An Alabama mother is furious that her 5-year-old daughter was forced to sign a school contract stating she wouldn’t kill herself or anyone else at school.
School officials told Rebecca, who did not want to give her last name, they had to send 5-year-old Elizabeth home after an incident in class.
“They told me she drew something that resembled a gun. According to them she pointed a crayon at another student and said ‘pew pew’,” Rebecca explained.
Rebecca says her daughter was then given a questionnaire to evaluate her for suicidal thoughts and given a Mobile County Public School safety contract to sign stating she wouldn’t kill herself or others.
“While I was in the lobby waiting, they had my 5-year-old sign a contract about suicide and homicide,” Rebecca says. “There should be a different way to handle this situation. If this is protocol it needs to be looked at again.”
Rebecca is pushing to have the incident removed from her child’s record. She says school officials have requested her child see a psychiatrist. She refused.
That sound you hear is every lawyer that specializes in contract law laughing their asses off.
Let me see how smart you are. Why is every lawyer that specializes on contract law laughing their asses off? And don’t say that a minor can’t sign contracts. That’s too easy. But this non-lawyer who just happened to pay attention during business law classes can think of one maybe two other reasons. If you happen to be a lawyer, especially one that does K-law, hold back and let the non-lawyers try to answer my question.
We already have a winner in the comment section. So I’ll elaborate here.
Two things that are truisms about Ks (“K” being legal shorthand for “contract”): They must be subservient to statutory criminal and civil law, and they have to have the give-and-take of offer and consideration. Because K < Law, this means that offers and considerations that involve at least one of the parties not doing something which they are legally not allowed to do anyway are invalid.
A textbook example I was taught of a real world case involved a father and his 18-year old son. Father was upset that son loved the sticky icky, so father promised son a specific amount of money if he didn’t smoke weed for a specific amount of time. Son followed through, but father for some reason didn’t want to give son the money. Son took father to court, and the judge found for the father because the contract was invalid. Because at law, people aren’t allowed to smoke weed anyway. Everything else about the contract was good, except for that part, which means this case was a textbook example of the singular offending element of the consideration conflicting with criminal law, not in the sense that the consideration was a positive action that violated criminal law, but it was a promise of a non-action wherein the opposite action violated criminal law.
To put it another way, the nature of this father-son “K” was such that at law, the son was always going to follow through on the consideration meaning the father would always have to follow through on the offer. To put it yet another way, the only way father would have not been obligated to follow through on the offer was for a criminal law to be violated.
A valid contract, such as $1 for a candy bar at a quickie mart, (it is an implicit contract even if there is no paperwork), is such that the law is okay with the contract obligations either happening or not happening.
Apply this to this news story, and the only way for the Mobile County, Alabama Public School District not to fulfill its offer (whatever it offered, and I’ll get to that in a moment) is for someone to be murdered. As far as the idea of murder goes, the law only allows those subject to it one course of action: Not engaging in it.
Then there’s the matter of the bilateral offer/consideration matrix. What did the school system offer? Without actually being able to read this “K,” that element probably is going to run head-on with Alabama state law, because Alabama state law most likely has free public education as a civil right. The only thing the district could have offered was its services in exchange for the kid following through on the consideration, or the refusal of its services if the kid didn’t follow through on the consideration.
If I’m right, then this puts this “K” really legally between a rock and a hard place, because it necessarily involves either the state’s most grave criminal statute being violated or the state’s public education civil rights law being violated. Scratch that: One side of the ledger involves both parties behaving legally, the other side of the ledger involves both parties behaving illegally. Still not a valid K, but it’s not the rock-hard place paradox. One other possibility is that the school district didn’t actually make any offer, which is another way the K is invalid. A K involves give and take; a K that involves one party’s consideration but not the other party’s offer is colloquially called a “gift,” and K-law doesn’t grok gifts.