High school actions are not free of consequence

Theo Teske, page editor

Supreme Court Justices are arguably the most powerful figures in government, given the Court’s power of judicial review and the fact that there are only nine Supreme Court Justices who, once appointed, serve for life.

Their power explains why there has been such a vigorous political fight surrounding the confirmation of Trump’s appointee to replace Justice Kennedy, the current Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh. A new wrinkle was added to the confirmation process when Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward to accuse Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were both in high school.

As the Atlantic reports, the allegations were followed promptly by ridicule from various political commentators, with many defending Kavanaugh’s behavior by saying that the event in question, if it did occur, happened when Kavanaugh was still in high school, and therefore shouldn’t disqualify him from being a Supreme Court Justice.

This kind of rhetoric is harmful and needs to be rejected. The allegations against Kavanaugh should be reviewed and investigated thoroughly before any confirmation vote occurs, and if the accusations do turn out to be true, Kavanaugh should not be confirmed.

The Senate was confronted with a very similar situation in 1991 when Anita Hill accused prospective Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (who went on to be confirmed) of sexual harassment. In retrospect, the Senate has been criticized for failing to actually consider Hill’s allegations.

Crucially, the climate surrounding sexual assault and sexual harassment in 2018 is far removed from that of 1991. With the #MeToo movement having made its mark on the collective global consciousness, it’s become unacceptable to obfuscate or minimize sexual assault. However, there is still an important role the Senate needs to play in this instance. If the Senate repeats its past mistakes and forces Kavanaugh through without taking Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations seriously, it sends a message that sexual assault in high school is free of consequence.

This is dangerous for obvious reasons. The common argument that “boys will be boys” seems to imply that sexual assault is just the way of the world and that it should be accepted. Sexual assault is no more acceptable when committed at a younger age than when the perpetrator is of an older age. It’s imperative that students in high school know that their actions have long-reaching consequences, and that sexual misconduct is never defensible.

Such heavy press on sexual assault has hit home for many Americans, including EHS students. The Washington Post interviewed two women in Edina at The Wow Bar Blow Dry and Style Bar, who gave conflicting opinions on the issue, demonstrating an interesting parallel to the primary reactions of EHS students of all backgrounds.

It’s important to set politics aside and realize that the Senate confirmation hearings are essentially a job interview for one of the highest positions in the country. Selecting a candidate without fully scrutinizing them first would not only be a moral failing on the part of the Senate, but it could also set a dangerous precedent for the public to follow.