UPDATE: Folks, I closed comments on this at 10 p.m. Friday. Have a great holiday weekend. Maureen
A former-teacher-turned-advocate has been talking to me about an incident involving his second grader and a classmate. The classmate had handed his child a drawing of one figure shooting another. The boy labeled the shooter “me” and the victim “you.” In the primitive sketch, both the stick figure shooter and the victim are smiling.
Upset by the possible implications of the sketch, the former educator and his wife went to the school but were unhappy with how their concerns were addressed.
Here is a description he wrote about the entire experience. What do you think?
I am a former educator and most recently represented educators on various issues. One would be hard pressed to find a parent more understanding of the demands facing educators today. Schools often talk about their desire to have parental involvement in the education process. This has been the retort anytime challenges present themselves in the school system – “We need more parental involvement, more parents who care.”
So when parents seek open lines of communication and have questions about the learning environment of their child, one would expect the school to welcome collaboration rather than a seemingly ritualistic dance around the issue. My family recently experienced “the dance” from one of Georgia’s premier school systems at an award-winning school when our child was given a picture drawn by a second-grade classmate of a person shooting someone. Most disturbing were the captions; the artist labeled the shooter “me” and the victim “you.”
When our child told us about the picture, we were appalled that school officials had not contacted us immediately. Without knowing the severity of the threat, the school could have demonstrated some care and concern, if its administrators had been proactive, and at least informed us. Nothing.
We went to the school the next morning to inquire about the situation and were told that the administration was going to contact my family “after an investigation was complete.” We were told that the administration was going to ask the school resource officer to look at it and make a determination. To the school’s credit, they later involved the school counselor and the school psychologist.
When speaking with a direct report to the superintendent of the school system about why school psychologists were not automatically involved, we were told, “School psychologists can just say whatever you want them to say; you can pay them to say anything.” I have tremendous respect for school psychologists and was gravely disappointed to hear this from a central office official.
The investigation was deemed complete after two days, and the conclusion was that our child was not in any danger. We asked for the other child to be placed in another class. That was denied immediately. We are still struggling with questions.
–Why was this given to our child? We were told that this child had an entire notebook of pictures.
– Our child has never considered this classmate a friend. When we shared this info with the school along with the fact that our child had not had good interactions with this child, it did not change their perspective.
–Who are the people labeled “me” and “you?”
–Did they find this picture developmentally appropriate for a second grader?
– We were told the school determined that our child is not in any danger. What made them sure of this?
The school psychologist admitted that she was not given all of the information and indicated that the picture was concerning. When we met with the principal, she ended our meeting by saying, “I don’t think there is anything left to discuss.” She did not ask if our child felt safe or if we still had concerns.
When we asked to meet with the other parents so that we could figure this out, we were told that the school does not facilitate parental meetings. If our child had given this drawing to anyone, my wife and I would be crawling over each other to apologize to the family of the other child.
Neither the school nor the system did anything to make sure that our child or my wife and I were comfortable with how the situation was addressed. They were more concerned with protecting the rights of the child who gave the picture to my son.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog