Real Life Lessons at School?

Update: Two people were suspended. Quote: “It only lasted 5 minutes.”

Another Update: It was a prank.

On May 10th, in Mirfreesboro, Tennessee, 69 elementary school children were told a gunman was on the loose during a week-long trip to a state park. They cried and begged for their lives while a man in a black hood shook the doors in the dark. The children hid under tables and worried that they might die.

Five minutes later, the teachers told the children to get up. It was just a drill.

The purpose of this drill? To get together and discuss what they would have done had it been real.

According to CNN, “Principal Catherine Stephens declined to say whether the staff members involved would face disciplinary action, but said the situation ‘involved poor judgment.'”

Did you feel that chill up your spine?

I want to know the answers to these questions:

• Did the principal know about this drill? If not, why not? If so, why hasn’t she been immediately relieved of her position?

• Why weren’t the parent’s notified that this would occur during the trip? Was this part of the trip description – giving children real life lessons in terror?

• Why would anyone ever want to do this to a child, or a person, without their foreknowledge, in order to “discuss what to do if it were real”? To these kids, it was real.

• To me, this is child abuse. Every single one of the adults involved in this conspired in pre-meditated child terrorism. Why is this OK to do to children? But not OK to do to adults? Imagine if a company’s CEO decided to do this to their employees. What if a university decided to do this?

• Why are these children still attending this school? Why aren’t there 69 less students at this school? Every single one of the parents who allow their children to stay enrolled at this school is giving them the message, “You can do anything you want to our kids. We might get mad, but you still have ultimate and total control and we can’t really do anything.” And if any of the parents pulled their child out of school for this, how many of them would be criticized by school advocates for ‘over reacting’?

I don’t believe in the “homeschool your kids because they might get hurt in school” baloney. That’s a fear based reason. Making life decisions based on fear will lead us nowhere but down a blind alley.

But when something like this happens, this is exactly when we should flee our schools. This is not about random acts of violence or the chance that our children will be bullied without supervision. That would be a fear-based reaction.

This is a situation where the people we have handed our children over to have decided to abuse the children in their care in order to teach something they think is important. They made the conscious effort to put these children in a situation where they thought they might die or be shot. The people we have chosen to educate our children are not doing their jobs. That’s why this situation demands immediate parental action. This is not a fear-based response. Removal of a child from this school would be taking a child out of the hands of people who have no idea what they are doing in their jobs.

This isn’t kids hazing, or being beat up for lunch money. This is a case of adults throwing children into the deep end of the pool to teach them to swim without consideration for the psychological trauma that might ensue. The only way to get schools and the people who run them to be accountable to the parents is to stop letting them bully us. And when they do, to leave.

In any other circumstance – a job, a day care, a private school, a doctor, a lawyer, anything else, we wouldn’t put up with this kind of behavior for even one minute. Why do we put up with anything short of love and caring for our children from the people who we send them to for at least half of their day, sometimes even longer?

There is no respect for parents or the children in schools like this because the administrators know that they have a captured audience. As long as they don’t actually break the law (and even then sometimes), those kids will keep coming back. Day after day, innocent victims of whatever the school decides is good “for” them

We have to stop this insane disrespect for children and parents. Writing letters and complaining on blogs are two good ways to get the word out. But it ultimately boils down to each of us to individually take action. We have to make the decision not to allow people to take advantage of us or our children. When enough of us do it – when enough of us walk away from schools that manipulate us and our children – that’s when this kind of thing will stop. Until then, it will continue to happen. It may not be fake shooting sprees, but it will be everything from what they give our kids to eat, what they expect our kids to do (or not do), whether they get enough physical activity, whether they ask for permission before exposing our kids to violence or a police strip search…

Every time we send our child into the arms of the school, we are putting our complete trust into the adults who work there that they will take care of our smallest family members. Sometimes, we do have to make compromises – we can’t get exactly what we want from our teachers since they are taking care of many children at once. But we are the only advocates for our children. Many times, we don’t even know what our children are going through at school if they don’t tell us and the teachers don’t tell us. When we do know, we need to act. Not because we want to make sure little Johnny is given all the ribbons, or to make sure that everyone knows that he is perfect and he can do no wrong. But because we need to make sure our children are being respected and allowed to get their needs met. We need to make it clear to the school that we expect them to act responsibly and to be accountable when they make bad decisions – not blame the parents or children or brush it off as “not a big deal”.

Schools that put their need to have control and use the children to alleviate their own fears over the needs of children to be respected and supported, that’s where parents need to stand up and say, “Change or we’re gone. You’ve got one chance.” Or, in the case of organizing a fake shooter scenario without telling parents or kids what’s happening – just leave. That’s an unforgivable offense.

How far removed do the schools have to get from understanding what children really need in order to grow up to be happy, educated and successful children, before we say something? Before we take control of our own lives and the lives of our children? Before we stop letting schools do whatever they want, by not being willing to leave? Because, in the end, the only way we can really make a difference is to be willing to leave – and make that perfectly clear. That attending a public school is a choice, not a given. If we make that clear that we have a choice, then the schools will be far more likely to pay attention when parents try to change things for the better.

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7 Responses to “Real Life Lessons at School?”

  1. Anna Says:

    While I agree with you wholeheartedly, I am going to drag you kicking and screaming back to the world in which I live. NO ONE IS GOING TO LEAVE.

    They should, but they won’t. Why give up state-sponsored babysitting? I know to many moms who will do anything to get their kids out of the house and away from them. Did you know public school is free? They take your kids for most of the day, and you don’t pay one thin dime. If they want to torture them a little, no biggie. Parents get mad, bitch and complain, but they are not giving up on having free babysitting. I have a preschool full of moms who are fretting about how they are going to deal with their kids all summer until they can put them in all-day kindy.

  2. Tara Says:

    I’m so shocked something like this happened. What on earth were these people thinking? It really fries me that this could have actually been carried out. That no one involved in planning this little drill had the you-know-what’s to stand up and say, “No! This isn’t right,” and then do something to stop it. Is everyone that afraid of losing his or her job? Or that apathetic? Sad… especially for those poor children who will now have to deal with trying to overcome this trauma. Hopefully outside the confines of that school.

  3. embejo Says:

    I was speechless when I read that! (But now I’ve had a few minutes to think!) If my child were at that school, he/she’d be out! (I took my daughter out of kindy for much lesser reasons where I felt things were inappropriate). Who do they think they are?? It’s not their job to teach those things anyway in my opinion.

  4. School nightmare « Embejo Etc Says:

    […] Published May 15th, 2007 Home Education , Parenting My eyes popped when I read this post on another blog about a faked gunman attack (reported on CNN) to teach the children how to respond […]

  5. Sheri Says:

    After picking my jaw up of the floor, I cursed when what I really wanted to do was cry.

    Those poor children…how could anyone believe that an experience like this would/could be good for them?

    I agree, pull the kids out of the school and send the principal the post traumatic stress therapy bills.

    What if one of those little ones had a heart condition or other ailment that a serious fright might trigger?

    Insanity at its best.

  6. dancingboysmom Says:

    Gee, and I thought the torment I got from my third grade teacher was bad. I had vaguely heard something about this but not the whole story yet. Truly shocking.

    What Anna said is, sadly, true. In Summer, I loathe hanging around my friends who send their kids to school, either public or private. All it is is one huge whine-fest about how miserable they are because they have to take care of their own children for three months.

  7. Anna Says:

    What I think is crazier is the parents who might WANT to take their kids out but “You HAVE to go to school, so we have no choice.” The idea that people are hamstrung is just sad. And I suspect it is the attitudes that were drilled into them while they were in school that create this sense of paralysis.


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