Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Protection of Human Subjects

Years ago, before I worked at the San Francisco Chronicle, I ran a telephone center for a couple of years. Most of the survey research conducted was for governmental agencies and dealt with sexual behavior. [That sounds so much more appealing in the telling than in the actual, uh, doing.] At one point, the center conducted 8,000 40-minute telephone interviews with a random sample of Americans on their sexual activities. You think you hate being interrupted by a telemarketer whilst you're watching Lost or eating dinner, try answering these questions.

I've been asked to help on another study. I obviously won't go into details about the study. [And not because I don't want to talk dirty to you.] But my involvement hinges on my successfully passing tests regarding the protection of human subjects when it comes to behavioral research. The tests are broken into sections. I read up on a section. I take the test. I pass. I go on.

It's like a more intriguing online traffic school.

A lot more intriguing.

One of the early modules deals with the basic ethical principles of research in general. Respect for Persons. Beneficence. Justice.


With this going on in the forefront of my mind, I was doing yard duty on Monday when a kid I've written about in the past had another episode. In addition to loudly saying "What the fuck," he also started throwing rocks at a yard duty supervisor.

He is in third grade.

Ultimately, the two supervisors near him were told to stand down as he got up and wandered over to the lunch tables. I hightailed it over, paralleling his path, sure that the motherf#$ker was going to go ballistic. Again. Like always.

Retrieving his lunch box, he walked toward a table with quite a few seats free. He was no more than two feet from me when he pulled his lunch box back and swung it into the back of another kid's head. A kid who hadn't even known it was coming because he was just sitting next to his buddies eating his lunch, his back to Little Mr. WTF.

I grabbed Little Mr. WTF's lunchbox. He wouldn't release it at first. I said, "Little Mr. WTF, you have a couple of choices here. You can let go of the lunchbox and sit down. Or you can have me pry it out of your hands."

He held tight for a beat, but then gave it up.


In research, there are these three basic ethical principles that any legitimate researcher follows. Respect for Persons. Beneficence. Justice.

I want to f#$king know how this elementary school, this school district, lets Little Mr. WTF off scot-free time and time again.

Where is our respect for persons? The 19 other persons in his classroom? The 239 other persons on the playground each recess?

Where is the beneficence? How are we "doing no harm" and "maximizing possible benefits and minimizing possible harms" when this kid gets to do multiple dangerous acts to our children?

There is no justice. Little Mr. WTF is so clearly more equal than all the other kids.


Michele R said...

What is wrong with the school's administration? At our public elem school the kid would be in "independent study" where they have to sit alone in the office up front where the principal , etc. have their offices) and work on his assignments for a day before returning back to the classroom. This is after the parent gets a phone call from the principal to explain what the kid did.
Did the kid who got whacked tell a teacher on duty?

Patois42 said...

Oh, the principal took him away. To eat his lunch alone in the office. And then he returned to the classroom. No in-school suspension. No punishment whatsoever. I've heard that the mom of the kid who was whacked read the riot act to the principal and then took it on up the line: school district, attorney, etc. This boy is an ongoing problem.

Lori said...

wow. That's crazy. That kids needs to be put in a padded room.

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