There’s gotta be an easier way…

It’s been said we live in a litigious society.

Tell me about it…

Simple problems which were once settled with sweet reason – or a swift uppercut – are now decided in courts of law, usually over a period of years and frequently at a cost much, much greater than the entire problem was worth in the first place.

Never was this more clearly illustrated to me than last month when a visiting Solano County Superior Court judge finally lowered his gavel on a long-disputed case and ruled against changing again the previously changed grade of a high school student whose chemistry grade had been bumped up from a B+ to an A by the governing board of the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District.

(You’re following all of this, right?)

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not disputing the judge’s ruling. After nearly two years of wrangling, he had to do something with the nettlesome case and his judgment was probably the very best he could offer considering the nature of the dispute.

I doubt that all the parties in the matter will agree with my assessment of the case, but litigation rarely leaves everybody involved with ear-to-ear grins.

Regardless, my problem is not with the judge’s ruling.

My problem is that the case ever got to Superior Court.

C’mon, amigos, we’re talking about a high school junior’s chemistry exam here. And not a particularly critical one, either. We’re talking about the difference between a B+ and an A.

This is a case to be decided by the Superior Court of the State of California in and for the County of Solano?

There’s gotta be a better way to resolve a student’s disputed half-grade.

To greatly simplify the convoluted circumstances of the case, the dispute revolved around a chemistry final at Armijo High School in 2002 that didn’t turn out as well as the student’s parents might have expected and dropped the student’s overall class grade from an A to a B+.

The parents asked to see the student’s exam answer sheet, but the teacher had already disposed of the tests. The parents then brought their complaint to the district superintendent, who, in turn, took the matter to the school district governing board, which eventually opted to change the student’s grade to an A.

The teacher protested the action and the California Teacher’s Association, along with Fairfield-Suisun Unified Teacher’s Association, filed a writ petitioning the court to intercede.

And so it went.I’m not saying this was a frivolous action. Hell, no. Somebody would sue me for sure.

What I am saying is that, as a society, we need to stop and think about resolving day-to-day problems short of hiring a busload of attorneys and heading for the courthouse.

Perhaps a basic conflict-resolution class should be required for all incoming high school freshmen. And their parents. And their teachers. And the school board.

And if they don’t show up for class, why, we’ll send ’em to court…

Originally published June 6, 2004

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