Reality check to the Rogers father who sued his local school district: Being called to the school to collect a kindergarten student who has just dropped the “f-bomb” for the third time is something to be embarrassed about, not something to sue the district over.
The background for those who missed it: A 5-year-old kindergarten student at Northside Elementary School in Rogers used the ultimate cussword at school not once, not twice, but three times. After the first two occasions, school staff discussed the issue with the boy and warned him not to say the word again. After he used the word for a third time, it was clear that, to stop the behavior, a stronger consequence was needed.
So the principal called the boy’s father and asked him to collect his child, who was being suspended for the rest of the day. Instead, dad bypassed the school and filed suit in Benton County Circuit Court to block the suspension.
Of a 5-year-old.
For a couple of hours.
When the Rogers School Board stood behind the principal and upheld the suspension, the boy’s father amended his suit to demand that all reference to the event be removed from the boy’s record, that the district be prohibited from suspending this particular child ever again, and that it be prohibited from suspending any 5-year-old ever again.
Circuit Judge Xollie Duncan dismissed the suit. In a victory of reason over ignorance, the state Appeals Court upheld that decision on Wednesday.
Let’s be clear.
It’s not like the boy was missing benchmark tests that would hold him back in school or in life or that he was denied the chance to make up vital assignments that would compromise his chance to graduate. He was put in time out, but instead of standing in the corner, he was sent home.
It’s not like dad rushed to the school to hear his son’s side of the story because he thought the boy was the victim of bias or bullying — or even that he’d been pushed to extremity and used the curse to defend himself without violence.
And it’s not like — be honest — anyone ever lost a shot at the presidency or a chance to become a tech start-up millionaire because a kindergarten kerfuffle made it onto his “permanent record.”
Little kids are exposed to all kinds of influences, and they can’t always make sense of what’s OK and what’s not OK. Although parents should be the first arbiters on matters of morals and taste, the truth is that our children spend more time with their teachers than they do with their parents, while they are awake anyway. So teachers take on the added responsibility of helping children to learn what language is OK where.
A little off-color language is the price of being as “connected” as we are today. So one cussword offense is commonplace. Two are perhaps not unusual. But an ordinary child of 5 can learn “That’s not a word we say here” and adjust his behavior.
Unless of course the child is being taught that disrespecting adults and school staff is OK. Or unless that child is being taught there is no need to accept responsibility for one’s actions.
Those are the lessons we fear this litigious parent is teaching.
We are not advocating washing children’s mouths out with soap or making such a scene over a cussword that the word takes on a magic, talismanic power it wouldn’t otherwise have.
But respect and responsibility are two of the hallmarks of honorable people. Isn’t that the lesson we should be teaching our children?
• • •
Editor’s Note: This editorial was originally printed in the Southwest Times Record.