This is the story of a public school failing to support the mental, social, and emotional development of young females. There is an argument to be made that the impact on young males is similarly damaging, but, for this article, I will be focusing on the feminine aspect.
My first complaint is regarding a policy that was initiated by the school principal. He instituted a policy wherein students were not allowed to gather in more than groups of two, and were not allowed to walk and talk on the playground at recess. All children were required to be actively participating in a sport or recognized activity, and were prohibited from just chatting together.
This policy directly targeted the female population, as evidenced by the walking-and-talking behavior being a primarily female socialization method (with males primarily socializing through shared activities.) If this commonly recognized developmental fact is not enough evidence of the sex-based discriminatory nature of the policy, my daughter reports that the principal email list of school principals made an announcement to the classrooms when the ban was lifted. His announcement threatened that the ban would be reinstated if there was “any more girl drama.” There were many witnesses to this announcement.
His imposed restriction and subsequent comment were directly prohibitive to the natural development of a young female. My daughter was forced to choose which one of her several good friends she wanted to partner with for the day, and was additionally prohibited from engaging in bonding conversation with such friend. This was cause for her to experience anxiety.
My second complaint will involve my daughter’s experiences with her fifth-grade teachers.
My daughter’s original fifth grade teacher was reported by my daughter to have a very strict and intimidating demeanor. As a very sensitive child – and with high expectations for herself – my daughter would regularly develop a literal stomach ache from the anxiety of being worried about pleasing him with her performance. Part of her anxiety came from listening to him single-out other children in the classroom, in order to make humiliating public examples of them through pointing out their flaws.
In support of my daughter – both academically and psychologically – I communicated with this teacher through email on a regular basis. I received good reports about my daughter’s performance from him. Immediately following the start of his extended departure from the classroom due to illness, however, the second quarter report card came out. The teacher had recorded a D- for my daughter’s social studies grade before he left, and had made a note that she “needs to learn to ask for help when she needs it.” This is an insulting insinuation that this teacher knows when, where, and who my daughter should be asking for help, better than my daughter knows it for herself.
There was no indication in his regular emails to me that she was in need of academic help. In fact, one of his most recent emails at this time was to let me know that my daughter had received one of the top scores on a math test. I also observed a very limited amount of social studies content in my daughter’s homework. What I did observe, I assisted her to complete (specifically, a PowerPoint presentation about Martin Luther King, Jr., in which I encouraged her to include a mention on women’s rights.)
The D- grade and related comment on the report card came out of left field, which is not acceptable, considering the amount of communication transpiring between the instructor and myself up until that point. The tactic employed by the teacher in this regard was a blow to my daughter’s self-esteem, which I had to work to alleviate. She was dismayed upon viewing the grade and the comment, as she had been receiving feedback that she was doing well up until that point. This tactic was cruel.
My daughter’s current long-term substitute teacher regularly and openly expresses to students his dislike for our country’s president. For instance, my daughter quotes him as saying, “I have lived through (several) presidents, and this one I dislike the most.” Disrespect for our country’s leader is not appropriate content for a teacher – who is in a position to influence young minds and perspectives – to be sharing with 10-year-olds. Regardless of our personal positions, compulsory education should not include political indoctrination in opposition to the President of the United States. My daughter also reports that he raises his voice aggressively in class, such as by shouting “Silence!” when the class gets noisy. She, as a 10-year-old, has commented that he exhibits a “lack of control” in the classroom. She is wise enough to notice that overt aggression is a sign of internal lack of power.