Wednesday, August 29, 2012
I’m a bit pissed off right now, so I’m going to have to think about my word choice rather carefully to keep the tone of this article as civil as I’d like it to be.School bullying is definitely a hot topic right now. It’s all over the news and in the public eye. I even belong to several special interest groups on LinkedIn that discuss bullying. Granted, my view on it is a little less progressive than most as I vociferously disagree with the “zero tolerance” rules. I’m firmly in the “if the kid hit you, punch him back” camp. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to teach kids that they don’t have the right to defend themselves. But, I digress.
The content of this article is probably going to surprise you as it’s a twist from the usual slant on this issue. Those of you who frequent this blog often have seen the numerous other posts I’ve written on education. To sum it up eloquently, in the words of Shakespeare; “something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.”The topic I pose to you today is this; what do you do when the school is the bully?
I’ve encountered at least two incidents in the last two weeks that I think could be classified as bullying. The first instance occurred at my step-son’s school in the Dysart Elementary District in Arizona. In this case the teacher sent home a notice that she needed school supplies; Kleenex brand facial tissues, Viva brand paper towels, and Dove brand liquid hand sanitizer (16oz refill bottles). She was very specific about her list. How does this constitute bullying? Well, in her letter to the parents she stated that these items needed to be brought in to the classroom every month. She also said that any child who does not bring the items on the list every month will have participation points deducted from their grade!I’m sorry, what? First of all, teachers should not be demanding items like this from the parents; especially not by size and brand name. If I have the cash to spare to donate supplies, then the teacher will get whatever is on sale, because that’s what I buy for my own house. Secondly, not every family can afford to be bringing in these items every month. Thirdly, There’s no way that a 1st grade classroom should be going through 30 boxes of tissue, 30 pounds of hand sanitizer and 180 rolls of paper towels every month. And finally, and most importantly, if I chose not to bring these items in, why does the school it’s fair to penalize my child? It’s entirely out of his control whether I buy these items or not.
In a second encounter in as many weeks another incident occurred, this time at my son’s school in Glendale Elementary District. This school gives the children daily planners/agendas. In those agendas the teacher makes comments about how the child is doing in class and assigns them a color based on their behavior. Those colors are communicated with the parents via this document.The first week of school the teacher filled out Monday and Tuesday, which I signed. Wednesday through Friday had nothing in them, so I didn’t sign them. I’m going to sign a blank box, sorry. I emailed the teacher that Friday and asked her what was up with the blank entries. She never responded. Then, on the following Monday she marked my son down because the agenda wasn’t signed.
Come again? First of all, there was nothing to sign. If you’re not going to bother writing something in the box, I’m not going to sign it. It’s that simple. Secondly, even if the teacher had written something in those boxes and I didn’t sign it I fail to see what that has to do with my child’s behavior for that day. He can’t force me to sign it any more than I can force it to rain. I forgot to sign the agenda the other day because, well, dammit, life is busy. Even after telling the teacher to knock this off because I’m concerned about the long term psychological effects of punishing my child for something he didn’t do, she still did it again anyway.For those of you who are out of the loop on this whole color-card system it works like this; there’s a poster or a chart or fabric or something in the front of the room. Every student’s name is on the list. They get a colored square and put it next to their name. Every day everyone starts at Green. Each time the child does something wrong they have to get up in front of the entire class and publicly change their color to yellow or red in a process that is filled with shame and ridicule. I’m opposed to this entire system from the start for that very reason, but to make kids do it for something they can’t even control seems even more absurd.
In these cases the principal at the first school had no clue that this one going on and once she was made aware of the situation it was dealt with. As for the other situation, as of the time of this writing it is still pending. I have a meeting with the school later this week to discuss the situation.I also have a lot of issues going on with the college that I’m going to as well, but that is enough to fill another article in-and-of-itself. I just find it odd that with all of the talk about bullying going on lately and the campaigns to stop it, the schools themselves would be prone to such practices.