Did judge's talk to students go too far?

March 10, 2010 8:39:03 PM PST
It was supposed to be a candid talk about alcohol from a judge to hundreds of high school students. But what was said has students and Mothers Against Drunk Driving angry. The talk was supposed to keep kids away from drinking and driving, but some say it went too far with references to drugs. The judge spoke to students at Clear Springs High School in League City.

It began as a junior class assembly.

"All I knew was someone was going to be talking to us about drunk driving," said student Michelle Anderson.

Anderson was with her classmates in the auditorium. There was a technical problem with a MADD video, so panel member and Harris County criminal court Judge Larry Standley took the floor.

"I think his first question was...'Who in here smokes marijuana?" said Anderson.

The choir and band member says the judge went on to ask who had done certain other drugs and then he got to drinking,

"He said that drunk driving was bad and that he's done it once before, but didn't get caught," said Anderson.

The 17-year-old, along with many other students, was stunned.

"It offended me when he stated the fact that most of us kids were going to go out and get drunk during spring break, to just not do it while we were driving," said Anderson.

MADD, the sponsor of the program, says it's sorry.

"It's very difficult," said MADD Southeast Region Executive Director Bridgete Anderson. "A judge has their own views and they talk as they choose. We can't monitor and script them on what they say."

Judge Standley released a statement, saying in part, "I believed the only way to make my point that drinking, drugs, and driving are a lethal combination was to be as open, honest and brutally frank as I could possibly be. My remarks were designed to inform and to educate and not to offend anyone in attendance."

The district says the judge was asked to end his speech.

"It could not have been anticipated," said Clear Creek ISD Spokesperson Elaina Polsen. "As an elected official, as a community leader, we certainly expected a different message to our students."

They sent a phone message to parents Wednesday night, but many had already heard about it from their children.

"It's one thing if a teenager tells us, but if a respected adult in our community tells us this, it's a little bit sad," said Anderson.

Judge Standley added that he cares deeply about the students to which he spoke. The district says it's proud of how the students reacted.


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