Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Nanny state gone wild

A reader sends this Wash. Post story:
Last Tuesday evening, as the Denicore kids sat down to do homework, a Loudoun County sheriff’s deputy appeared on their doorstep, court summons in hand. The charge: Too many school tardies, a Class 3 misdemeanor. Arraignment is scheduled for Monday morning.

“This is against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of the Virginia,” the summons says.

Mark Denicore has a different take: “This is the nanny state gone wild.”
The paper's columnist, Petula Dvorak, adds:
Parents in court on criminal charges because of tardy slips? Absurd. And don’t go there with lectures about what slackers the Denicores are.

Say what you want (and hundreds of commenters did after reading Emma Brown’s story on the case) about the virtues of promptness.
Here is one of those comments:
30 tardies so far this year? It's irresponsible, inconsiderate of the other students, disrespectful of the teacher, instills poor discipline in the children...how can a parent justify this in any way? From my own experience as a part-time teacher, about 95% of the class makes it to school on time and 1% of the class has chronic tardy issues, meaning usually one kid.

But 30 tardies in one semester is beyond the pale and the parents are jackasses for trying to shift the blame.
So the teacher complains about disrespect. Is that a crime? This prosecution is ridiculous. If they really want to make it a crime to be late for school, then they should pass a law saying explicitly what the crime is. Being late is not "against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth of the Virginia". As Dvorak explains:
The Denicores showed me their list of tardy slips. The kids are rarely more than three minutes late. Sometimes, the tardy slip actually says “Zero” minutes late. Seriously.

How can you be zero minutes late?

Are the Denicores asking for special treatment, or the deployment of some common sense?

It’s not just a matter of defending themselves, or arguing for the right to be late.

There is no state statute that applies to tardiness. There is one that has to do with attendance, and that’s the charge they are facing — the state’s compulsory education law, Sections 22.1-254, which says parents have to send their kids to school “for the same number of days and hours per day” as school is in session.

But the Denicores point is that this zero-tolerance crackdown is happening across the school system, and probably across the county.
In my case, my kids' school never tried to teach anything in the first half hour anyway. I could have taken them late 30 minutes every day and it would not make any difference.

But their school takes tardiness very seriously. They ring a bell at 8:30 promptly every morning, and lock the classroom door. After that, a child has to report to the office and get a tardy slip.

Because CPS had allegations that I was not setting the alarm clock early enough, the social worker, Sally Mitchell, wrote a report saying that they were late for school. But when we went to court, she got the attendance record from the school, and admitted under oath that her report was wrong, and that my kids were never late for school.

It is not really that I was so scrupulously punctual. We carpooled most of the time, and I liked to go a little early to beat the traffic. I do not think that my kids would have suffered any if my kids were late. The teachers did such a crappy job of teaching that my kids could have missed half the school days and not suffered anything.

What the school really didn't like was for a kid to be absent for an entire day, because then the school lost $40 in funding. One time an emergency prevented me from taking my two kids into school for most of the day. The school called me up, and tried to persuade me to bring the kids in for the last 20 minutes of school, because then the school would get $80. That seemed silly to me. It was the only day we missed all year, and they ought to budget for occasional absences.

What if a parent had a work commitment that resulted in a kids being an hour late every single day? It seems to me that a school should be able to work with such a parent, and not try to prosecute him. This is another example of govt busybodies sticking their noses where they do not belong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The elephant in the room is that a stay at home mom, with nothin else to do all day I'm sure, was incompetent enough to not get the kids to school on time 30 times in a few months.

I'm guessing they would take the kids from a single father who did this.