There was a time. There was a time when even to a man, an open-handed slap on the rump following a remarkable run on the gridiron was an A-OK, asexual gesture.
There was a time when the "ladies" room was for females only (the exception was little boys barely able to handle their own business).
There was a time when "gay" meant happy and "orientation" typically meant preparation for a new job or school or work-related responsibilities.
There was a time when being hauled into the principal's office or having a note sent home from school was enough to send the school bully into a respite.
There was a time when adults, especially teachers, were expected to — well, surely by now you see where this is headed.
We've become wusses, and on Wednesday Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Education Secretary Arne Duncan reinforced that characterization.
Instead of backstopping tried and true behavioral correctional norms established in the home, Mr. Holder and Mr. Duncan substituted federal race-based propositions that again target students of color as menaces to society.
The race card was played after organizations, including the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, complained that some school policies, such as the Syracuse, N.Y., school district, disproportionately suspend and expel black students.
These children, instead of being in classrooms, are lost to the streets and become members of the "school-to-prison" pipeline.
Credit is surely due when rapt attention is paid to an injustice.
But here's the rub: The government can create more problems when it tries to replace good old fashion discipline at home.
The Syracuse school system is under investigation by the state attorney general because of how it disciplines which students.
The data, folks say, shows that black students repeatedly draw the shortest stick, which effectively is labeled "zero-tolerance."
So for months on end school officials and community activists have been trying to redraw rules and guideposts — along the lines of what the feds done.
There are no guarantees, of course.
Changing a child's behavior, including when they have special needs, isn't easy — but there was a time.
There was a time when a rule was a rule, and that with few exceptions all children were taught to adapt to them.
That's why there was a time when refrains like "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt" — well, hurt.
And why a water closet labeled "gentlemen" meant ladies not allowed.
And why "special" education didn't refer to the dyslexic kid who was proficient in math and had excellent penmanship.
And why speaking Spanish at home and only English at school used to be considered bilingualism — a very good thing.
Syracuse educators already delivered the verdict on what lies ahead, telling The Post-Standard newspaper that the "school district welcomes this investigation" by state prosecutors.
Tsk, tsk, tsk.
There was a time.
• Deborah Simmons can be reached at email@example.com.
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