Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Finally, Some Sense!

On Valentine's Day, my son was hauled into the office at school and lectured on having created an inappropriate Valentine's Day envelope. I went to the school yesterday to talk to the lady administrator involved and to get the envelope. This morning I wrote an e-mail to the principal telling him we were appalled at the idea of our son being punished for so innocuous an enevelop (to see the envelope, click on my previous post). Thankfully after sending that e-mail some sense came to light in this issue, but before I tell you about that, I want to post part of the letter I also wrote this morning to the female administrator responsible for punishing my son. (I snipped a few entire paragraph and used . . . to show where I removed text for length purposes.)

To XXXXX:

After seeing Jared’s artwork and discussing it with my husband, I want to go on official record and say that we do not feel Jared’s Valentine envelope is inappropriate in any way. You mentioned that Jared put a shepherd on a horse, and I guess you see that as a problem, though we fail to understand why. In actuality, Jared, cut off the staff and put it in the church so it would NOT be a shepherd, just a guy, a comedian, on a horse, but he did ask me last night, “Mom, would there be something wrong with a shepherd on a horse?”

No, absolutely not. A guy who owns sheep might just have a horse, too. I’m not sure if you are seeing something sacrilegious in his putting a figure who once was a shepherd on a horse, but we don’t see the connection. Nor does our son. It is because it’s a rocking horse? He just thinks of it as a horse.

Your main concern seems to be that the boys were excited about candy and that their projects had no relation to Valentine’s Day. This should not be a problem. In fact, we compliment the art teacher for inspiring such creativity! My husband and I believe that this should have been a fun day for the children and should be continued in the future. They didn’t make fun of their classmates, disrupt class, or endanger their salvation in any way. Valentine’s Day is not a sacred holiday. It is not related to scripture and really doesn’t need to be. It is about friendship and fun, and that’s okay. There will be enough hard and serious things in life—let the children have some clean fun! (And if we need any proof that God has a sense of humor, just look at the giraffe.)

-snip-

My family has been at [this school] for thirteen years . . . For the most part we’ve had wonderful experiences, and we enjoy the conservatism . . . However, my son’s trust (and ours) has been damaged by what we see as unnecessary discipline and subsequent neglect. Instead of inspiring trust and respect, there is only fear on Jared’s part and incredulity and some defensive anger on ours.

I know you are sorry about how Jared has taken this . . . but we are concerned about how it was handled. In fact, we believe it shouldn’t have been addressed at all. One serious concern we have is that if my son had really been so terrible as to need to stay in the office for over an hour, we should have been notified. Certainly in this case, he needed an advocate who knows him and cares about him.

-snip-end-

Okay, back to the regular blog again. Most of this I also wrote in the e-mail I wrote to the prinicipal this morning. Almost immediately he called me back and told me he was so sorry this happened, that he felt terrible, and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Jared's envelope. Whew! Finally some sense. He asked me what he could do. I told him jokingly that she should have to miss lunch completely like she made him do and write an essay on why she shouldn't have punished the children for having fun. More seriously, I told him that it was enough to know that he would talk to her and that something like this would not happen in the future.

I also requested that if my children need direction in the future and if she is involved, that I be notified immediately, and that she talk to my son about this issue only in my presence. Quite frankly, he's afraid of her, and I can't blame him. There's no excuse for having my son sitting in the office for more than an hour without calling me. Over the years, I have mostly enjoyed everything at this school, but this was a real concern. I mean, a bad teacher might crop up now and again, but they are always let go rather quickly--being a private school, there is no union to protect rotten teachers. But this was something else altogether. I had to know if this was the direction the school was heading (fanatical), or a mistake by one woman. Thankfully, it turned out to be the latter.

I still haven't decided if I'm going to let her apologize for making my son miss lunch and class for so long (which later caused a good deal of homework to make up and more frustration on his part). I mean, what's the point if she doesn't admit she was wrong in the first place? She remains convinced that the boys have committed some grave error.

Oh, and BTW, I also e-mailed the art teacher commending her for encouraging such creativity as I saw in the other boys' Valentine envelopes. Yes, one or two might be considered a little much for this conservative private school, but you know what? I thought they were extremely creative. How can you punish that? Especially when it wasn't hurtful to anyone. In the future the school should definitely refer to parents for such matters. It really isn't in their job. Thankfully, I think that's the direction they're headed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ta-Dum! The Terribly Offensive Valentine Envelope

Okay, here it is, the horribly offensive artwork my son created for his Valentine's Day envelope. In the end, it wasn't a drawing at all but glued on figures provided by the art teacher. He says it's a it's a comedian on a horse. For the full story of what happened to him because of this creation, please see the previous post. The second picture is the essay he had to write as a punishment.

As an update, I went to the school today to retrieve the artwork and to confront this woman. To give her credit, she did feel bad upon learning she'd prevented my son from having lunch. I told her not to talk to my son again unless I was present and explained to her that he is scared to death of her and that trust has been completely lost. He feels singled out and no better than scum on her shoe.

Admittedly, some of the boys' artwork really could be considered inappropriate (like the frog shot through the heart with guts hanging out), but even that could have been handled on a different note. When she asked me what I would have done, I told her she should have talked to the parents and let them decide whether or not their child's artwork was appropriate. This envelope absolutely will not endanger my child's salvation. It is not a saving ordinance, it's not disrepectful to anyone, it didn't cause any disruption in class. If they want the children to only glue on hearts, then only hearts should have been made available. This also could have easily been handled on a teacher level, with the art teacher simply saying, "Sorry guys, just do them again." (Instead, she told a boy in my carpool, who was also later reprimanded, that his was very nice.) They didn't need to be singled out. Incidentally, I did learn that the other boys also wrote brief essays when she sent Jared to her office for laughing, but none of them missed out on their lunch. Only my son was kept that long. (And it's strange because Jared has never been one to mock or disobey any teacher.)

My kids have attended this school for thirteen years and this woman has worked there the entire time. This makes the whole situation worse. When she sad she felt bad about the lunch and that she didn't know, I said, "You should have known. You should have asked." Yes, she should have cared enough. She should have taken the time.

She eventually mentioned that maybe they should do away with the Valentine's Day celebration in the sixth grade altogether (like they have sadly done in the older grades). That's what I was afraid of. Let the children have a little fun, for crying out loud! Life is difficult enough as it is.

I was driving carpool today and didn't have a lot of time to stay and discuss the matter with her further, though I feel I clearly made my displeasure and anger known. Nothing like this should happen again without my being called before it goes this far. She does want to apologize for making Jared miss lunch and asked to talk to Jared when I can be there. I'm grateful for that much, though I look at this envelope and I still don't understand why she felt she needed to punish him in the first place. Definitely not her place. As two of the boys in my carpool told their mother, this was definitely the worst Valentine's Day ever.

What Kind of Fanaticism is This?

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.