It takes a certain kind of person to wear a pair of high heels. Confident. Sure-footed. Open to bunions and a sore plantar region. So if you have all that going for you, do you really need a school principal to step in and "protect" you?
That's what the administrator at a Florida high school said he was trying to do when he brought a teenage boy into his office and told him to trash the toe-squishing shoes. Said Principal Bob Heilmann:
As a principal of a high school, I have to take the paternal side as well, I have to make sure he’s going to be okay ... Anytime anyone goes out from, quote, ‘the norm,’ or anytime anyone wants to make a statement, you have to be willing to take what comes with it.
Sounds a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, doesn't it?
The teenager hasn't been identified by news reports, but friends who spoke with the Tampa area TV stations claimed he WAS comfortable with his statement -- as comfy as you can be in a pair of shoes that make your arches scream anyway. In fact, they said he was perfectly fine until he was called out by a teacher who claimed he was creating a disturbance ... then sent to Heilmann's office. Where, of course, the principal projected his own securities about boys in heels on the teenager.
In a world where a 5-year-old boy wearing pink nail polish actually scares people, Heilmann's response isn't terribly surprising. But that doesn't mean it's any less disturbing. Educators are supposed to be trained on dealing with kids. In particular, a high school administrator should be able to separate his own bias from that of his students. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, for all we talk about kids being "cruel," each generation is typically more open-minded than the previous one. And kids generally don't have negative connotations about "differences" until they're placed in their head by adults. Driving home how badly Heilmann overreacted is the fact that in this case, students at the Tampa school were actually in the boy's corner, some even staging a mini protest for the way he was treated.
Here's hoping that this is a lesson for school administrators: be aware of bullying issues, but don't let them run your school. The more kids are encouraged to be themselves, the more acceptable it becomes to be different.
Would you let your child do something like this, or would you be afraid of the bullies?
Image via Denis Todorut/Flickr