Lay Off Attacks On Commissioner McQueen

Friday, July 21, 2017
Dear Roy, my bestest friend and adversary. I rarely agree with much of anything you write. And this one of those times I don't agree with you. First and foremost, lay off the attacks against Ms. McQueen. These schools only have themselves to blame and it dates back to two and more generations of students having been damaged. 

Many years ago, perhaps 20, I warned "You all are going to regret what you're doing to these children.
" More than 30 years ago a teacher warned, "You all think what you're doing to these children is funny, but these children are going to one day grow up and fight back." Those two remarks came about due what some were witnessing taking place inside some of these schools: A middle school male student, just recently gotten an ear pierced, a teacher walking up to that student snatching the earring from his ear. Another teacher alarmed when she encountered the student walking down the hallway with blood streaming down the side of his head. He didn't even realize he was bleeding, until the teacher asked My God. What happened to you? She thought he'd been attacked by another student, not an adult professional educator. 

A second or third grader, again male student, dragged down a hallway by a teacher, flat on his back by the strap of his book bag.He actually wrote a note to his kindergarten teacher begging her to "please come and get me."  A young female basketball player slammed head first into a set of school lockers by an SRO, splitting open a place  barely missing her eye. Confusing and inconsistent rules that could change from one hour to the next. One classroom to the next. One teacher or staff member to the next, that could set the student up for suspension or expulsion. Parents who attempted to speak out were locked out. Banned. No longer welcome. No one can learn in a hostile learning environment. Over time, no one wants to be there. Everything collapse. 

My granddaughter was so confused when her mother left the state and enrolled her in another school system in another state. One of her teacher teachers at her new school was puzzled as to why my granddaughter basically shut down and withdrew in group learning sessions. Her mother explained at her old school working in groups wasn't allowed, because it was considered a form of cheating. But how do children learn best, except from one another? 

As children, growing up, our most fun and greatest learning moments were during those summer months when we went dumpster diving in the back of the school, retrieving tossed out learning material and part of our summer was spent with our older playmates being the teacher, we younger the students, and using turned over boxes and upside garbage cans as desks and playing school. Using what we'd found in the back of those school dumpsters we created an entire classroom outdoors under sky in blazing heat. 

There was part of the summer we spent translating the story of Spartacus from English to Latin and back to English again. We were the scholars, the scientist living, explorers, artists, living in public housing. Always off to some new adventure during those summer months. Studying mother nature, the environment, the universe. The only requirement by our parents was we had to be back in the yard before the sun went down over the mountain. 

Roy, it broke me, to this day, it still has a profound effect on me, to witness such gifts, such creativity, such potential for greatness going to waste and being destroyed. It hurts now even as I write this. There remains a heaving burden on my heart and soul, because I feel perhaps I could have/should have shouted out louder until I could get someone to listen. To look. To see what I and others saw, attempted to alert, as the the impending disaster these schools created and are now forced to confront today. No, Ms. McQueen is not to blame. The school board is not to blame. Even if they sent down certain rules and mandates to be followed, it was up to these individual schools to use common sense and basic judgment in what best worked for the students and their schools. Unfortunately, they didn't do that and took matters to the extreme. 

Children learn best when they can feel safe, appreciated and encouraged.When they're allowed to be creative.  A child can't learn compassion, humanity when inhumane acts are being committed against them. In fact, they don't learn at all. They, we all, have a tendency to shutdown and tune out. It's a survival instinct. Our children are survivors. 

Brenda Washington 

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