Category Archives: School

Six Year Old Hauled Off in Handcuffs

In Port St. Lucie, Florida recently, a six year old was handcuffed (actually, one handcuff was put over both hands – she was a little girl), and hauled off to a mental facility.  The parents were all hysterical and angry that their “little baby” was treated this way.

The mother, who works in day care, said “There is absolutely nothing wrong with my child.”  Her father said that what happened to his daughter was “just wrong.”
The school contacted this little girl’s parents several times about setting up a meeting to discuss her violent behavior in the classroom, but they never showed up.  Hmmmm.
Here’s what happened on that particular day:
The kid had yet another tantrum in the classroom after the teacher simply asked her to do something, and the girl was taken to the principal’s office.  The principal, 8 months pregnant, endured the kid yelling, throwing things, kicking the wall, throwing a calculator, electric pencil sharpener, telephone, container of writing utensils and everything else on the desk.  The kid then physically attacked the pregnant principal, who called the police.
In my opinion, the police and the principal did exactly the right thing.  Leave it up to the medical authorities to determine whether this girl is being extremely poorly parented or in need of mental health treatment.
There are those who cry over how little this girl is and wring their hands and say that there must have been some other way.  No, there wasn’t.  The parents did not take responsibility, and their shame was delivered as arrogance as they sought sympathy (and probably a lawsuit).
The school is supposed to be a safe place.  This girl was, and is, a threat to other students, the faculty, and herself.  I stand behind the school, the teacher, and the principal.  I wish we could arrest the parents for negligence in letting their daughter’s behavior get this far.

Marching Band Pays Tribute to Teacher Who Saved Their Lives

Students in the American Fork High School Marching Band swept the awards not long ago in a competition at Brigham Young University.  What made this story interesting and somewhat controversial is this:  on the way back from another competition held in Idaho, the driver of the bus in which the students were riding fell asleep at the wheel.  All of the students survived.  The one fatality was the 33 year old instructor who grabbed for the steering wheel when she noticed the driver was out cold.

The controversial part occurred because some people believe that it is unseemly for life to go on, for joy to be in people’s hearts, or for friends and relatives to be happy and involved in their lives when someone dies.  Some people believe that it is disrespectful, cavalier and insensitive for others to carry on as though a tragedy didn’t happen.  Generally, this belief comes out of a confusion of pain, emotions and guilt over survival.

I think it’s a good thing that these students competed, and they did so in remembrance of Heather Christensen, the teacher who saved their lives.  And that’s the point:  she saved their lives so they could live, love, and play music.  I believe they showed her immense respect by playing in her honor, continuing with the competition for which she coached them.   Her immortality comes from being remembered fondly by her students who used the skills they learned from her to create the music she loved so much.

When someone we love dies, we don’t honor them by denying ourselves the normal pleasures of life.  I find that to be an insult.  Life is precious, and when somebody is gone from life, that which they lost should be treated with the utmost reverence by squeezing every moment of dignity, creativity, joy, adventure, work, love, compassion and fun that is possible.  This is the way you honor the deceased:  you carry on and do something of value with your life.

The students received a long, standing ovation as they marched off the field and embraced in tearful hugs.  What a fitting memorial to a brave, caring teacher.

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

“Stupid is as stupid does.”  Those are sage words from the fictional Forrest Gump.

And stupid does some interesting things in America.  Here are two great recent examples of stupidity:

Before I tell you the first story, I want to preface it with a memory from my middle school years.  We Long Island neighborhood children took the bus to school.  I walked two blocks to the bus stop.  In the winter, it was freezing, but fortunately, one of the kids I went to school with lived in that corner house right where the bus picked us up.  The mom would leave the garage door open (the cars were already gone) so we could all huddle out of the wind and chill until the bus came.  It was very kind of her.

Now, to today’s story:  A mom in Michigan allows the kids from three families to hang out before school at her house for about 1 hour before the school bus comes.  She’s not getting paid, although I sure hope she’s getting appreciation from the families who have to go to work before they can get their kids off to school. 

Believe it or not, she receives a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning her that if she continues, she’d be violating a law aimed at the operation of unlicensed day-care centers.  She’s not getting paid!!  And she’s doing the neighbors a favor!!

This law says no one may care for unrelated children in their home for more than four weeks each calendar year unless they are licensed day-care providers.  The Department of Human Services warned her without even finding out the facts.  This is stupid.  Never mind that these kids, if left by themselves for an hour without adult supervision could be food for predators.  It seems also that this stupid stretch would preclude regular baby-sitting when parents go out to dinner and the movies.

There is good news here, though.  After the news media got hold of this story (and embarrassed the heck out of the state of Michigan), Governor Jennifer Granholm instructed the agency’s director to work with the state legislature to change the law. 

Since when is simply being a good neighbor a criminal activity?  Some neighbor (and we’ve all had this kind of neighbor) made a complaint, and started this non-common sense ball rolling.

The second stupid story is from Saratoga Springs.  Adam Marino, a 12 year old in seventh grade, and his mother are defying Saratoga Springs school policy by biking to Maple Avenue Middle School.  The school has a rule that kids can’t walk or ride a bike to school.  Adam’s mom and other parents want their kids to be less sedentary and to get exercise by walking or riding to school as a fitness activity. 

After Adam’s mom thought she had an understanding with the school board on this issue, she rode a bike with her kid to school, only to be met by a state trooper and school administrators.  You’d think she had been beating her kid or helping him play hooky.  Sheesh!

In reaction to this, other parents joined them in riding and walking their kids to school.  Once again, this got the attention of the news media, and the Board of Education is going to vote to amend this policy this week.

These arbitrary rules are just stupid, and frankly, ignoring the bigger picture of neighborhood safety and exercise for children.  Fortunately, however, thanks to the media spotlight, it’s all going to change.

When Students Don’t Make the Grade

When I was in grade school one year, I got a few “D’s” on my report card.  With a pen of contrasting color to the D, I made a line halfway across the letter from left to right, and turned the two D’s into weird looking B’s.  Much to my astonishment, my father noticed the alteration!  And, boy oh boy, I got punished.

The following story ups the ante on my little escapade:  An 11 year old boy from Alabama didn’t want to bring home his bad report card either.  So, he said that a man with a pistol snatched him after he left middle school, forced him into a beat-up car, and threatened to kill him.  He then explained that he escaped by jumping out of the car, but that he wasn’t able to grab his book bag in which was (no surprise here)….the report card.  The police investigators were a bit suspicious when the boy was able to “escape” with his cumbersome band instrument, but not his soft, smaller book bag. 

The boy ran to his grandfather’s house, and admitted to lying.  The grandfather called the police to apologize.

I mention this story because the issue of grades is important.  Grade inflation definitely exists — and it’s like telling a kid he’s special just because he breathes regularly. It builds a false sense of competency and value which condemns a kid to fail in the future and be frustrated that his unconditional perfection hasn’t quite panned out. 

In addition, there’s a lack of willingness to respect children who are able and willing to work hard and attain high grades and become valedictorians.  In fact, the acknowledgment of a valedictorian has been banned in some schools so the feelings of those less accomplished won’t be hurt. 

Then there are parents who want to see A’s, even if their child is capable only of a C+.  I always tell parents that the teacher should let them know at their regular meetings whether or not their child is doing his or her best – that’s the best -accomplishment.

It’s sad when parents don’t know what’s happening with their children’s school work until report card day, and then the yelling starts.  Yes, this Alabama boy did the wrong thing, but he must have been (as I was) VERY scared about the consequences.  He’s 11….11!!  If he’s that scared,  then let’s look at that first, and then help him to do his best.  Punishment for bad grades is not the way to go in this case. 

Punishment for editing the D’s or for lying to police?  Now that makes more sense.

Strip-Searching Children

Your child is in school.  You believe your child is safe.  Your child comes home after school, hysterical and unwilling to ever go back.  The part of the world in which you thought your child would be safe just exploded in front of your eyes.

What happened?  Well, if your name is Mrs. Redding, you just discovered that your child was stripped almost naked in front of more than one school official who had no legal right to do so.  You then find out that the school is perfectly fine with what happened, because they are “doing it because they feel an intense need to protect the safety of the students.”  How’s that for irony!

This is what happened (as will be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States of America).  A 13 year old honor student in a small Arizona town was hauled down to the principal’s office to strip down to her underwear, because another eighth grade student who was found with a cigarette and some pills pointed the finger at our victim.  The 13 year old denied having anything.  They searched her backpack:  nothing.  That’s when the vice principal said the school nurse would conduct a strip search.

“They saw everything.  It was really embarrassing.  These are people I see every day,” said the victim.  The school did not call her mother, child services, or police; they just stripped her down.

Believe it or not, after the school lost a lawsuit in a Federal appeals court, and the school was found liable, they have taken the case to the Supreme Court, who will hear the case tomorrow. 

I agree that it’s important for the school to find dangerous drugs and weapons.  Dangerous weapons can be found in a “pat-down,” but even that is a kind of sexual harassment. 

I believe that you parents should tell your children to always refuse to fully remove their clothes (except, perhaps, for jackets and coats), even if it is the principal who demands it.  Parents should make sure that the rules in their school district include sequestering the student, calling the parents and the police/child protective services before a child’s body is touched, unless there is considerable reason to believe that the child is armed with a deadly weapon.

Bribery?! Haven’t We Been There, Done That?

The Health section of The New York Times on March 2 debated the usefulness of bribing school children with money, toys, candy and electronic gizmos to have them attain better grades.

When I was in school, it was cute stickers and the pride of getting a good grade that you could brag about that made your parents all sorts of happy.  The good grade was the proximate award for all the hard work.  Getting the reputation as being smart was a good thing, and becoming valedictorian was great, as was qualifying for scholarships of all sizes for college.  Spending a lifetime knowing you worked hard and earned what you had the hard way was the long-term reward.

Now, some geniuses want to rob children of all of that.  These greater minds than ours want children to fight for things of substance (money) rather than for things of glory (purpose).  Not all endeavors have a high rate of financial return:  a hospice worker helps the dying and their families face their fears of death; a fireman runs into burning buildings to save complete strangers from a horrible death; kindergarten teachers introduce our children to the world of budding independence, self-confidence, social maneuvering and the alphabet…and that’s only a few examples.

Frankly, we need more kind and compassionate people than we do more “A” students in this world, as it turns out that the greatest thieves (many CEOs, crooked politicians and Ponzi scheme giants), terrorist masterminds, and general sociopaths all have very high IQ levels and got great grades.

How about us giving financial rewards, candy and electronic gizmos to kids who go out of their way not to bully, tease, steal, lie, sexually harass, or sexually act-out?  Or to those who won’t drink or take drugs or steal or backtalk their elders? 

Would that work, I wonder?

Protecting Electronic Insults Is Insulting

A Connecticut state lawmaker is proposing legislation that would bar schools from punishing students for their electronic insults – even if they write them on class computers during school hours.

This idiocy is in response to the punishment meted out to Avery Doninger, a 17 year old high-schooler who was disciplined in 2007 for writing a blog from home using vulgar language to defame and insult school administrators.

School authorities barred her from running for office at Lewis B. Mills High School in Burlington as a “punishment.”

Her parents – of course– are suing!

I can’t believe I heard the whole thing.

On, almost 100 people put in their two cents; the following was the most cogent of the bunch:

“‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’  As far as I can tell, Congress did not impede on her freedom of speech. The child needs to learn that while she is free to say whatever she feels, there are repercussions to the things we say.”

And there it is.  You have the freedom so say whatever you’d like – without any consequences?  I think not.

Colleges and employers have recourse to Internet records and can judge students by the electronic trail they’ve left behind, according to Tom Hutton, senior staff attorney for the NSBA (National School Board Association).  Well, let that be a lesson to adolescents who feel bigger than their britches with this pending legislation!

The girl’s mother “wished her daughter ‘had used more sophisticated language.’”  Instead of standing by the school punishment to teach her daughter the consequences of not thinking behavior through in advance of indelible actions, she’s making it a cause for free speech. 

Oh please.  It’s another one of those cases of parents defending their children right or wrong because they don’t want any criticism or don’t want to risk their children’s ire by punishing them for wrong- or stupid-doings. 

Imagine if the teacher had put on a website that this girl was a “douche bag.”  Would anyone defend the teacher or would he or she have to take sensitivity classes and then be fired anyway?

We are getting way too far in “The Lord of the Flies” for my tastes.

Academic Problems Occur More Often in Step-Families

While it should come as no surprise that psychological, social and academic functioning are impacted negatively by children raised in family chaos, or in situations of profound change and stress, Dr. Kathryn Harker Tillman from Florida State University reports that, on average, adolescents living with half- or step-siblings have lower grades and more school-related behavior problems, and these problems may not improve over time.

“These findings imply that family formation patterns that bring together children who have different sets of biological parents may not be in the best interests of the children involved.  Yet half of all American step-families include children from previous relationships of both partners, and the majority of parents in step-families go on to have additional children together. (“Non-traditional” Siblngs and the Academic Outcomes of Adolescents, Social Science Research, 37(1)