Graduation Litigation

When my daughter was a high school freshman, she was knocked down and out by The Naked Guy, a young man streaking across campus as a senior prank. 

When he raced around a corner, she stood there thinking, "Hey! That guy is naked!" instead of jumping out of the way. Her head hit the concrete; she suffered a concussion, which didn¹t help her study for finals. 

I didn't sue the school or The Naked Guy, because ... well, these things happen. It's impossible to protect children against all possible ills. But, then, I'm so last millennium. 

When an Arizona senior failed a class and realized she wouldn't graduate, her parents threatened to sue the teacher. Their lawyer wrote that "a young lady's life has now been ruined forever" and "she will be scarred for life." 

He threatened to investigate the teacher's background and career history, go through all her class records, etc. 

The teacher replied, noting that the student had earned a 57 percent average, plagiarized one assignment, cut class and failed to show up for a help session.

The student would be a very capable student if she would apply herself, study and get her assignments in on time. Instead of being scarred for life, perhaps she will learn these lessons now, rather than when she is in college or in the work force. 

As far as your threat to litigate this case, do what you must ... I think your clients would be better off investing their money in summer school tuition for the student rather than wasting their money on attorney fees, litigating a case with little likelihood of success.

The administration caved on graduation day, letting the student retake a test and receive her diploma. For the student, "F" stands for failure to take responsibility; for the district, "F" is for funk.

Inflating Grades

Administrators at District of Columbia high schools have been changing students' grades without telling teachers, apparently so kids will graduate. It's easier than teaching them. Unqualified Offerings doesn't believe in graduating unqualified students.

The Dangers of Tag 

A Santa Monica elementary school principal has banned unsupervised games of tag to protect children from bumps, bruises and dented self-esteem. The principal wrote in a newsletter: 

The running part of this activity is healthy and encouraged; however, in this game, there is a "victim" or "It," which creates a self-esteem issue. The oldest or biggest child usually dominates.

So now kids can't play a lousy game of tag without adults horning in and trying to make it "safe." Next they'll be making kids wear helmets and knee guards and elbow guards to play hopscotch. What will these kids do when they grow up and encounter the bumps, bruises and esteem-crunching reality of adult life? Whine, I guess. Sue, definitely.

Death at an Early Age

While test questions can't use the word "fat" for fear of upsetting students, the new kids' books make Lord of the Flies look like a Sunday school picnic, writes Martin Arnold in the New York Times

Forget Little Women. The new classics deal with disability, death, madness and murder. 

Of course, the old classics dealt with dark themes too. Hansel and Gretel includes starvation, abandonment, imprisonment and (justified) homicide; Goldilocks deals with a child thief. Think about death, disability and dysfunctional parenting in The Secret Garden or child abuse in David Copperfield

Wuthering Heights was no romp on the moors. Even Little Women isn't all sweetness and light. Father's off fighting in the Civil War; Beth dies. 

How to Pay for Pizza 

Robert Wright's students want an end-of-the-year pizza party. They're willing to pay $3 apiece. Here's the procedure: 

Collect three dollars from each student. Give each student a receipt. On each day that money comes in, give the cash to the school secretary who will lock it in the school safe. The money will be credited to the school council fund. 

Pay the delivery person with my own money. (They don't take purchase orders.) Ask for a receipt that includes the tip. 

Attend a student council meeting and ask for a reimbursement. The council will vote on the request. Assuming the council votes to approve the reimbursement, get an authorized copy of the student council minutes and staple the receipt to it along with three photocopies. Submit the paperwork to the school secretary. 

The secretary types up the paperwork on an NCR form. (I think it needs the principal's signature too.) The paperwork is sent to the district's business office, where it's carefully checked. ("We're not witches! It's the auditors, I tell you!") If the business office thinks the receipt is not a forgery, they approve the paperwork and issue a check. 

The check is sent to the school secretary and the school secretary gives it to the teacher. 

Where Honor is Due 

Readers had a lot to say about the column on schools' declining respect for academic merit. 

Angelika Harder: 

This "classless" society our so called academicians/activists are leading us towards will destroy us all. ... Our great thinkers will help us keep our self-esteem up by creating this fake environment — as if our kids did not know it when they did not earn their "A." Mediocrity should not be the goal. 

Richard Morton: 

We, the American People, need to understand that challenges are healthy for us, and working hard produces more balanced, adaptable adults. Education is a privilege, and to those who work hard and dedicate themselves to the pursuit of it, honor is due. 

Aron Spencer: 

One of the problems is that schools are mandated by law to provide programs for "challenged" students, or special education. There is no such mandate for advanced students, who are often left to sit through material far below their ability level. Similarly, while athletic scholarships abound, a full-ride academic scholarship (at the undergrad level) is a rare bird indeed 

Chet Chapman: 

As a former teacher, I have seen the constant degradation of anyone (other than an athlete) who tries to achieve. I used to teach math, and had high standards for the algebra and geometry classes I taught. But then when school integration programs came into vogue, I was told that I had to drop my standards because I was failing too many students, or not giving enough A's or B's. 

Joanne Jacobs used to have a paying job as a Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer. Now she blogs for tips at while writing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. She's never gotten a dime from Enron.

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