Dangerous Mistaken Identity at School by Robin Gorman Newman
My fourth grade son, Seth, came home from school the other day and said “mommy… something happened in school today.” I said, “Tell me.” He said, “A drunk man came into SCOPE (the after school program). I said “what?” He said a “drunk came in.” “How do you know he was drunk?” I asked, with a growing amount of concern… trying to temper my borderline alarm. He said, “Ms. Felicia (in charge of the program) said it looked like he had a bottle in his pocket.” “How did he get there?” I asked. “The security guard,” he replied. I’m thinking… <em>he was with the security guard?</em> I asked, “Was anyone hurt?” “No,” he said, “the man left.” “I’m very glad you told me,” I responded.
I’m thinking the whole time… WHAT??? Am I hearing what I think I’m hearing? With all that has been reported in the news in recent times, with the loss of many young lives at Sandy Hook due to senseless shootings… a man who appears to be drunk gets into my son’s after school program?!
Since the program is held at my son’s school, I decided to visit the school (a blue ribbon school acclaimed for academics) and requested a meeting with the principal. She asked if I’d like to speak in private, and I said I think she’d want me to speak in private. She said she was fine either way, but we marched off to her office. I didn’t think she’d appreciate me being critical of the school in front of administrative staff and others who might enter the general office.
We sat down, and I told her of the incident as it was shared to me by my son. I told her I was hugely concerned, and that it would seem that security measures at the school are not up to par. Her initial reaction was to say that the after school program isn’t run by the school. This caught me off-guard, and I replied by explaining that it’s her school’s kids who attend, and it’s held in the school. So, while the school may not in fact oversee it, don’t they have concern for the welfare of the attendees?
Before I spoke with her, I spoke with the security guard who explained that a man with a foreign accent (there are many foreigners who attend the school) arrived at the school, and the guard’s impression was that he might have been a non-English speaking grandfather, and he thought he was there to pick up a child. So, he escorted him down to the cafeteria where the kids hang out, play, do homework, etc, waiting for parents to claim them. When they got there, Ms. Felicia said he was not anyone who belonged there, so the guard brought him back upstairs and had him leave the building. But, what upset me is the fact that he even got into the cafeteria where the kids were. What if he had a gun or knife or in fact had a bottle in his pocket and threw it at someone? The security guard isn’t armed. What would have happened?
The school principal said she’s speak with someone at SCOPE about the situation and to explore how things might have been handled differently, and how they might be improved going forward. I have yet to hear back from her, so will follow-up to see what she has ascertained.
It would seem to me that the school would feel some sense of responsibility, despite the fact that the program isn’t run by them.
I was so immensely proud of my son for telling me what happened, so I could be a concerned parent and speak on behalf of other parents who no doubt would be concerned as well, if they had known what transpired. Kids need to be taught to be alert and to notice things and people around them… and to speak up.
A couple of days later, I received an email from the vice principal of the school, who copied the principal on the note, letting me know that she was going to speak with Seth to advise him that there is no eating on the bus. She wrote that she had tried to call me and in fact I did receive a message from her stating that there was an “incident” involving Seth that she wanted to share with me.
An incident? Immediately I was worried…. but it became almost laughable when I read that it was about eating. And, for this, she had to copy the principal?
Did the principal advise her of the talk we had re: security? Isn’t that more important in the scheme of things, and perhaps the vice principal might have had a thought?
Eating on the bus is labeled an “incident” and one that warrants advising the principal?
While I think well of the school on an academic level…though this has been somewhat of a challenging year…..I do question their priorities with regard to these “incidents.”
The one that I described could have been life-threatening, yet it was initially met with resistance/defensiveness.
For the record, Seth will no longer eat on the bus. But, I do encourage him to keep his eyes open and speak up when he sees something inappropriate. He is a vigilant kid. Vigilant about protecting others and showing concern. He’s always been hugely aware and highly conscious of right and wrong. Not that his behavior at home has always been as it should be…he’s a kid….so I’m not looking for perfection. But, when it comes to showing concern for others and society and noticing when things don’t seem safe, he goes the extra mile. The school should take a cue!
The school should be grateful for his eagle eyes and ears…and thank him for it…..instead of worrying about his taking a bite of a bagel on the bus.