Oregon Live: Officials at Lincoln Elementary in Grants Pass say they plan to change the consequences for students who are tardy after a grandmother’s photo of her first-grade grandson stuck behind a cardboard wall in the school lunchroom prompted widespread outrage on Facebook and in phone calls to the district.
In a posting on the school’s web page, district officials wrote Thursday that their practice of separating students behind a cardboard shield during lunch “was never intended to isolate or stigmatize students.”
But that was exactly what it looked like to parents, grandparents and anyone on Facebook who saw the photo of little Hunter, dejected behind a screen as his classmates eat together at a nearby table.
Students who are chronically late to school or who miss too many days of school are in serious jeopardy of not learning to read and not graduating from high school. For that reason, good schools stress the importance of regular on-time school attendance and take steps when a student is frequently late or missing. In Oregon, the problem begins in kindergarten and is pronounced in kindergarten and first grade.
But experts and educators recognize that when 5- and 6-year-olds are late to school, it is the parent, not the child, who is doing something wrong and needs to do better.
That is exactly the point that Laura Hoover of Grants Pass made in her angry Facebook post:
“His momma’s car sometimes doesn’t like to start right up. Sometimes he’s a couple minutes late to school. Yesterday, he was 1 minute late and this is what his momma discovered they do to punish him… for something that is out of this baby’s control! They make a mockery of him in front of the other students! His mom found him there, crying, and took him home for the day.“
Nearly 50,000 people shared her post. Many people who send or have sent their children to Lincoln Elementary commented.
They explained that the school has an official policy, instituted by the principal, that students who are tardy four or more times will be subject to “lunch detention.” Students are forbidden to talk during that time and are put behind a screen if they try, parents wrote.
District officials posted an extensive explanation and pledge to make changes on Lincoln Elementary’s web site:
“There has been considerable general and social media attention regarding the Lincoln Elementary School Attendance/Tardy Academic Catch-up Protocol, which is intended to help support students address learning gaps arising from chronic tardiness/absenteeism. Principal (Melissa) Fitzsimmons immediately reached out to the parents involved in order to meet, and we are looking forward to addressing their concerns regarding Lincoln’s current practice in this area. Lincoln’s current attendance support protocol was communicated to parents via newsletter and is intended to provide the students with an above average level of tardiness, supervised additional learning time in a non-distracting setting. It was never intended to isolate or stigmatize students.
The District is taking the concerns raised very seriously and are reviewing alternative approaches for Lincoln Elementary to accomplish this worthwhile objective while avoiding any chance of adversely impacting a child, which was never intended. Lincoln Elementary is a warm and caring learning community receiving Student Success Champion School recognition from the Oregon Department of Education in 2012 as an inspiring example of what is possible when teachers, administrators, parents, students, and communities come together behind a shared vision of excellence for all students.
The District is open to constructive criticism with respect to current practices which can almost always be addressed and resolved informally. Modifications are already being made to the Lincoln tardiness support protocol in order to ensure “catch-up” learning opportunities are being provided in a supportive and caring setting. In order to minimize the disruption of Lincoln’s ongoing educational process, please submit any additional concerns or input to the District Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
A call to the school went straight to voice mail and Fitzsimmons has not yet responded to the request for comment.
Personally, I don’t think that punishment is harsh. And if grandma is so concerned about it, maybe she should help get the baby’s momma a new car.
Then again, public
school indoctrination policies are always messed up.