Monday, December 17, 2007

Tiggers Are Wonderful Things After All

A San Francisco school district has been ordered to pay $95,000 to five families after the families sued the school over the dress code.
The parents went to court after a student was disciplined for wearing socks with the "Winnie the Pooh" cartoon character Tigger on the first day of school last year
This was a suit brought on by the parents with help from the ACLU, and the story went down like this in March 2007:
The ACLU claims in the suit that the dress code imposed by Redwood Middle School and the Napa Valley Unified School District violates the limits of a California law that allows for schools to set reasonable dress code policies for safety reasons. The law allows for parents to exempt their children from any school uniform requirements.
According to an old UPI report:
Toni Kay Scott, 14, was sent to an in-school suspension program called Students With Attitude Problems last year for violating a dress code, according to a lawsuit against the Napa Valley Unified School District and Redwood Middle School.

She had donned socks with the Tigger character from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons on them, along with a denim skirt and a brown shirt with a pink border.

But the school’s policy requires students to wear clothes with solid colors in blue, white, green, yellow, khaki, gray, brown and black. Permitted fabrics are cotton twill, corduroy and chino. No denim is allowed.
So the school set out some dopey dress code, the kid violated it, the school made her go to some equally dopey school suspension program, and the parents sued and won (mostly because the school didn't know what the limits of California law allow with regard to dress codes).

Class - here are some questions to ponder:
Are schools losing the ability to make rules?
Do you think is it because they have been abusing their authority?
Are parents and their children getting fed up with this type of thing?
Do you think school administrators read any of the laws in their state before they set policies?

And yet - Don't parents and their children kids realize that they give up some of their freedom when they are enrolled in government or private schools? (However some Constitutional freedoms - like freedom of speech as in the Avery Doninger case are also being infringed upon and should not be). Some schools even require parents and students to sign "pledges" and other "agreements" about adhering to certain school policies. But what is really troubling is that slowly the public school system is usurping the authority of parents over every aspect of a child’s life. In Loco Parentis is being broadened. Think about it; We have even seen that they can "strongly recommend" medical treatments - which when parents do not comply for legitimate and very good reasons, even as they have the right to do so, they may get referred to Child and Family services for neglect. Then the real fun begins.

By the way - how much has your own school district spent on legal fees this year? Is it fair that school districts have an unlimited supply of money to go to court with (thanks to you, the taxpayer) and parents, of course, do not? (this is why parents ask for help from organizations like the ACLU). Schools definitely use this as a tool of coercion - they threaten a lawsuit if parents and students do not comply with certain demands.

What do you think about all of this?


Eric Holcombe said...

"Are schools losing the ability to make rules?" No. They are losing the homogeneous culture in their "diverse" student bodies. Offensive speech, dress, etc. are subjective. If the community is like-minded, onerous rules may well be accepted.

Do you think is it because they have been abusing their authority?

They always have to an extent. It's just that now there is less agreement with the customers as to what those rules should be.

"Are parents and their children getting fed up with this type of thing?"

I would suggest they are fed up with the students/parents that aren't "like them". The monolithic public school will continue to struggle (and fail) to please all the people all the time. See zero tolerance policies. Most will not acknowledge the school overstepping their bounds into internet thought-crime enforcement, but instead will criticize that "problem kid".

"Do you think school administrators read any of the laws in their state before they set policies?"

Based on their oft-displayed ignorance of existing education law, I'm gonna say "no".

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Much like the rest of our over-regulated society, school culture mantains that all solutions to problems start with making new rules. I once taught at a school that had 18 pages of rules in the handbook, and contemplated adding more. The more tightly regulated the environment, they think, the better the job they are doing. Thus school ends up being a completely artificial environment that prepares students for nothing real.

I also think that there is an overweening officiousness about school personnel that makes then believe that whatever bright idea they have must be good for the kids, no matter which kids and where. Many of these people not only want to control kids in school, but also want to control them out of school, as well.

Finally, we have a society that has been narrowing the definition of "normal" or "ordinary" to the point of cookie-cutter sameness. The concept they peddle as "diversity" is actually well-managed, small differences in quaint customs to be shown-off in carefully planned displays at given times of the year. Real differences--especially in values and thought--are considered to be unmanagable and therefore quite dangerous.