How can schools act “in loco parentis” when even parents don’t act “in loco parentis”?

Robert Marucci doing his thing to entertain the masses.
Robert Marucci doing his thing to entertain the masses.

“In loco parentis” is a Latin term that translates to “in the place of a parent.”  To the extent it still shows up anywhere today, it shows up in courts when an institution appears on behalf of a child, instead of the parent appearing on behalf of the child.

The phrase used to have a place in education too.  Schools once acted “in loco parentis,” meaning that, when children, including college-aged children, were in their care, the schools imposed the type of rules that parents would be expected to impose.  At colleges and universities, dormitories were single-sex, and there were strict limits admission to people of the opposite sex.  After all, if it was reasonable to believe that Mom and Dad wouldn’t let their 18-year-old daughter “entertain” a man in her room all night, the college shouldn’t let her do that either.  Likewise, if parents were unlikely to approve of their children drinking themselves into a stupor on a regular basis, the schools ought to disapprove of the same conduct.  Boorish behavior, disrespectful language, public nudity, etc. — they all fell under the same rule:  if most parents wouldn’t approve, the college also wasn’t going to approve.

Because American public schools, unlike colleges and universities, don’t offer room and board along with education, the “in loco parentis” doctrine was less visible.  The deal was that the kids went to class, got taught a lesson, and then came home again.  Still, the schools, just as parents presumably would, frowned on public sex, drug use, violence, and obscenities.  In the old days, therefore, schools would not have looked kindly on the discovery that one of the school’s students was a gay internet porn star.  Just as Mom and Dad would be unlikely to invite Linda Lovelace into their home, the school would decline to invite Mr. Gay Porn Star into its classrooms.  Both parents and school would have said that the porn actor was a corrupting influence on the young minds under their care.

One high school in Pennsylvania made the mistake of thinking that it still has a duty to act in the place of the parents.  When it learned that Robert Marucci, an 18-year-old senior, was earning money on the side by having gay sex on the internet, it suspended him.  Because “corrupting others” is no longer an acceptable notion in America’s public schools, however, it based the suspension on the ground that Marucci’s presence at the school was “disruptive,” and interfered with the other students’ ability to learn.  Of course, since it was fellow students who apparently discovered Marucci’s sideline when they were surfing gay porn sites, one suspects that, if preventing “corruption” was the goal, that horse left the barn a long time ago.

How wrong the school was.  There was an immediate uproar.  How dare the school try to shelter students from the antics of a fellow student who strips off his clothes and has sex with men, live and on camera, for money? The school quickly backed down.

All of the above was to be expected in today’s world.  Nowadays, what constitutes unforgivable debased behavior is to say that you believe in heterosexual marriage and sexual relations, support the Second Amendment, and believe that it’s murder to dismember a living baby because the mom doesn’t want it.  (Never mind that most Americans put gradations on the Mom’s desires, showing sympathy when she’s been raped and being decidedly less sympathetic when she expresses horror that an extra baby will force her to shop at Costco.)

What actually surprised me about Marucci’s story is his Mom’s reaction.  As far as she’s concerned, her son is “awesome” (her word, not mine):

Melyssa Lieb, from Cocoa, Florida, said she vehemently supports her son, 18-year-old Robert Marucci, who was suspended from his high school after classmates discovered his explicit career.

‘I think he’s the most awesome person in the world,’ she told WKMG through tears. ‘He stood up and he was the man of the house when I couldn’t be.’

It’s pretty foolish to expect schools to act “in loco parentis,” when parents cheer on their children funding them through pornography.

When Britain, then the mightiest Empire in the world, surrendered to the rag-tag Americans in Yorktown in 1781, a British military band played “The World Turned Upside Down.”  How apt: