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By Cap'n O

SEPTEMBER 27, 1999:  Years ago, people had a favorite saying to let others know when something was obvious: It's as plain as the nose on your face.

Translated, the saying meant: The answer is simple, stupid. Don't complicate things.

Since the Columbine High School shootings last spring, pundits, politicians and other professional worriers have been trying to figure out why some of our nation's young people become angry and violent and take to gunning down people at school. You've heard their answers: movies, video games, Hollywood, TV, comic books, no parental supervision, too much parental supervision, a good economy, a bad economy, poverty, wealth, blah, blah, blah.

But the professional worriers who ponder why it is that teens get frustrated, angry and violent need only look at the noses on their faces. And they should consider the case of 18-year-old Casey Riggan of Midland, Texas.

Riggan and some of his high school pals found something one Saturday afternoon in January that for teens is better than gold, booze or drugs. They saw the car of their school's principal parked in front of the house of one of their school's attractive female teachers.

The kids' active minds -- with the aid of gossip that was already around town -- went to work. It would not have taken too much to think that the principal, a married man, was reading Shakespeare to the shapely female while dressed only in black Ban-lon socks. One of the kids snapped a picture of the car in front of the teacher's house.

The kids talked about the photo, and people started speculating that the principal was making woopie to the attractive subordinate on Saturday afternoons when he should have been mowing his lawn, drinking beer and watching sports on TV. Students at the school snickered when the portly principal waddled down the halls.

It was big fun for Riggan until the principal decided to discipline him for the heinous offense of being disrespectful of an adult by fostering rumors. When Riggan refused to write the apology the principal wanted, he was suspended for three days and put in a school for students with behavioral problems. School officials also barred Riggan from attending his graduation ceremony last spring.

Now, Riggan and his parents have sued the school district in federal court, saying that the school and the principal violated his free speech rights. Let's hope they win and win big.

Gossip is stupid, dangerous and wrong. It can ruin people's careers and lives, especially if the gossip isn't true and especially if people choose to believe it. And, our love lives should be nobody else's business.

But the facts of this case show why kids often detest adults and the adult world. The photo showed only the car; there were no people in it. Riggan never took the photo to school. He kept it in his closet at home. Riggan did not take the snapshot; one of his buddies did. And, Riggan's mother said, the rumors about the married principal's alleged affair had been circulating before the kids snapped the picture.

The principal has refused to discuss his love life or confirm or deny the rumors of the affair. So we don't know if he was poking a subordinate on the side. If he had a legitimate reason for being at the teacher's house all he had to do was say so. But he hasn't. If he was gazing at her supple naked body while thinking he should lose some weight, then he's an ass. Because he is engaging in the sickest, most vile behavior possible: blaming and punishing someone else for your own flaws, indiscretions and stupidity. He was the one who left his car in front of the teacher's house, but the kid got punished for it. The principal, the adult with the power at the school, did something stupid, and the teen-ager with no power got stomped on for it.

Kids aren't stupid. They despise abusive authority and hate it when adults use their power and authority to abuse them. I haven't been a teen-ager for a while now, but I'm fuming about this story.

So adults, next time you want to know what makes kids crazy, angry and violent, look in the mirror.

And for married, male high school principals who want to fool around on the side with perky female subordinates, here's a tip: Park your cars around the block.

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