Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why schools don't enforce dress codes

Reading the paper this morning, I came across a story that just made me wonder about the priorities some people set. A high school with a policy against intolerant or racially offensive messages suspended a student for three days for wearing a "You might be a redneck sports fan if ..." T-shirt. And okay, that may be extreme. If I was his mom, I might be mad, and call the principal to complain. But I'd like to think that after that, I might say to my child, "You know, this is unfair, and I don't agree. But we'll take it, and from now on, I'll look a little more closely at what you're wearing when you leave the house." Wouldn't you? Would you go to war over a shirt? Would you sue the school? That's what this family did, and though the young man in question dropped the suit a few years later, the school has since been ordered to pay his legal fees to the tune of $500,000-plus. Would you rack up half a million in legal fees to defend the wearing of a T-shirt? I've often joked about suing if my son's school put him in a dangerous or unsafe position contrary to the provisions of his IEP, and I can see parents pursuing cases like that. But a T-shirt? I just don't get it. Free speech is nice and all, but I don't think it should extend to stupid jokes on T-shirts.

My husband suggests that every time this school district has a budget shortfall -- can't afford new computers or books or music classes or sports -- they tell people to go complain to the folks who got half a million of district money over a T-shirt. You might be a ticked-off taxpayer if ...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

High school horror

My daughter is getting her second high-school orientation today. The first, a few weeks ago, was just for special-education students, and was intended to give them a kinder, gentler look at how they'll find their way around the school and really enjoy being there. Today's visit, which includes all of her fellow eighth-graders, is the harsher, rougher version, designed to strike the fear of God in these prospective freshmen so they'll start the year ready to listen and obey. Considering the fact that my daughter was in tears even after the first low-key visit, this high-stress one should put her in major anxiety overload. I've been working hard on getting her a Perfect Attendance Award this year, but maybe I should have chucked all that and kept her home today. If there's one kid who doesn't need to be more scared of high school, it's her.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Whose ears are you calling old?

If it seems like your teenager can sense when the phone's going to ring before you even hear a thing, you may not be wrong. A new ring tone is available that can apparently be heard by children but not by adults. The technology for that started as a way to drive teens out of areas where they're not wanted by assaulting their ears with frequencies aging ears don't receive, but talk about your creative repurposing. The kids-only ringtone lets youngsters text-message without tipping off teachers with long musical ringtones. As infuriating as it is that kids are trying to sneak around, you've got to admire the ingenuity involved here. Now if only they could develop a ringtone that could only be heard by rude and inconsiderate people, going to concerts and movies and live events would be a lot more pleasant. Of course, then they'd still sit talking in their seats, or get up and disrupt things to walk out into the lobby. How 'bout a ringtone that renders them unconscious? Come to think of it, that would be handy for teens, too.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Do your homework

Homework is my daughter's specialty. She's super-conscientious about it. She's very organized. She writes assignments down in her assignment pad and on her wall calendar at home. She often completes the work well in advance of its due date. Whatever scores she gets on tests, her homework scores show a solid line of 100s. It's saved her grade average more than once, and also endeared her to teachers who are happy to see somebody, anybody, taking their assignments seriously.

In that, she appears to be in the minority. And I really don't get it. From what I overhear from teachers while volunteering in the school library and what my daughter reports from her classes, it appears that not doing the homework is the norm, and that a decisive majority of kids don't even bother. Now, I can understand kids with learning disabilities having trouble doing the homework (although my daughter manages despite that), and I can see kids with executive function problems or attention problems not doing the job, but surely that doesn't describe a majority of kids. Parents complain about too much homework, but are they really telling the kids to just blow it off? It seems so; or at the very least, they aren't going to the trouble of enforcing it.

If you're looking for a way to get your kid noticed in a good way by a teacher, though, or to give him or her a leg up on a passing grade, I'd sure reconsider that policy. The teachers I've seen are incredulous, too, at the fact that nobody takes assignments seriously, and fairly discouraged as well. Being the student who does, faithfully, complete that disrespected work has got to put a little plus in your child's column. It seems to have worked for my girl, anyway. We'll take academic excellence any way we can get it.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Three weeks and counting, fingers crossed

We're down to three weeks of school remaining, and though in past years I've dreaded the onset of summer with its disruptive changes of routine, this year I am eagerly counting down the days, hours and minutes until I can take a deep breath and say that, phew!, my son made it through his first year of middle school without incident. Surely he can make it through three more weeks, right? Or really, 11 days and four half-days. The half-days, inconvenient though they are, are especially wonderful because it means he doesn't have the one class that he could still get in trouble for. One of his friends, somebody my son imitates even though he couldn't pick a worse roll model, got sent to the principal from that class today. Please, please, little boy, dear son of mine, do not copy whatever particular behavior caused that to happen. Eleven days and four half-days, that's it, that's all, and we can call sixth grade a happy, successful memory. Counting down, man, I'm counting down.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Is it still inclusion if your child's in class remotely?

Now, see, yesterday I said I couldn't imagine any way my son could be productively involved in a mainstream classroom, and then I saw this item on Blogging Baby about robots that can take a child's place in a classroom, transmitting information between the teacher and classroom and wherever the student actually physically is. They're being used to allow bedridden students to still participate in their classrooms, but there's some thought that they could be helpful for autistic students who need a more controlled environment. And scoodgy boys! What about scoodgy boys whose behavior would be such a challenge in a regular class that unsupportable amounts of support would have to be dedicated to it, pretty much obliterating any actual learning? I could see my guy attending a regular class via robot. But he'd probably just find a way to make the robot suck its fingers, or make farting noises, or repeat the same phrase over and over and over ...