Schools, Know Your Place

Yesterday, Jill Raffiani posted an interesting blog post on education system involvement in parenting. The reason for her post was her having seen a video of police arresting a father for picking up his kids from school (apparently, they were picked up early or something). I have not seen the video so can only go with what Jill says about it.

In the Netherlands, we have mandatory attendance legislation, so homeschooling or taking days off school is not allowed. Then again, even in this situation, when a kid is missing school often, the local government education officer gets involved, not the police. I understand that sometimes harsh measures need to be taken to get kids to school, and it’s not like the school has no role in this at least here in the Netherlands. Then again, assuming this Dad didn’t constantly take his kids out of school, it’s outrageous to have him arrested. Again, I don’t know the situation beyond what Jill had to say about it.

Jill continues to discuss school involvement in more minor parenting decisions, such as what the child gets for lunch. I responded by detailing a situation that happened when I was at the school for the blind in seventh grade. Kids even in high school had to eat lunh under close supervision, and there were relatively strict rules about what you could bring and how you were supposed to eat your lunch. Besides, school hired another organization for lunch supervision, and my parents didn’t want me to become a formal client there. I was taken out of lunch group and had to eat in the classroom by myself. Then, the lunch staff told a lot of my fellow students to stop hanging out with me because I presumably was having a bad influence on them. Now this is so totally outrageous. Firstly, schools have no business dictating parental decisions on such minor details as what to eat for lunch, how to eat it and where to eat it. Secondly, it wasn’t me who had made the decision to stop going to lunch group. I was in fact expelled from lunch group because my parents didn’t want to have this external organization, with its undoubtedly large number of psychologists and other nosey folk, to document on me. My parents didn’t say I couldn’t eat with the other kids, although they didn’t like lunch group for secondary schoolers, but I couldn’t attend because my parents refused to have me become a formal client there. Fair enough, but what happened next, ie. the lunch staff telling kids not to hang out wiht me, is, let’s just say, rather childish.

Unless a child is clearly being abused – and getting the wrong school lunch is not abuse -, schools have no business interfering in parenting. Schools are there to educate kids, and in cases of special education, where perhaps life skills may be addressed, the parents still need to sign the IEP. I do not feel that parents hire the teachers in a way, like Jill says, simply because this is not the case in the Netherlands, except for daycare, which Jill was indeed talking about. I also have a problem with the phrase that teachers need to work on parents’ terms, but maybe that is a case of semantics. Parents and teachers each have their roles, and they need to mutually respect each other. Schools are naturally in a position of power, and they have no right to abuse that position to force parents to parent their children a certain way.

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15 thoughts on “Schools, Know Your Place

  1. I agree leave the parenting to the parenting unless something is a super red flag. Also these teachers need to ask the parents whats going because kids gets things mixed up I know my son told the teacher something listening his dad and I talk. And she questioned me but he got the info wrong he was 6 at the time and she actually wanted a meeting and everything. I had to set her straight.

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  2. I agree that schools should not overstep their boundaries in their students lives. I know sometimes it’s better for the school to intervene when things are going on (possible child abuse, student is absent a lot, etc), but it sounds like the Netherlands are a bit over the top.

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    1. Parents need to be allowed to make the decisions for their kids, unless they are doing something that is causing harm. My oldest hadn’t missed any school the first grading period of the year, so when he asked if he could miss a day to attend a movie screening with me, I allowed him to do so. A once (or even twice) a year thing, I don’t have a problem with.

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  3. I agree. I think a lot of people feel that while the child is at school, their teachers are like their “parents” and dictate how they act, what they eat, etc. Teachers should watch over students, but they shouldn’t go as far as making decisions for the students without the parent’s knowledge or consent.

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  4. i will take this a step further. schools need to let parents parent unless there’s an extreme exception.

    but also,

    parents need to let schools do their thing too (not in your case, i mean in general)

    the lines are so blurred there don’t seem to be boundaries on either side!

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  5. I agree that the case you shared is an overstepping of boundaries. However, as a public school educator, I think that sometimes it’s difficult for schools because so many people DO expect them to parent. You wouldn’t believe how many parents complain when schools fail to step in regarding issues that are not within their jurisdiction. It is our job as teachers and administrators to watch out for the safety of children while they are with us but not to parent them. There are so many supportive parents who understand that, but there are unfortunately a lot that don’t, making the lines sometimes blurred for schools.

    Again, I’m not supporting schools that act beyond their jurisdiction, but I do see how it sometimes happens. I have had students over the years who have to come to me because they have nowhere to go or don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, so it’s rather hard not to kick into a parent-type mode at times. It’s tricky. :/

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