Follow That Gopher!

I probably shouldn’t be admitting this publicly, but sometimes litigation confuses me. It’s confounding enough when people spend years and years and lot of money on stuff that doesn’t seem to matter. But then there are cases when the subject of the suit doesn’t even make sense.

You guessed it – I have a new example for you. It’s described in a ruling last week from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit called Frudden v. Pilling, in which the parents of then-elementary school students sued over a school policy in 2011.

I dare you to take a wild guess at what that policy was.

Go on. Guess as many times as you want, and don’t read the next paragraph until you’re done.

The suit was over “a school uniform policy that required their two minor children to wear shirts or sweatshirts with a logo consisting of the name of the school, a stylized picture of a gopher (the school mascot), and the motto ‘Tomorrow’s Leaders.’”


Why would a school do this to its children, and what does it mean? Are tomorrow’s leaders going to be gophers? Are the children the future leaders after they turn into gophers? Can everyone in that school be a leader? Where are they going to get followers?

There’s an exception to the policy that allows uniforms of nationally recognized youth organizations to be worn on regular meeting days of that organization. (I’m pretty sure they weren’t referring to the Hitler Youth, but I am picturing Junior Druids of America.)

I do understand the rationale behind school uniforms, but humiliating kids by making them gophers doesn’t seem quite right.

As far as I can tell, though, that wasn’t what bothered the plaintiff parents. Apparently, they just disliked uniformity (a feeling I can well understand), but they needed other arguments to get anywhere with their lawsuit.

My favorite, described in the ruling, is that the uniforms were not content-neutral because the motto “conveyed two viewpoints – that leadership should be celebrated (or at least valued above being a follower); and that (the school) is, in fact, likely to produce ‘tomorrow’s leaders.’”

I guess that last part is false advertising.

The court, in case you’re wondering, came to the obvious conclusion: “The relationship between the challenged motto and student achievement is somewhat attenuated.”

The D students probably aren’t going to be any day’s leaders.

You’ll be happy to know, by the way, that the school abandoned the motto three years after the lawsuit — but the litigation continues.


Licensing. Maybe I’m wrong, but for some reason I always thought the purpose of licensing was to make sure people with licenses know what they’re doing.

Lawyers have to show they can at least fake it through a bar exam to get a license to practice law.

You have to go for a drive without injuring a DMV employee to get a driver’s license.

That sort of thing. Perfectly sensible.

Last week, however, I came across a licensing scheme that I couldn’t quite fathom. It’s described in a federal court ruling in Nevada over licensing of strippers in Reno.

As far as I can tell, there aren’t any educational requirements or tests involved in getting a stripping license. You don’t even have to keep up on the latest unclothing techniques.

What you do have to do is pay $100.25 to get the license.

Hmm. You don’t think the city could be doing this for the money, do you?

No, let’s not be cynical. There must be some sort of public protection here. Would-be strippers are also subjected to “a statewide and nationwide criminal background check.”

You wouldn’t want to be exposed to a naked criminal.

If you think that’s weird, try reading the excerpts in the ruling from the contested ordinance. It sounds like someone had a few too many drinks before writing it.

Here’s an excerpt from a very long sentence:

“… all of which is typically associated with allowing the performer to solicit from patrons present anything of value such as drinks, lap dances, table dances, tips or other gratuities, bookings dates or other compensation, whether monetary or otherwise.”

The performers are getting lap dances from the patrons?

Reno is very weird.

The litigation, by the way, was over whether women strippers were facing discrimination because the city wasn’t enforcing the licensing law against male strippers.

The fight for equal rights continues.

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