Yesterday, my tender-hearted eleven-year-old son and several other boys were called out of class at American Heritage School in American Fork because of what they chose to draw on their Valentine envelopes. Though their art teacher had given them free rein to draw whatever they wanted (a great way to inspire boys), a woman in the administration took offense at their designs. My son drew a guy on a horse, a church, and wrote the word candy. Another boy wrote, "Give me candy or give me death!" a phrase actually suggested by the art teacher.
Apparently, these expressions were not acceptable by this woman from the administration (the art teacher had no objections). The boys were told to make new envelopes and that Valentine's Day was about love (as opposed to candy, I assume).
Love? Is she kidding? These boys are eleven-years-old! Like it or not, for children Valentine's Day is about giving and receiving Valentines (and, yes, preferably with candy). The day is only truly about love, if you’re talking about your family or your spouse. I don't know about you, but in the sixth grade, I absolutely do not want my son to consider giving Valentines to classmates as an expression of romantic love, which is what it means to them when presented in this manner. Exchanging Valentines is something fun to do with classmates. End of story. They had fulfilled the art teacher's request, but this woman felt it her duty to teach our children the real meaning of Valentine's Day--without requesting any parental input.
But the story isn't over yet. It gets worse.
When she said Valentine's Day was about love, one of the boys said "Looove," and my son had the misfortune to laugh. Now Jared is not a trouble-maker, but he was having a difficult time understanding what was wrong. He didn't laugh to mock this woman but because how the boy spoke was amusing. Though they are curious about it, love is icky to them. Girls are icky. No way is Valentine's Day about love for them.
What happened next goes beyond belief. Instead of a simple, kind discussion, which is always effective with my little boy (and with most children), this woman dismissed the other boys to go to lunch and kept my son all during lunch period writing paragraphs on what Valentine's Day was all about and why he shouldn't follow the crowd. His paragraphs were never good enough, so he ended up staying there all of lunch and all of the next period's grammar class.
By the time he was released, all lunch periods had ended, and he didn't receive the pizza lunch we paid in advance for that day (non-refundable). He had a fruit and a cookie with him, and that's what he ate for lunch. At no time was was I called or informed that my son missed lunch so we could provide what we had trusted the school to provide in the first place. Nor did they deign to tell me he'd committed such a grievous sin. I learned only when he came home in tears.
Now, the fact that my son laughed was rude and inconsiderate (and I explained this to him), but the fact that this woman singled him out and prevented him from eating lunch was also inconsiderate, as well as neglectful, which is a far worse crime seeing as she's the adult. Who, may I ask, is going to pay him back for the pizza and make her write paragraphs for being neglectful (and disrespectful) of someone else's child? She wasn't even around when he finally made it to the closed lunch room, nor did she check up to see if he'd eaten.
That all this stemmed from what I see as an overly strict, even fanatical view of what was appropriate for Valentine's Day, which is up to parents, not teachers or administration, compounds this gross negligence. None of the boys should have been singled out. If the administration wanted the boys to draw hearts or something else, they should have told them in advance. (Which would have definitely stifled any sign of creativity.)
Instead of this woman inspiring honor, respect, and trust, she instilled fear, disrepect, and mistrust. She has created a negativy that may stay with him all of his life. She was supposed to be trustworthy. Last night I e-mailed the principal, this woman, and my son's teachers about this because I feel her response was over the top, even for a conservative private school. I plan to officially request that this administrator not be allowed to discipline my children unless I am present, or even to talk to my children alone. My son's trust in her is gone--and frankly so is mine. At what point does the lesson lose its value? Well, yesterday it was long lost. I’m still unsure how something so benign could have had this result.