Every year it seems like a teacher takes it upon himself or herself to shatter childhood fantasies about Santa. This year, the misguided educator was a substitute teacher in Brooklyn who decided that the best way to lead a discussion on “convincing” was to explain that neither Santa nor the Tooth Fairy are real. The kids in the class are six years old and it was three weeks before Christmas.
The substitute teacher at P.S. 321 in Park Slope has been removed from teaching responsibilities.
The parents are obviously quite upset that their kids have been robbed of this childhood fantasy and no doubt have spoken to other children in the school. Notably, I discussed this situation in my torts class as whether such a statement could constitute a negligent infliction of emotional distress. Indeed, the reckless element could allow a claim of intentional infliction. The elements are (1) the defendant must act intentionally or recklessly; (2) the defendant’s conduct must be extreme and outrageous; and (3) the conduct must be the cause (4) of severe emotional distress.
The problem is that this was a stupid lesson plan and the question is whether this causes “severe emotional distress” by telling children a few years before they learn the truth.
That does not make this less outrageous. As someone who loves Christmas and spent wonderful years with my four kids in preparing for Santa, I cannot imagine a teacher engaging in such a clearly inappropriate lesson.