Friday, February 6, 2015

Let's NOT do lunch.

I am a teacher.  While teachers are supposed to encourage a quest for further education, I truly have no desire to move beyond my current assignment.  Education is not like industry, I believe, where there is a perceived race to receive promotion after promotion.  In fact, educators are not really promoted, without having identified a specific goal and achieved the required certifications.  I actually know of two teachers who pursued administrative certification, and were so paralyzed that their districts would force them out of the classroom into the offices that they intentionally decided not to officially add the qualification to their state-issued certificate.  

I understand that decision.  Primarily because I've spent a great deal of time examining my current position, which I love, and trying to imagine doing something else.  For me, education involves direct contact with students, and the thought of leaving that daily opportunity in the classroom is inconceivable.

Sandusky's Fault? 

Earlier this week, I mentioned that I spent $50 to prove that I am not a stalker, criminal, or pedophile, so that I can continue to work in the classroom in my district.  In doing so, I also had to relinquish my rights to the state to examine my personal financial and medical records.  I was on a deadline, and I don't really have a choice, and, quite frankly, I really just scanned the Terms of Agreement that I was required to accept prior to actually applying for the certifications, so now there's a government employee somewhere finding out all about my knee replacement and tonsillectomy.  WHAT - EV - ER.

Yesterday, I was speaking with our superintendent - usually a very upbeat, positive, and calm person.  The only description I have for her demeanor yesterday was despondent.   I realize that's a pretty serious adjective, but she's been burdened by some pretty serious new laws, taking an awful lot of the rewarding parts of administration away.  Case in point, a letter sent to parents this week, and posted on the website:

Dear Parents/Guardians:
Earlier this week, you received a letter stating that you would no longer be permitted to have lunch with your child in the school cafeteria. I should have included more information in that letter.
I understand that this is perhaps a tradition that you have enjoyed for some time, and it is with some regret that I made the decision to stop this practice.
Changes in clearance/background check requirements led me to this decision. According to the law, anyone who has direct contact with children must now possess clearances in order to volunteer or to serve within a school. In fact, the language of the law references clearances for anyone who has direct contact with children.
In addition to the clearance requirements, we have faced some logistical challenges:
· Monitoring those who do and do not have clearances
· Space in the cafeteria
· Explaining to children why one parent may attend and another may not
· Monitoring and correcting some inappropriate parent/guardian behavior
· Monitoring outside food to be sure that it is not shared by other students
· A crying child who sees that a friend’s parent/guardian joins in lunch while his/her parent/guardian does not
· A child whose parent says he/she will be at lunch but then fails to attend

Despite the change on a daily basis, we are reviewing possible special opportunities to include parents/guardians in a lunch with their child. Your elementary child’s building principal will send an update as plans are finalized.
Thank you for your understanding.

Pennsylvania is taking the lead in protecting children -- I suspect because of the circumstances surrounding the reporting, or lack thereof, of child abuse at Penn State.  Certainly, everyone understands the concept of "It takes a village to raise a child."  Suddenly, now, districts are having to assume that everyone is guilty until proven innocent, requiring clearances/background checks for nearly every person who enters a school building.  The Constitution seems to have been put on the back burner, in order to protect the innocent.

Yes.  It is that big a deal.  Does it seem like overkill?  Absolutely. But I defy you to propose an alternate suggestion that allows for the security necessary under the new laws.

While I'd love to announce to anyone who asks what I do for a living that I am a TEACHER, I'm feeling as if my new official title is actually "Mandated Reporter."    We've been trained, and told that if we suspect child abuse, we are mandated to report it immediately.   This means, LOG ON to a system, complete a lengthy form, and file it with the state.  For cases of severe concern, it means TALKING to someone on the phone at the state.  (Oh, and the state has admitted that their new law is overwhelming their phone lines.)  It means that substitutes will be sent into our classrooms so we can complete the paperwork as soon as we are aware -- no waiting for lunch or prep time.

Today I am thrilled that I am not an administrator, and that I know that I will never pursue such certification.  I also pray that the parents understand the importance of their involvement in the schools for the overall academic success of their children, and are willing to, somehow, scrape together $50 to prove that they are worthy of entry into the buildings.

And that they cut a break to the principals, superintendents, and other administrators who are working hard to uphold the law, while still managing the educational environment of our greatest resource.


  1. A great deal troubles me regarding the new law, and I worry about what precedents we set in the name of political expediency. I'm talking of the criminal clearances, not the mandatory reporter changes. PSEA did not take a clear position on the legislation, lest they get in the way of a law that, on the surface, seems to be protecting children. It's excessive, though, and does presume guilt and really will not do much more than we are already doing to make as likely as possible the safety of children at school. I guess the legislation was prudent though because it permitted legislators to a) allegedly do more to protect children, b) insinuate that teachers are the problem, and c) burden teachers with the cost, cost that comes in terms of $50 and intrusions into privacy.

  2. Agreed, Chris. The cost is insane, especially when you consider that most of the data is gathered electronically. I am also appalled that they now have access to my financial records and medical records. PSEA needs to be doing something about THAT immediately.