I often express bewilderment at the actions of public school administrators particularly in their enforcement of zero tolerance policies. However, what happened at Lakeview Middle School was not only wrong but a bit creepy in the defense of a senseless policy with Dr. Phil-like pseudo-pyschological rhetoric. When sixth-grader Caitlyn Jackson, 12, died on Saturday, her classmates came up with a wonderful idea of making teeshirts in her favorite colors to honor her on Monday. Students spent the weekend preparing the teeshirts. However, when they arrived, school administrators ordered them to take off the t-shirts or turn them inside out or put tape over Jackson’s name. The reason? After hearing about the preparation of the students over the weekend, they decided it violated a ban on “permanent memorials” and was not healthy of students to be reminded of the loss. Of course, they did not tell parents and waited to traumatize the students at school. Eventually, after an outcry and anger from parents, the students were allowed to take the tape off and wear their teeshirts.
Jackson, 12, died after a long battle with Leukemia. These kids came up with a great way to directing their grief into making these teeshirts and remembering this little girl. The decision of the Administrator is mind-boggling. However, it was the later defense of the policy that seemed either insincere or thoroughly incompetent.
Amy Jones, the Lakeview finance director was acting as district chief while Superintendent Dave Peterson is out of the country “exploring a possible student exchange program.” Jones said that the policy was simply the reasonable application of their “crisis management plan” and was “based on a lot of research and expert opinion.” She insisted that “The intent was designed to protect the interests of all children.” She noted that the school district does not allow “permanent memorials” on the belief that such memorials remind students of their grief. She noted that the order to remove the t-shirts was handled “compassionately” with teachers explaining that by turning their shirts inside-out they could keep Caitlyn’s name “close to their heart.”
First, as with the zero tolerance decisions, the interpretation of the “permanent memorial” policy shows an utter lack of understanding or logic. This was not a permanent memorial. It occurred immediately after the death and involved the simple act of wearing teeshirts on the very next school day.
Second, it really does not matter how much “research and expert opinion” you solicit if it applies to a different situation. I find it hard to believe that any “expert” would prevent students from expressing their feelings the next school day in this artistic and personal way.
Third, the teachers were not compassionate but the school waited until the school day to strip or cover the shirts. That was not likely their fault. It was the fault of Jones and the administrators.
Finally, the holding her “close to their heart” was just creepy and even a 12-year-old would find it pseudo-psychological garbage. It comes off as virtually passive aggressive, not compassionate.
It was the school system that traumatized these kids with a blind, thoughtless application of its policy. As in other cases, it does not appear that anyone will be disciplined or reprimanded. The same administrator will continue undeterred in enforcing rules in the future. In the meantime, these kids showed more sense and compassion than the people assigned with teaching them.
Source: Battle Creek