October 05, 2010

The Philly Daily News deserves a "bravo" for this

Well, specifically conservative pundit Dom Giordano, whose column today on parents and their kids is right on the mark.

LAST week, a federal judge refused to suspend an innovative 24/7 policy developed by the Haddonfield School District that punishes students for off-campus drug and alcohol use. The district, trying to curb substance abuse, would bar students from extracurricular activities if they're accused of breaking the law.

The policy was cheered by many because it was a reasonable attempt to do what a number of Haddonfield, N.J., parents were failing to do - raise their children in a responsible manner. Fearing that the loss of extracurricular activities on their child's resume would prevent them from getting into a prestigious college, these parents opened their checkbooks and hired lawyers to fight the policy.

In the eyes of these parents, the fact that their children were arrested for underage drinking was irrelevant - the warning signs of potential substance abuse were secondary. Sadly, what was important was that nothing get in their child's way of getting into a "name" college.

First, good for that judge. And now -- that "other" aspect of parent hassles that teachers dread. Usually in the media and elsewhere, you hear about apathetic parents who never show up for meetings or open houses, and never return calls or e-mails. But on the other side of the coin are the type of parents from this article -- the mom and dad who believe their kid's feces don't stink. Every form of [disciplinary] action by a teacher or administrator is questioned and fought. (Who are we to make such a judgment about their child, after all?)

I mean, c'mon -- what good are you doing your kid by pulling this sort of nonsense??

Girodano has more examples:

While education reform is a hot topic today, what about parental reform? Bad parenting is equally harmful to a child's ability to achieve success at school and in life. If you don't think this is serious, consider some of these scenarios:

"Not My Child" Syndrome. At one time or another, most children behave badly. But way too many parents, confronted by another parent or teacher about their child's behavior, get defensive and go into blind denial mode. Without proper discipline, kids develop a sense of entitlement and the dangerous realization that their bad behavior will go relatively unpunished.

Enabled by clueless parents, kids soon realize there are no moral boundaries. Bad behavior escalates. Yet no matter how many times these parents are confronted, they refuse to see reality. It probably pains them to think they've raised less-than-perfect children - but it's more painful to see the damage these disruptive kids do to the other kids they victimize.

And this is the ... "intangible" which the endless educational "reforms" present and coming down the pike never take into account. Teachers today are not only expected to teach, but to act as a parent to the kids too -- but without the means to discipline the kids as an actual parent would.

Here's another classic (personal favorite) head scratcher:

"Why haven't you ever contacted me about my child's grades and/or him not turning in work?" Hmm, let's see: First, elementary school has long been bye-byes. At this level, I have almost 170 students. Not only do I have approximately that many homework assignments and tests to grade when I assign them, but then I have to grade the corrections on them too. Then, not only do I input these grades on a hard copy page, I also put them online -- updated at least once per week -- for you to view at your leisure. And not only that, I post homework assignments on my personal webpage -- when they're assigned, when they're due, what they're worth, and a description of the work -- so that you know what's going on in my class. This is all in addition to the district-mandated interim reports and report cards, by the way. So, in other words, I am providing you with more than enough information about your child for you to keep up with what he/she is doing... and how he/she is doing. Oh, and remember what I mentioned at that Open House? "E-mail me anytime if you have any questions."

In essence, it boils down to the fact that if I had to e-mail (or call) each and every parent about each and every single assignment, test and quiz, a 24 hour day would be insufficient. But more importantly, me doing that aborgates mom and dad of their responsibility.

See also: Why I don't (and won't) coach anymore, Why I decided against coaching (again), and Sounds VERY familiar!

Posted by Hube at October 5, 2010 07:22 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

Sorry Hube you and Dom are wrong on this one. The key word here is "accused". They're being convicted by the school for a mere accusation. That is not the American way. Innocent until proven guilty.

Second, I'm going to get on my soapbox about alcohol laws again. We put an absolute ban on alcohol for teenagers and guess what happens? They go completely bonkers when they do get it (which is inevitable).

Would you stand for the same thing for teachers being removed as coaches for a mere accusation of lawbreaking?

Lastly, why stop there? If you're going to make it for alcohol and drug use you might as well throw in traffic violations which kill more kids than drugs and alcohol.

Dom's article lists kids with uninvolved parents and why they fail then throws in the group of parents above with those kids. I highly doubt the parents who are retaining lawyers are "uninvolved" or have kids failing school. If anything, they're overinvolved. He'd have made a stronger case if he stayed on topic.

Posted by: Duffy at October 5, 2010 08:30 PM

You're partly right, Duff.

First, I admit I got on my soapbox here mainly out of the usual frustration that accompanies the new school year. Now that that's out of the way ...

... kids are axed or not permitted to join a team or participate in extracurricular activities all the time even they haven't been convicted of breaking a law. Following it to the example made by Dom here, what if, say, a kid was a passenger in a car while his friends made an [illegal] beer run? He didn't actually participate, wasn't charged by the cops when the car was pulled over, but grudgingly admitted to coach or whomever later on that he donated some cash towards the purchase. Should be be cut? I personally see little problem with it as a coach's decision. Of course, other factors would weigh in it for me if I was coach, like the kid's disciplinary record at school and possibly elsewhere. And heck, the NFL still suspends players even if they've either not been convicted or have had charges dropped in a crime.

Next, the comparison to an adult and his [part-time] livelihood vs. a voluntary afterschool activity doesn't wash when it comes to bad behavior and accusations. Still, teacher-coaches in schools have been axed due to parental complaints -- mere accusations, if you will, regardless of the inherent difference in situations.

Lastly, I don't see where Dom changed direction. Yes, some parents who got lawyers may be overinvolved; however, his point is that [some of] these parents indeed are NOT involved with their kids as they should be. They only GET involved when something that may affect their little angel's "status" occurs.

Posted by: Hube at October 5, 2010 08:55 PM

It seems Dom may have just utilized the wording from the following article which also says "accused of breaking the law." However, the actual article notes that the decision dealt with a real case of off-campus drinking and drug use. Maybe the wording was just poor, perhaps. At any rate, from the article:

A federal judge on Friday declined to suspend a Haddonfield School District policy that punishes students for off-campus drug and alcohol use.

U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman ruled that the student appealing the policy, who was suspended from extracurricular activities for drinking but who has since graduated and moved on to college, was not suffering irreparable harm as a result of the policy.
Hillman rejected a request for an injunction requiring the school board to temporarily suspend the policy.

Friday's decision followed a ruling by the New Jersey Department of Education last month ordering the Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District in Bergen County to halt its policy of removing students from extracurricular activities if they were accused of breaking the law.

Haddonfield's policy, known as 24-7, applies to drinking and drug offenses, and is, in part, the legacy of a series of drinking-related incidents a few years ago in which two students died, scores were taken to hospitals with alcohol poisoning, and a house was trashed in a now-notorious party.

Joe Betley, the attorney representing the Haddonfield Board of Education, questioned the Ramapo Indian Hills ruling, which has been appealed in state Appellate Court.

"It's been wrongly decided. It's a misreading of [New Jersey's] administrative regulations," Betley said.

Matthew Wolf, the attorney representing the Haddonfield student, argued in court that the removal from extracurricular activities for off-campus offenses was unconstitutional and a contradiction of the Education Department's ruling.

But Hillman took a different view, interpreting the Ramapo Indian Hills ruling as based on the fact that the school district policy was simply too broad and applied to misconduct that had no impact on student life.

Wolf, who has another client challenging the Haddonfield school board in state Appellate Court, said he would continue to pursue the case.

"The state can't dictate how you raise your kids," Wolf said. "It's the oldest right not spelled out in the Constitution."

He may not have been arrested for underage drinking, but for me that doesn't mean he can't be axed from extra-curricular activities.

(The spam guard won't let me post the link, but it's at philly-dot-com/philly/news/local/20101002_Judge_backs_Haddonfield_schools_on_substance_rule.html. Just make the proper substitutions before putting in your browser.)

Posted by: Hube at October 5, 2010 09:12 PM

"Next, the comparison to an adult and his [part-time] livelihood vs. a voluntary afterschool activity doesn't wash when it comes to bad behavior and accusations."

Think bigger and it does. You have a kid who's going to get a full ride to Penn on a scholarship and then you kick him off the team for something as minor (pardon the pun) as contributing to buying beer for a party or whatever. You've now screwed that kid out of several hundred thousand dollars. How many years would it take you to make up that difference? This whole thing raises my libertarian hackles because we should be talking about harm here. If my kid gets arrested for underage drinking I won't be happy but it's really not the end of the world either. If, however, he gets a DUI I'm going to go completely bonkers. In the former he's a kid doing stupid kid stuff. In the latter he is a lethal menace. See the difference? You wanna know what my soccer coach used to do? He'd find out when the big parties were going to happen on weekends and call everyone's house at around 8:00 pm when he knew we were already at the party. He'd leave a message that there was a mandatory practice the next morning at 8:00 am and anyone who does not attend is off the team. When we go there it was run till you puke time. Then we'd get a lecture and send us home. The parents loved him for it.

Still, teacher-coaches in schools have been axed due to parental complaints -- mere accusations, if you will, regardless of the inherent difference in situations.

Well that would be wrong too but two wrongs...

Lastly, I don't see where Dom changed direction. Yes, some parents who got lawyers may be overinvolved; however, his point is that [some of] these parents indeed are NOT involved with their kids as they should be. They only GET involved when something that may affect their little angel's "status" occurs.

Or they think we have ridiculous alcohol laws in this country and their kids while breaking the law weren't being irresponsible and endangering lives. We are going to continue to have absurd alcohol laws and tragic deaths unless we decide we're going to ignore these stupid laws and teach kids that alcohol isn't that big of a deal and yeah you can have a few beers but don't you dare get behind the wheel if you've had even one. Don't be stupid and look after each other. It worked for me and my friends growing up.

Posted by: Duffy at October 6, 2010 02:29 PM

Well Duff, I'm pretty libertarian too and believe that the drinking age should be 18 (if you're old enough to die for your country, you're old enough to have a beer), but nothing you said really dissuades me from my position on the situation in that district, especially considering the past history in the district.

Look, personally, if I was the coach in your football scholarship hypothetical (or others, for that matter), I'd do something like your soccer coach did. But that's me. (I firmly believe a saying the first principal I worked for always used: "Rules with a human face.") OTOH, if I was a player of a coach who set down certain specific rules, and one of those was NO UNDERAGE DRINKING -- NO EXCEPTIONS, I wouldn't take a chance drinking if playing on that team was of paramount importance to me. Period. It's not unlike those who belong to a church who feel the church should change its belief system just for certain people ... instead of the reverse. Or, if you don't like the rules, go someplace else.

Posted by: Hube at October 6, 2010 03:00 PM

Here in small-town Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, we do get the contact, every week, as the school e-mails us -- or did before our kids were all graduated -- their grades/progress reports every Monday.

Posted by: Dana at October 6, 2010 08:37 PM

Interesting, Dana. Maybe our system could automatically send out an e-mail every week or so. I'll certainly check into that! Thanks for the tip!

Posted by: Hube at October 6, 2010 08:39 PM

First time in forever I've disagreed. Schools have no business worrying about students' off-campus behavior. We have parents and law enforcement for that. Schools need to focus on behavior that happens *at school*. Part of the reason our schools are in the shape they're in is because schools have morphed from teaching the 3 R's to becoming "agents of social change", focusing on everything *but* the 3 R's.

And yes, I'm a high school teacher.

Posted by: Darren at October 10, 2010 04:12 PM