Social Emotional Learning Loophole
We at TPAU were cruising around social media one day when we stumbled upon a post that looked like a cry for help. This mother was explaining how frustrated she is with her child’s Kyrene Public Middle School teachers. She explains to the public via social media, her child is being bullied by two teachers and subsequently other students because she (mother) spoke at a school board meeting. We decided to reach out to see if we could help.
You see, this mother had been trying to communicate with the school principal and 8th Grade teachers regarding content and narratives being discussed in class and the way her daughter was being treated. No one was responding to her concerns and she was growing frustrated and thus decided to speak at the board meeting. She was never given a reply from the board and again, ignored.
The Teacher Behavior
One of her child’s teachers was getting the class ready to do a research project on famous scientists. He handed each student a list of names to choose from and come back with a decision the next day. Later that evening, as this mother sits down with her child to go over homework and discuss the day, they look over the list and start looking up these scientists. They notice that name after name on the list are people of color and only one scientist is white (Jewish) but has an ethnic name.
As a side note, on the first day of school, this teacher made sure to tell all of his students he is “Gay” and has made his political leanings and personal opinions no secret to his students repeatedly, throughout the year. With this recent research project, he made sure the kids knew they would only be learning about black and Hispanic scientists. When asked why he replied, “All you ever learn about is white men!” One wonders, are the other science teachers saying the same thing? Is this acceptable to administrators and parents and do they even know?
Teachers Projecting Emotions in Education
Let us also understand that this particular school was piloting a new SEL (Social Emotional Learning) curriculum which allows student “discussion” about their feelings on topics. This is NOT an opportunity for teachers to express themselves and it seems selfish to have them think it is acceptable.
This child’s other teacher taught a class which was a glorified Study Hall and the breeding ground for the SEL Pilot Curriculum. They were discussing ‘Immigration’ and what kinds of problems this could bring to the population of America.
This actual subject line of study was outlined in the textbook but where the teacher chose to direct the conversation was where things went off the track. The teacher started telling the students “I hope for impeachment…”, “Our only immigration problem is with our President”, “Online stupidity has led to our president in office” As well, according to students, he expresses his political frustration in class, rather often. We know this to be true because this students are always told to take notes in class and this child had shown the mother the notes.
The culture and community in those two teachers’ classes had deteriorated to a platform for their political frustrations and agendas which is not good for the children in their care. School is to remain impartial and focused on District approved Curriculum which aligns with the State Standards of Education as approved by the State Board of Education.
I digress and must continue to address the topic of this upset family regarding the fact that teachers and other students were bullying their child. In fact, it was one of the mentioned teachers who told all of his students (approx. 160) about him, “being in trouble with *child’s* mom”. He went on and on drawing on the sympathies of students in each of his classes and this child began to get harassed by students in their classes. Students saying things like, “Why do you hate Mr/Mrs…..?” “Why don’t you and your mom leave Mr/Mrs… alone!” The child came home from school, in tears and not wanting to go back to school at all. This child was a thriving student who was happy and excelling. This was now a thing of the past.
The family decided to email the principal employing the strategies TPAU outlines and all of a sudden, the Principal and Assistant Principal wanted a meeting. Finally! Our TPAU Rep met with the family before the meeting and we were ready to find a solution for their child.
Meet the Principal
When we arrived to meet the Middle School Admin, we were ushered into a back conference room. The Principal was a woman who had been brushing this family off for weeks, so tensions were high. The Assist Principal was also in the room and began the meeting. Right away both Administrators apologized for the way these teachers were conducting themselves in class. They said one of the teachers was “distraught and in tears” over the fact that his idea of researching only people of color had offended her child. As if no one else was offended or noticed? As if his idea was good but now he was being reprimanded? They were also told the other teacher said he did nothing wrong and the SEL Curriculum allowed room for some side discussions and opinions. However, they were told to stop any political-like conversations in class and the teachers promised they would stick to facts and curriculum. They did reiterate that the mother had caused her child to endure this trauma because she chose to speak at the public school board meeting, which caused the mother to slump in defeat. Our TPAU Rep had told the mother this would happen and she told the Admin vehemently, they were wrong. Ultimately, the child was so scarred by the teachers and other students treating her poorly, it was decided she would not go back to classes and the school would “graduate” her from the 8th grade, with the grades she currently had achieved. There was only 18 days of school left and the family simply wanted to move on.
As the meeting came to a close, the mother told the administrators very frankly, how they have hurt their family, as well as compromised their trust in the public school system. Walking out of the conference room, the mother clutched the arm of her TPAU Rep and kept her composure until the school office door closed behind us. She then crumpled into tears. Tears for her child, tears for the way she and her child were treated for so long, and tears for the broken system. She realized she could never have her child in a public school ever again. Our TPAU Rep held her tight as she calmed and was able to walk to her car in the parking lot.
It Never Had to End This Way
You know, in reality, no one probably would have noticed except for the teachers telling the classes their personal and political stances every chance they had. Most families will tell us that if the principal hadn’t brushed them off in the beginning and just listened, this never had to rise to the level it had. So many parents raise their concerns with the teacher, principal, or district admin and are brushed away, being treated as if their concerns mean nothing. Parents matter and are their child’s biggest advocate. They simply wish to be heard and know there are solutions to their concerns about their child.
When no one will listen, TPAU will be there to teach you how to find the solutions you are looking for in this education system.