Friday, November 21, 2014

Schools Gain Common Core - Lose Common Sense, Part 2

Yesterday morning I read an article about high school kids in Taunton, Massachusetts, who were suspended from school for a Facebook post that showed them dressed up to go to their homecoming dance while holding toy rifles.

The kids, Tito Velez and Jamie Pereira, were suspended indefinitely for posting this picture on Facebook with the caption "Homecoming 2014." I blocked the faces because they are children.

The school found out about the picture on Monday, following the dance, because other kids were talking about it. The kids had the picture taken after their formal pictures because they wanted to have some fun.

"We took them with the airsoft guns because it's our hobby and we wanted to include them in the pictures," Pereira said.

Airsoft guns shoot plastic pellets and with the proper protective equipment are safe and mostly harmless, much like paintball.

The kids say they were taken to separate rooms and questioned by police, without parental consent. Velez said they searched him and his bag.

The school says the problem lies in that they tied the picture to a school function with their caption of "Homecoming 2014." 

"It's not the guns; it's the connecting of that type of posture, that type of thing to a school event," said Richard Gross, the superintendent of the high school. "When you tie that to a school event, that's something to be concerned about."

The school says the dance was uneventful but that on Monday "students were fearful and parents were concerned." I'd like to meet some of those fearful and concerned people. It was a picture on Facebook.

So now what you do in the privacy of your own home can get you suspended from school just because you use the word "Homecoming"with a picture? And why is suspension or expulsion the automatic answer these days? Do teachers and principals talk to kids anymore? Do they try to solve problems with reason and logic?

I'm pretty sure  neither the principal nor school superintendent can point out the rule that says "There will be zero tolerance of students posting pictures on Facebook that show them holding guns while dressed for Homecoming. There will be no exceptions." I would bet a month's pay there is no such rule.

Once again a public school reacts in an absurd manner with punishment for a perceived rule violation far outweighing the act itself.

This morning I read about a 10 year old boy in Massachusetts who was suspended for two days because he pointed his finger and made "ray gun noises." Two female students, age unknown, told the principal they "felt threatened" and the the school decided the boy actions were a threat to their safety.

First of all, the boy is 10 years old with an imagination. Second, it was his finger - how threatening does the principal really believe it is? My guess would be rather than saying they felt threatened the girls were specifically asked "Did you feel threatened by his actions?" and they responded as they were expected to. But I wasn't there.

Schools have a valid right and need to protect their students from violence. I have no disagreement with that. But common sense should dictate what is and isn't violence and/or a threat. A finger gun, like Pop Tart gun, is not dangerous and does not constitute a threat to anyone.

School principals are supposed to be compassionate and wise. They are supposed to exercise sound judgement when dealing with students and disciplinary problems. Suspending a 10 year old for an imaginary ray gun is not exercising sound judgement. It's ridiculous.

We don't need Common Core. We need a return to common sense. We need teachers and administrators who teach honestly, grade fairly, and are genuinely concerned about the education of their students. Sure, there are still some out there. I have family and friends who are teachers. But they're getting fewer and further between. And that development will be harmful to our children.

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