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Superintendent said "nothing more than a way to get in some exercise on a chilly day"...we disagree

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Superintendent said "nothing more than a way to get in some exercise on a chilly day"...we disagree

August 17, 2008 - 00:16
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Our goal in this post is too offer evidence that directly contradicts a statement made by the Superintendent of Schools for the City School of New Rochelle as reported by the Journal News. It's been more than a week since the article on the Journal News was published.

This is an excerpt of what the Journal News reported in their article New Rochelle school inequity untrue, officials say

For instance, two classes of students from Trinity Elementary School were forced to walk the perimeter of the playground for about 25 minutes during recess one day during the spring. Parents said the move amounted to corporal punishment for alleged inappropriate behavior. The superintendent said it was nothing more than a way to get in some exercise on a chilly day.

The Journal News referenced the events described in our post A Harsh Lesson to Learn in First Grade posted on this blog on July 26.

How do the Superintendent's claims to The Journal News stack up against the two documents below?

We have a copy of the an apology letter that went home to parents after the incident (click link to view). We also have an email from Mr. McMahon, the school principal expanding on the points made in the letter. Both documents make clear this was an incidence of "collective punishment" not exercise.

Readers will take note that the email is copied to Mr. Organisciak ([email protected]) the Superintendent of New Rochelle Schools.

From: Richard McMahon

Date: Wed, Mar 12, 2008 at 8:21 AM

Subject: RE: March 7, 2008 Follow-up

To: Lilliam Acosta-Sanchez

Cc: [email protected], Patricia Martinez
, Jenni-Ann Escudero , Maria Korn , [email protected], [email protected], Jeffrey Korostoff , NADINE PACHECO , Estee Lopez

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Sanchez:

Thank you for these follow-up comments. I hope Isabel is feeling better today – when I saw her yesterday she didn't seem her usual perky and happy self. I want to let you know that I fully believe the four staff members involved in this situation have learned something. Although there is some uncertainty about the "architect" of the decision to "walk the students", I none-the-less spoke with all four of them about the following learning points (and they are cc: on this email): 1.) Students should never be punished as a group- we must be very, very careful to never make an innocent child pay for another child's poor decisions- never (and it may in fact be true that little Isabel did nothing and was still grouped with everyone and for that we are very sorry- it will not happen again) 2.) When a teacher (in this case a music class) says to a classroom teacher the "whole class" was misbehaving, I think we should be questioning what the music teacher means by this- it concerns me greatly that a teacher would characterize a group of children in this light because we should be looking at our pedagogy if "whole classes" aren't getting the benefit of our instruction. 3.) The situation in the gymnasium is unfortunate – we have not had a single problem all year and Mrs. Pacheco is also in the gym in the morning; yet, we heard your suggestion and today an additional monitor will be placed in the gym in the morning. On the day in question, the students brought in their "projects" and they were very excited and therefore they were not listening as well as they do on a daily basis- the monitor only meant to point that out; unfortunately, it was misconstrued to be the students were not listening, again, as you say, we must do a better job at vetting out issues like this. 4.) Finally, and most importantly, we MUST stay in touch with our parents- communication is key to a successful school. If the teachers had sought the parent help in getting the group to come together, be less chatty, pay closer attention, and all the other group behaviors that children in grade one must learn, we would not have had to meet and discuss this at all.

I want to thank you for your understanding and patience as we took this opportunity to learn from our mistakes. I also want you to know, as the teachers expressed to you, that we will work very hard to earn your trust back.

Give my best to Isabel and tell her I hope she gets better quickly.

Fondly;

Rick McMahon

So, was this nothing more than a way to get in some exercise on a chilly day? Did the reporter, Ms. Costello misunderstand what the Superintendent had said? Was he misquoted? If this was a Health and Wellness activity, why did the teachers issue an apology? The facts speak for themselves.

It is unfortunate that the truth sometimes has to struggle to reveal itself. We did not interview the Superintendent of Schools for the City School District of New Rochelle. Nevertheless, this is what the Journal News reported. Everyone will draw their own conclusions. We believe the evidence speaks for itself. The Superintendent is the highest ranked paid employee in the district. When he makes a statement, we should feel comfortable that what he is saying is true and accurate to the best of his knowledge. He sets the tone that every other employee in the district should follow.

We, stakeholders of the City School District of New Rochelle deserve to be told the truth by people in charge of the education of our children. Our intelligence should not be insulted. Our children and families should be treated with dignity and respect. Let us not make any mistake about the only victims of this event; the children in those two first grade classes at Trinity Elementary School in New Rochelle. We are their voice. We are the ones charged with the responsibility of protecting them. Common sense, equity, transparency and accountability must be always front and center and remain a priotity in our educational system.

There are 8 Comments

Tex said...
Wow! Sounds like a lot of CYA going on. However, the documents make it clear this was a group punishment, which is illegal according to what I’ve read. (I’m not a lawyer.)

Why did the staff feel justified in punishing the entire group of students? Was this decision colored by their opinions of the students as a whole? Do they basically think these are “bad” kids? If so, is this attitude showing up in some other ways that they treat these children? And, as you’ve asked, would this have happened in a North End school?

I find comfort that others are speaking out about the reckless violations that occur within the clown house that is the School District of New Rochelle.Egregious violations of one's civil, First Amendment, and Disability Act rights, warrants more then just commentary from a town's citizenry. Action is needed and needed now. If not for yourself, then for our children .I am of the belief that there are those teachers who are honestly good teachers caught in a bad bind. They are drowned and snuffed out by the recklessness and thuggery of the Board of Education. We need only look at what's happening in the state of Illinois, to see where this path will lead us.We must demand that our state district representatives along with State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo take action on behalf of residents and children of the Town

I sure hope you send this to that reporter who interviewed the Superintendent. She should be calling him to explain the difference between his statement to her in August and these communications from March.

Keep up the good work.

As a community, we have not done our job to supervise the District, and instead have let them take total control. It's time we step up to the plate, take control and hold them accountable. Afterall, we are the ones who vote for the school budget and it is our tax dollars that pay their salaries.

The children were obviousely punished for no real reason. Was the staff punished at all? Were they held accountable for their poor judgement and actions? Was anyone suspended? They're the adults, they should've known better than to treat children this way.

The Superintendent should've also known better than to lie about this incident to the reporter. Is he hiding something? What does that say about his real commitment to our schools?

I just wanted to comment on the first point of the principal's email:
I am a parent of a Trinity school child. My child is not in either of the "two" first grade classes but has had at least two similar experiences with being punished as part of a group. I say two because those were the incidents my child told me about. Other than my child's version and asking other parents about what their children may have relayed to them, I would not have known anything about these group punishments. I'm glad to hear that Mr. McMahon wrote in his email that "Students should never be punished as a group - we must be very, very careful to never make an innocent child pay for another child's poor decisions - never". The reason I am glad to see that statement clearly expressed is because I have struggled for many months trying to explain to my child why "another child's poor decisions" are resulting in the entire class receiving detention or missing recess (and putting their heads on their desks resulting in some unexpected cat-naps). Since I am not an educator, I can only try my best to explain to my child that maybe the monitor is hoping that by punishing the whole class, the usually well-behaved children will become the diciplinarians through some kind of reverse peer-pressure. "Hey, be quiet or we'll all get in trouble." Well, of course, my child tells me that that does not work and that it just makes the usually self-controlled children look like they are talking and not listening too. The price that "an innocent child" is made to pay can sometimes be surprisingly high. If that child is sensitive, quiet, self-controlled and well-behaved, it can be a cause of much stress and anxiety. In the case of my child (and I'm sure for six year old Isabel since she "didn't seem her usual perky and happy self."), the effects are felt for some time. In addition, the very word "detention" caused my child much grief. I had to explain to an eight-year old what detention is and promise that it will not physically hurt to be "in detention". That still wasn't enough to convince my child to return to school the next day. After speaking with two other parents, I asked the teacher about it. Although receptive about my concern, she was unable to recind the punishment, I believe because it occurred during lunch and given by someone other than herself. I probably should have continued, but I decided that maybe my child could learn to handle a situation that comes one's way that isn't neccessarily always going to be fair. My impression, though, is that the "blanket" punishment is something that is used often and, maybe, I would hate to even go as far as to say, suggested. Certainly not by Mr. McMahon, who I do have great faith in and believe his words to be sincere, but possibly by overwhelmed staff or monitors. In any case, I am happy that we are able to have this discourse because there is always room for improvement. Thank you for your consideration.

Group punishment?! Get a life - it was a fantastic solution to making them be more behaved / respectful. When a child feels like his need to get attention is more important than the group: that child punishes the class by wasting everyone's time! Therefor making the adults in charge spend time away from instructing or monitoring the other children to do a crime scene investigation to seek out and determine the cause and of disruption and then deal with that. When children know that they all have a part in making their world a better place, it now becomes: 1 teacher + >90% of the classroom encouraging the few less-disciplined children to come to order quicker.

Furthermore: punishment?!?! If replacing "recess" with another activity, especially one that is not only non-life threatening, and fun for kids if you offer it as an alternative to what they get when they behave. Walking is in itself: nothing but healthy for kids! To call that punishment?! WHEW! Can anyone out there think of a better formula for training a nation of children who become self-responsible slower than anywhere in the world.

I'm just positive that in the real world of wherever this school is - that everyone who does things that affect the general public in a negative way[pollution, poor driving, noise, odor, non criminal/yet inappropriate language, pet issues etc.]are handled by the proper authorities with the full support of everyone in the community! And since there is no personal sense of community responsibility to act in a way that makes it a better place... I'm sure there is always employment opportunities on the police force since it would take so many frickin officers to handle every single disturbance and maintain order everywhere else while each case was handled on a one by one basis!

Now - of course that last paragraph was stupid... it's the obvious truth that people in the real world behave in public because they are more worried about what everyone around them would think about them than what the one policeman per 1000 citizens is going to be able to do. (on the highway for example - you are obligated to drive with the under-control flow of traffic BEFORE you have THE RIGHT to drive the posted speed limit).

I'm not sure when this issue happened - but I stumbled upon it today and had to say something... I just hope other parents are in favor of leaving the raising of children to the parent / guardian and not get all burn-out when you feel your child is getting the shaft after you drop them off at school.
Kids should be parent-fearing FIRST! The community they’ve chosen to be in should be next on their list of who to answer to! Any other rules they will be asked to abide we should assume are for the good of the environment they are in. (anyone could drive themselves insane going around picking apart every public law that is designed to keep the majority safe and/or orderly) If society is ruining your child - you aren't doing enough at home! They have to be / they MUST be out there in the imperfect world daily in order to grow up. We should be thankful for those imperfect influences as well as the perfect ones... it's our job to help them sort it out on a CASE BY CASE basis AT HOME.

Robert Cox's picture

Some people who come to this web site write stupid things and then people like me who serve as editors have to waste our time dealing the stupid things they write. Now, readers here could help me police the site by pointing out stupid comments so I can "deal with" the miscreants by banning them or deleting them. Our readers should help us police the site. They do not do this. So, to make them more willing to do their duty in helping me edit the site I am going to block everyone from the web site so no one can comment so that the people who are not helping me police the site can realize the error of their ways. By punishing the "good" readers the same as the "bad" readers the good readers will realize that it is their job to do my job.

Right?

Or does this sound about as stupid as what you are proposing for these school kids.

How about this, if my kid misbehaves then discipline my kid like any other. If some other kid misbehaves discipline that kid. But don't discipline MY kid because someone else's kid misbehaves.

Or is that too complicated for you?

You would feel differently if you saw well behaved little children being punished for bruising, badly behaved children.

Also, the punishment here was not administered immediately and some children didn't even know what it was for.

In fact, it seems, the "crime" was for children talking in the gym waiting for school to get started. There are literally hundreds of children in the gym at that time. What do you think now? Let's say you put 300 children in a gym and tell them to be quiet for 20 minutes. Do you think that is reasonable?

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