The concept of parents complaining about their children being disciplined at school has been of increasing concern over the past decade or so. Whether it’s moms freaking out about a kid’s mouth being taped shut, taking issue with a double entendre-loaded exam, or even the slippery slope of how to handle a kid who’s outed his school secretary as a porn star, educational institutions are having to contend with some interesting stuff.
This might just be the topper.
Yup, it seems that a 13-year-old kid received a five-day suspension after recently posting on Facebook that she “wished Osama bin Laden killed her math teacher”, and her …
… mother is not happy … with the school.
All right, not gonna lie, I laughed when I heard about this. I totally did. I’m not sure if it’s because I experienced a disproportionally large number of incompetent and sometimes even cruel math teachers or that I’ve been teaching middle schoolers this year and have learned to roll with the sometimes bizarre punches thrown out by early adolescents, but it cracked me up.
Then I got thinking about how I would feel if my own daughter had put something like this on Facebook, and I stopped laughing. Quickly.
Because following basic societal norms is something that I have tried very hard to instill in my children. You must say please and thank you when you’re at someone’s house. You must behave respectfully toward your elders, even if you don’t necessarily respect them. You must clear your dishes from the table. You must never publicly air your desire for your teacher to be taken out by a terrorist. You know, the basics.
If my child did this, there would be serious consequences, beginning with accepting the school’s punishment gracefully and ending with restitution that would probably involve a public apology via media including but not limited to Facebook—following forced research into the atrocities Osama bin Laden committed and the required inclusion of said research into the act of contrition (aren’t you glad I’m not your mother?).
Kimberly Dell’isola sees it a bit differently, with her main concern being the school’s screwing around with her daughter’s right to free speech … oh, and that this is a parenting issue, not a school one.
[Dell’isola] said she agrees with the administrators at Rundlett Middle School that the post was wrong, but thinks the punishment is too harsh.
“You are denying her an education based on something she did at home. That’s my business, not your business,” Dell’isola said.
She said that while her daughter’s profile did have privacy settings on, a parent of one of her daughter’s friends reported the post.
“They asked her to open her Facebook and she complied because she generally does what she’s told,” Dell’isola said.
The mother holds that the issue is a parenting one, and not school related. She said she expressed that sentiment to Principal Tom Sica.
“He just said what she said was really awful. I started laughing and said I agree with you there, but how did it come to you deciding to throw her out of school,” Dell’isola said.
While I agree that this is indeed a parenting issue, the specific circumstances do constitute a need for school-based consequences. I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt to this kid and assume that she was trying to be funny, but the fact remains that the message sent was essentially a threat to a school employee.
That’s an egregious breaking of societal norms, in my opinion, and that message needs to be driven home to this kid.
Of further concern, though, is the continued dichotomy that exists between home and school. Until parents and the schools they send their children to are on the same page, kids are getting a mixed message … and you’d better believe they’re happy to take advantage of the fact.
It goes both ways, too.
My daughter got a skirt at Abercrombie and Fitch a few years ago while shopping with friends that was, in my opinion, unacceptably short. We had words when she tried to wear it to school, and she pulled out her school handbook and showed me that, according to her interpretation of it, the skirt met the dress code requirements.
I called her school and asked that she be given a consequence for breaking the dress code (like I said, aren’t you glad I’m not your mother?). I was put on hold while they went to look at her skirt, and was shocked when I was told, “Technically it breaks dress code, but she’s a good kid, and we tend to blur the line with good kids unless it’s really short.”
It’s easy to forget how hard—yet how integral—consistency is for kids.
That and facing up to the repercussions of your actions.
[Delli’sola] said that while her daughter’s suspension is over, she has not returned to class out of fear of facing the teacher she made the comment about.
Dell’isola wants the school to remove her from the class and give her a private math tutor instead.
“She’s anxious to go back and terrified to go back all at the same time,” Dell’isola said.
I find this story quite disturbing as both a parent and a teacher on many, many levels.
What are your thoughts?