Friday, September 18, 2009

Update: Lessons Learned

Thanks, everyone, for the many helpful suggestions for dealing with the "Chinese eyes" incident and the school administration's mishandling thereof. I really appreciate the concern.

I met with the principal this afternoon; he had the counselor join us. It was a cordial meeting; I started by saying that I appreciated that the school was taking the matter seriously. That was a sincere opening salvo, not just a tactical one, because I do realize that at some schools they would consider racial teasing to be no big deal.

They were a little defensive at first, but were willing to concede that they could have done a better job of communication. The principal said he had learned of the problem, but not that the parents had anticipated that we'd meet with the teachers before anything else was done. When he heard about the racial teasing, he wanted to handle it immediately because he saw it as behavior that could not be tolerated and had to be addressed. He conceded that his reaction may be been influenced from his experiences as a child being teased for being American Indian.

He was the one who directed the counselor to talk to the girls to find out what happened and who the boys were. He spoke to the boys, but did not "punish" them, in his view (yeah, like being called to the principal's office is a reward, not a punishment!). He informed their parents because he felt it was something the parents needed to know so that they could work with their children to understand the need for tolerance. He conceded that communication with the girls' parents probably should have happened as well. But neither he nor the counselor thought that we should have been informed before the counselor talked to the girls.

He and the counselor were convinced that the boys knew the conduct was wrong, and would not concede that they needed any particular education on the subject before they could be held culpable. But they were open to trying to go further to teach racial tolerance. Pretty much anything we can get the teachers to agree to is fine -- reading books to the class, doing activities, etc. And, we're going to take it to the Positive Learning Environment Committee (a parent committee) to look at how to deal with it as a systemic issue. I know the chair of the committee and one of the members (hi, Lisa!) pretty well, so I kind of directed this outcome!

I'm not sure that they ever got how outrageous it was to go off half-cocked the way they did, without collecting all the data and without consulting with the parents. But I got what I wanted most out of the meeting -- assurance that the school did not consider the problem solved, and permission to take it further.

Zoe is feeling okay about it all. I asked her yesterday whether she still thought we needed to talk to the whole class about racial tolerance, and she said it depended. She'd gotten apologies from two of the boys, but not the third. If he didn't apologize, she thought we needed to talk to the class. But if he did, she would consider over.

Again, thanks for the support!


Lisa said...

Thanks for taking the time to update. I'd like to say that if our principal has been teased as a child, then perhaps he'll be a terrific advocate to propose the no-bullying policy. As you mentioned, we'll have to jump through a few hoops - but I hope the outcome will be worth it for our children and all the others in the school.

a Tonggu Momma said...

Thanks for the update, Malinda. You know, the more I read about the incident, the more I am remembering something that happened to me in seventh grade. It was sexual harassment... and the response from my parents and the school made it worse for me. In a big way.

But... BUT... I also learned that my mom and dad would do everything they could to keep me safe. And that the behavior that occurred was NOT acceptable. So... yes... I learned to hide the continued abuse from my parents. But I also learned that if I DID tell them, something would DEFINITELY be done. AND I developed some half-way decent coping skills.

I don't know if that helps you at all. But reading this post brought up a wealth of memories and I felt the need to share that.

Anonymous said...

Seeing the word tolerance in this post is making me cringe. Our children need to be tolerated by their school peers? Seems like there has to be a better way to phrase this than "racial tolerance".

SARA said...

Boy, did that principal breach confidentiality laws by revealing information about the discipline (or lack of) of another student to you... He should not have revealed all that information to you!
On the flip side. I am glad to hear that the school is not taking this issue lightly!!! I live in an area where my child will attend a school with very few other Asian students, if any. So I am preparing myself for how I will handle these situations... granted, my daughter is only 15 months old right now!!!