Sunday, September 21, 2014

Public Schools Losing Common Sense

On Tuesday in Norborne, Missouri, 7 year old Zane Faulk came home from school crying. Zane had gotten into trouble at school for the horrible transgression of having an empty rifle shell casing in his possession in class.

It seems Zane had gone to a 9/11 memorial event and had been given the shell casing as a souvenir. He stuck it in his pocket and had forgotten about it. He then wore those pants to school on Tuesday and didn't realize it was still in his pocket. He was in class when he discovered it and he took it out and showed it to some of his classmates.

Zane's teacher saw the shell casing and took it and Zane to the principal's office. The principal told Zane he "could be suspended for 10 days" but instead Zane was punished with a "silent lunch" where he had to sit alone and eat and not talk to anyone, and took away his recess privileges for the day.

Zane's mother, Sherry, understands and supports the school's no gun policy but believes the school went overboard in this case. “The principal proceeded to reprimand him as though he were bringing live ammunition to school. I understand that’s in the policy, in the handbook, that they can’t bring guns to school, I fully support that, but it’s an empty blank casing,” Falke said.

Falke called the school and explained the significance of the shell, which was actually a spent blank cartridge. “Had he brought a war medal to school, would he have been punished?” Falke asked. “They also passed out American flags to all the kids, if he brought that to school would he have been punished?” (In some parts the California the answer to the second question would be "Yes," depending on the day.)

“In today’s society, unfortunately, we do have to be concerned with those types of things in schools,” said Dr. Roger Feagan, Superintendent of the Norborne R-VIII School District. "Though this seems minor, if we don’t handle the minor things, they can unfortunately escalate into major things down the road,” he added.

The use of common sense would have dictated that the teacher take the shell casing from the boy because it was a distraction for Zane and other students. If she felt the need to report it to the principal, I can even understand that. But common sense would have made the principal sit Zane down and explain to him that items like that are not allowed to be brought to school and that he could have it back at the end of the day. The kid is 7 years old. Punishing him for something that could have been so easily handled in another manner shows a substantial lack of common sense.

Now let's go out to California, where a 13 year old student was given detention because he shared his lunch with another classmate, who apparently was less than pleased with the lunch the school had given him.

Weaverville, California, is a small town in the mountains of Northern California, between Eureka and Redding. Eighth grader Kyle Bradford shared his chicken burrito with a friend who didn't like the school-prepared cheese sandwich that they'd given him.

“It seemed like he couldn’t get a normal lunch so I just wanted to give mine to him because I wasn’t really that hungry and it was just going to go in the garbage if I didn’t eat it,” Kyle said.

The Trinity Alps Unified School District apparently has banned kids from sharing food items, ostensibly because of the fear of food allergies. “We have a policy that prohibits students from exchanging meals. Of course if students are concerned about other students not having enough to eat we would definitely want to consider that, but because of safety and liability we cannot allow students to actually exchange meals,” superintendent Tom Barnett said.

I remember going to lunch when I was in school. Everybody shared everything. Never once did any of my friends suffer a food allergy from eating something I gave them, nor the other way around.

Kyle's mother says Kyle is being punished for having good manners. “By all means the school can teach them math and the arithmetic and physical education, but when it comes to morals and manners and compassion, I believe it needs to start at home with the parent,” Sandy Bradford told the local news station.

Once again, common sense would dictate that while Kyle did break a rule, sitting him down and explaining why he wasn't allowed to share his lunch with his hungry friend would have been a better way to handle it. In my humble opinion giving him detention was simply the school flexing its muscles instead of its compassion.

The school official who documented the incident on a "Detention Slip For Student Misconduct" wrote on it "Kyle came through the line and got a lunch then while at the table gave it to another student. Policy is no sharing food, which he is fully aware of."

Really? I think that school official should be given detention for poor grammar and poor punctuation. Commas are needed after "then" and "table" and one should always avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. Clearly if Kyle is going to break a school rule with an act of kindness, school officials should be held accountable for poor grammar and punctuation. 

Have you heard about the young girl who was tossed out of a class for saying "bless you" when another student sneezed? According to the girl, her teacher heard it and turned around saying "There will be no Godly talk in my classroom." 

The school says the girl was thrown out of class because speaking out and saying "bless you" was disruptive. If that's the case, why not throw out the other kid who sneezed? Surely a sneeze is 
disruptive in a classroom setting.

This particular teacher has a list of things on the chalk board that are not allowed to be said in her classroom. "Bless you" is on the list. It seems to me that the teacher prohibiting "Godly talk" in her class is a First Amendment violation, even in a school environment. Prohibiting a student from saying anything that might pertain to God is not within their scope of authority. At least I don't believe it is.

How about we bring some common sense into our school systems? Has the art of communication disappeared from our schools these days? Punishing students for minor infractions will do less to make them behave than it will serve to make them resentful. 

I remember when I was in grade school and learning the difference between the words "principle" and "principal" I was told "You can remember which is which because the Principal is your 'pal.' And back then it wasn't far from the truth. The two principals I had during my grade school years were kind, caring men whose compassion for their students was obvious in their words and actions. It seems those days are over. We need them back.

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