School Administration Power Trips

My 15-year-old son called me on his cell phone from school yesterday because he didn’t feel well and wanted to come home. He had left the classroom on a bathroom pass to do this and then returned to class.  I called the office to see if I’d need to come in to sign him out.

The woman in the office was clearly offended.  “How do you know he wants to come home?”

“He just called me.”

“He’s supposed to come to the office and let us call a parent, if necessary.”

If we, as parents, elect to let our kids have cell phones and take them to school, as long as they aren’t disruptive, who are school officials to have the supreme arrogance to think they should be able to dictate if, and under what circumstances, our kids can call us?

Like it or not, school officials, cell phones are here to stay.  Your power trip dominance of kids is reaching an end.

For thousands of years, parents who sent their kids to a place of learning had to blindly trust that their kids would be taken care of in their absence.  Obviously that trust is not always deserved.

When my daughter was six, she got to feeling sick at school one day.  It was nothing very specific, just a general malaise, and she wanted to go home.  She told her teacher, but the teacher replied that she’d feel just as sick at home, so she might as well be at school.  I was never even contacted.  My daughter didn’t have any obvious symptoms that would be an alarm bell to a teacher, but when a kid who hasn’t missed a single day of school that year suddenly says she wants to go home, why on earth would that wish not be respected???  It turned out, by the way, that she had pneumonia.

After that, I told her teacher and the school that if my daughter ever wanted to go home, they better call me right away!

I suppose there are young children, particularly those first starting school, who just get homesick (or bored) and ask to go home all the time, and teachers have to weed through that.  But what’s so wrong with a kid going home every now and then . . . even if he or she isn’t all that sick?  What grownup has never gone home (or stayed home) from work for a less than stellar reason?  Sometimes you just need to be home.

My kids have excellent attendance and get good grades, so if they feel the need to come home, I’m not going to give them flak about it .  The school would, though.  At my daughter’s current school, the policy is that if a student doesn’t have a fever and isn’t throwing up, they are not allowed to go home.  Why should a teacher or school secretary (school nurses are virtually unheard of these days) make that judgment?  Why wouldn’t a parent be consulted?  I told my daughter that if she ever needs to go home, she should call me, and I’ll come get her.  She’s yet to take me up on that offer.

As long as the child is properly signed out from the school (I certainly do not advocate parents picking up kids without informing the school!), I really don’t see that it is any of their business.  Telling me that my son should have contacted them before me is ridiculous.

I think schools feel intimidated by the presence of cell phones in schools. Where they once had warden-like control of their student population for the entire day, they now have kids who can easily reach the outside world during the school day.  I’m sure that ability is sometimes abused, and I support the school having reasonable limits (not allowing students to make calls during class, for example), but for the most part, this increased connectivity is a wonderful thing.  Not only can my kids contact me in an emergency without being filtered by the judgment and perception of an outside party, I can contact them.

At my kids’ schools, students are allowed to have cell phones but not to use them in class, and they must have the ringer silenced.  That is reasonable.  I think occasional texting (except during tests, etc.) should also be allowed.  Some would argue that it is the equivalent of talking in class, but texting is much quieter and less disruptive.  And I’m not sure talking should be completely banned, anyway.  Regulated and minimized, okay, but what’s wrong with a kid leaning over and whispering to his bud, “What page are we on?” or even “Let’s get pizza after school”?  While excessive talking, texting, and other extraneous activity could certainly interfere with the learning process, I think a certain amount could actually keep a student more alert and engaged.  Texting a friend to say, “OMG! Mr. Percival is SO boring!” might be just the thing for bringing a student back into focus.  And maybe, just maybe, some kids really can listen to a dry lecture better while playing “Angry Birds.”  Why not at least give them the benefit of the doubt?

If the whole point of school is to prepare our kids for “the real world,” there are very few settings beyond high school where a person is forced to sit in a cramped room for 90 minutes straight and is forbidden from having any communication with anyone else at the peril of a severe consequence.  Rather than telling kids, “NO talking and NO electronics!” schools should be teaching kids how to deal with distractions, how to redirect themselves, how to be considerate and respectful of others when communicating, and how to glean what is most important in an information-saturated world.

What was important to me yesterday was that my son didn’t feel well, wanted to come home, and was able to let me know this.

Get over the power trip, schools.

This entry was posted in Children. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply