Meep! Danvers Principal Courts Court Hearing

Does Beaker have more common sense than the principal at Danvers High?

The challenges facing high school administrators are daunting: teen pregnancy, drug use, rising levels of violence, sinking test scores…. So what does Thomas Murray, the principal at Danvers (MA) High School see as such a problem that he’s on a one-man crusade to stamp out? Why the use of the word “meep,” of course. What could be more pressing?

Yes, you read it correctly. Principal Murray has informed parents that he will potentially suspend any student who uses the word “meep” and, according to the Boston Globe, even forwarded to police emails using the word. It must be really bad, yes? Possibly some code word that awakens a terrorist sleeper cell. Well…not really. Insofar as anyone can tell—and who can since it’s a nonsense syllable?—meep made its way into the American lexicon via the Muppet character named Beaker. It’s the sound he makes before something silly happens. Look up the word online and you’ll find that it’s usually either a synonym for either “ouch” or “oops”—words presumably still okay to use under the Murray Regime. Mostly meep is infinitely malleable and means whatever you want it to mean, which is Murray’s real gripe against it.

When Murray complains that students often use it in a disrespectful way, it’s easy enough to imagine that a group of savvy teens use it to get under Murray’s demonstrably thin skin. How the hell does a guy like this get to be a principal in the first place? Since 1998 Massachusetts has required that all teachers pass an examination before they can be licensed. It may be time to institute one for administrators as well. It would seem a rock bottom criterion that before one becomes a high school principal he should have to demonstrate more common sense than a concrete block. And perhaps some familiarity with the First Amendment.

The Great Danvers Meep Mockery reminds me of my own brush with a high school generalissimo. Back in 1970 I was booted from a high school gym class for wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a peace symbol logo. (There was no official gym uniform.) Being the young firebrand I was, I contacted the ACLU, which promptly informed the football coach/gym instructor that peace was not an obscenity and was, hence, protected free speech. The coach was a tyrant, but he was no fool; he backed down and wisely ignored it when other students donned the once-forbidden shirt.

This is precisely what Murray should do. He’s setting himself up for a nasty confrontation, to say nothing of making a meeping ass of himself. What would you do if your kid got suspended for saying “meep?” I know what I’d do and I’ll bet I’d find any number of attorneys who’d salivate at the thought of taking such a case. But before it comes to that, Danvers parents ought to rally and push for Murray’s removal. The teenage years are anxious ones and Danvers kids deserve a wiser pilot to guide them through the shoals of modern life.

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