When I was in in the third grade, there was a parent who complained that I didn’t deserve the “First Honor” title. According to her, it was her son who should be the First Honor. It’s not the grades. My grades and her son’s side by side, no contest — his grades weren’t better than mine. In fact, his grades were only good enough for the Third Honors. But, according to the parent, my grades in Conduct weren’t good enough (HAHAHAHAHAHA screw her!) so I shouldn’t be an honor student at all. It was a Catholic school and Conduct was a big deal. So, it should be as it was the previous year when her son at the top. The thing is, during the previous year, the teacher-in-charge was also the private tutor of her son. I mean, is that a no-brainer or what?
If the school principal and the third grade teacher-in-charge had allowed themselves to be bullied by that mother, what would have happened to me? The way things turned out, I retained the top spot during the following years and, halfway through my fifth grade, I was promoted to the sixth grade. I graduated a year ahead of that woman’s snotty son, at 11 years old, and with Third Honors despite having spent only half a year in the sixth grade. When I passed them during the recessional at the graduation rites, I smiled as sweetly as I could. They didn’t even congratulate me.
I didn’t mention that to brag. I mentioned it in the hope that the boy and his mother read this blog and remind them of how they tried to ruin me, my future and my self-esteem. Kidding. But it’s no joke when I say that I learned about assholes and bitches much too early in life.
I mentioned it to contextualize the rest of the entry and because it was the first thing that came to mind when I read about an interesting case in Ontario, Canada about a father who started an online petition against the principal of the elementary school that his kid attends. Although there is one specific allegation that, unless properly justified by the principal, can be made out as irresponsible and constitutes abuse of authority, some of the complaints remind me of the mother of my snotty grade school classmate. You can read the allegations and judge for yourself whether they are in fact actionable or whether the acts complained of are within the discretion of the principal by virtue of her authority.
Finished reading the allegations? Okay.
Personally, I think that disallowing the traditional “clap out” (send-off) for the graduating class at the end of the school year is within the principal’s discretion. It’s just tradition, not a mandatory school activity. However, making the kids wait for 15 to 20 minutes before allowing them inside the school, even on cold mornings, seems inconsiderate and neglectful of the children’s welfare. Was there a valid reason for not allowing them inside the school earlier than that?
The problem is that the parents put up the online petition before lodging a formal complaint with the proper authority — the public school board. The school board got pissed and threatened to sue the parents if they didn’t take down the petition. The parents refused (they currently have 132 signatories to the petition) and the petition’s author, Paul MacGregor, a factory worker, is now the defendant in a 100,000 dollar defamation lawsuit. The sad part is that the petition itself does NOT contain anything defamatory. It was the comments of some of the signatories that were objectionable and they had been taken down already.
If things weren’t complicated enough, MacGregor says he posted the petition upon the advise of a school trustee who now refuses to confirm nor deny it. The principal, Susan Reed, refuses to comment. Members of the school board aren’t talking either.
But the drama is thicker than that. Prior to the online petition, there was too much bad blood between some parents and the principal over things like choice of a school mascot, as well as the principal’s approval of a “beer basket” prize for a Grade 7 class to auction off in a fundraiser. It also appears that when Reed disallowed the “clap out”, Paul MacGregor and some parents went to the school and spearheaded the send off in the school grounds anyway. The next day, the police handed him a trespass warning ordering him to stay off school property.
I understand that Susan Reed is the principal of a public elementary school and the parents of the students are all taxpayers. But it seems to me that, with the exception of the go-chill-in-the-bus allegation, the other acts complained of do not really make her an incompetent school administrator — it just so happened that the parents disagreed with her over so many things and preferred someone who did things the way they had always been in the past. You know, tradition — someone who would allow things like the “clap out.”
Some complaints, on the other hand, are objections against a very traditional and conservative educational system. Consider this comment of Annette Jackson, the 77th signatory to the online petition:
I phoned Mrs. Reed with concerns re: my daughters teacher Mr. Prentice. Mr. Prentice has several practices in his classroom that concerned me. One of which concerns me the most is that only students tests/projects with “A” marks are to be hung up in the classroom, I disagree with that wholely, any student who shows a great improvement in their work should have the glory of having their work hung up. Mrs. Reed indicated she would talk to Prentice, to this day, no answer has been given to me and Mr. Prentice continues this practice in his classroom.
I agree with Ms. Jackson but school practices like that don’t change overnight. I wonder if she ever considered the possibility that the parents of the “A” students objected to the idea of not having the excellent work of their kids hung in the classroom exclusively.
I have no love for irresponsible school officials but I know far too many parents who act as though they are in a better position than the principal to decide on school matters. The funny thing is that, in many cases, the position of parents favors only their own children. So we hear about the parent who complains about her kid not getting the lead role in a school play (with matching assertion that her kid deserves the part), or about the kid that didn’t make it to the basketball or football team, or about the kid who should be at the top of the class rather than the classmate who does not deserve the honor.
I’m just wondering if the case against Susan Reed is not a variation of what that mother tried to do when I was in the third grade.