on a child.” That’s what the teachers came up with — that’s what they think about their own school. But instead, the toy, which administrators call “Mr. Pinky,” became an “instant joke” among school officials.
Ms. Heckmen, the resigning school board member, noted the incident had been going on much longer than parents realized: apparently, the dildo was found in December 2017. Here’s another interesting sentence from the report I read: “The teachers also confirmed the stories in the letter regarding the two teachers caught in a sexual act in a classroom and the teacher who got a student pregnant in the past few school years were true.”
But wait, it still gets worse: a petition was circulated among the teachers asking teachers to sign if they support the three administrators. The Lebanon Daily News reports that two of the administrators were checking the petitions as they were being circulated to see who was signing. “Because of the petition, there is now a list of teachers — those who signed the petition — that support the principals, as well as a list of those who don’t support them, simply because some teachers would not sign the petition, those interviewed said.” The teachers say they think the principals were behind the petition in the first place.
The bottom line here is that maybe this is a rogue school, but even though the district’s own lawyer says the principals committed “serious, egregious and fireable offenses,” so far there have been no serious consequences. And by the way, the school board paid that lawyer $35,000 of tax money to investigate the goings on, and that was his conclusion after looking into it, not from reading news reports. The district is not taking serious actions despite repeated offenses, such as impregnating students, ignoring state law by not investigating bullying, blaming the students for their problems and instead piling on with disciplinary action for not smiling while marching the hallways of this gulag. So you can’t really just lay this down on the principals: the school board, minus the one who was outvoted, are complicit. We’ll see if the state steps in, since I’m not holding my breath for the feds to do anything.
It just goes to show the need for children to have adult supervision. I speak of course of the school officials. Let’s see if their overseers figure out it’s past time for them to do their duty.
Kit: I’m all for people smiling more…
Randy: Yeah, but not forced.
Kit: A forced smile is useless. And if people felt good, which evidently the kids in that school don’t…
Randy: For good reason!
Kit: Yes. They would be smiling without being prompted or pushed.
Randy: But no, “we’ve got to” force them, and that’s just — in my opinion — criminal.
Kit: That’s just the tip of the iceberg of all the criminality going on there. And I have one more thing to tell you.
Randy: All right.
Kit: When I saw the doctor today about my beautiful voice, she said, “You know, getting over pneumonia is like getting over surgery. And coughs can take like up to six weeks.
Randy: Oh boy: so future podcasts will co-start Miss Froggy here!
Kit: That’s right. But! The surgery thing, I thought, “Oh, well I know what to do to get over surgery!” So before you called me up to do the podcast, I played Maclemore’s “Can’t Hold Us”.
Randy: That gives you energy, yeah.
Kit: And I’m already feeling better!
Randy: All right! So Maclemore — or should I say Dr. Maclemore? — thanks for your help!
Kit: Yes, a vitamined-up Maclemore.
Randy: If you have a story to tell about an out of control school or otherwise wish to comment, know on the Show Page, at thisistrue.com/podcast38. I’m Randy Cassingham…
Kit: And I’m Kit Cassingham.
Randy: And we’ll talk at you later.