Parent Justifiably Furious With School for Allowing 2nd Grader to Protest

school allows 2nd grader to protest

Is it accurate to say that most of us form opinions about news items by imagining the events happening to us? That’s the way I tend to react to stories involving parents and children, anyway. It’s hard for me to really be objective because I inevitably put myself in the parents’ shoes, and that’s how I form a judgment about the incident (despite my attempts to remain judgment-free). Which is all to say, when I read that a parent in New Bedford, Massachusetts, is angry with his second grader’s school because the child was allowed to participate in a political protest, I instantly agreed: that is EXTREMELY UNCOOL.

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George Borden says that his child, who attends the Alma Del Mar Charter School in New Bedford, took part in a small protest on Friday. Apparently he was alerted to this fact after a friend drove by the school around 11:30 in the morning and saw 7- and 8-year-old students from the second grade class on the sidewalk demonstrating.

The school’s founder and executive director admits that a “handful” of students asked to protest after a lesson on citizenship and the First Amendment. Topics in the media, including the August death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, were discussed, and some of the children were passionate enough to want to stand on the sidewalk holding signs and chanting.

The head of school, Emily Stainer, says that after speaking to the students about demonstrating respectfully, she allowed the students to hold the protest during recess:

We went over a few things first. Obviously, their safety was our first concern.

Only some of the class participated in the protest while other kids did their usual recess playtime. The school is adamant that the teacher didn’t require the children to be involved, and that she was “very clear” that the protest was not to be an antipolice event in any way.

At this point, the issue has mostly snowballed into a he-said/she-said between the angry parent and the teacher. Borden claims that he found an invitation to another protest in New Bedford on Saturday in his daughter’s backpack, while the school says no one has issued any such document. Another parent says she has “no problem” with the demonstration, but Borden’s sticking to his belief that it was inappropriate:

I don’t think 7-year-olds can come up with the idea to go out and protest on the street.

I want my boys to grow up to be confident, develop their own voices, and speak out when they want to be heard, but I really find myself siding with Mr. Borden on this particular issue: I would be completely shocked and upset if I found out my second grader was out on the street holding a sign that said “HONK FOR JUSTICE” and that it had essentially been sanctioned by the school.

It’s not that I don’t think my kids are old enough to have opinions (although I know them quite well, and I can assure you that their opinions change WILDLY minute to minute based on their whims and blood sugar levels), it’s that I don’t trust any school to manage my kids’ safety during a political protest. People have very strong reactions to differing political opinions, and I don’t want my young children anywhere near that without my direct supervision.

Bottom line: I think this school did the wrong thing. I’m glad they’re teaching kids about difficult issues, but the learning shouldn’t involve branching out into a situation that could have gotten out of control in the blink of an eye.

What’s your reaction to this story?


Image via sar-gasm/Flickr

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