"What's Trending", that new staple of news broadcasts brought to my attention today a situation where a family took its kids out of school for a few days to watch father Mike Rossi compete in the Boston Marathon.
Upon returning from what Rossi describes to the school as a "once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book” the family received a letter from the school's principal Rochelle S. Marbury stating the absences would not be excused and that "an accumulation of unexcused absences can result in a referral to our attendance officer and a subsequent notice of a violation of the compulsory school attendance law."
Come on Ms. Marbury! Seriously let's talk big picture here, one that does not need to be clouded with threats of referrals to law enforcement.
Think about what a momentous experience watching Dad compete in one of the world's great events was for these children. It's something they will always have. Could anything happening in that Pennsylvania elementary school really be as special as what they experienced in Boston? Even if it was the greatest school on Earth, it's doubtful these kids would be taking away anything they'll remember as long as the memories they made.
We as educators work at the pleasure (or displeasure apparently) of families. These are not our kids. We are entrusted with a great responsibility but ultimately school is not the most important thing in their lives. Sadly for too many kids, school is the best thing they have going and we can never forget that either. It is great hubris though to operate with an air that life should bow to compulsory attendance. In the end all we really have are experiences and memories and if we are really here to do what is best for kids then we need to be supportive of that...especially an experience like this.
Rossi responded to the school with an eloquent 340 word response. Here are some highlights of his proposed response he put on Facebook. It is unclear though if he actually sent it to the school or just left it as a status update.
“While I appreciate your concern for our children’s education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school. Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.”
“They watched their father overcome, injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal.”
“They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can not deter the American spirit. These are things they won’t ever truly learn in the classroom.”
Yes. Yes. Yes.
I do have a problem with this though. Mr. Rossi's response is fabulous but it should have been delivered to the school exclusively and not posted publicly on Facebook...at least not immediately. Everyone has the right to express themselves and write open letters but there are proper steps to take first
No matter how upsetting the school response might have been, opening up a civil, face-to-face dialogue with the school is what the Rossi's owe that to the district. I am sure the teachers and administrators at Abington Schools have given a lot to the members of the family over the years. This was a disagreement between parent and school and a private matter. Ms. Marbury deserves the opportunity to be included in a private conversation and not just roasted at the stake of social media.
If nothing else, maybe this will open up some civil discussion about looking at the tedious relationship between family-life and school. This case exemplifies how a little consideration on both sides could have benefitted everyone.
Today Show coverage
Inquistr article with links to full letter
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