Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Were They Thinking?

Imagine your reaction if your sixth-grade son came home from school with an award his teacher had given him in front of the entire class entitled, "Most Likely Not To Have Children." That's exactly what happened to sixth-grader Matt Porter at a Decatur Township School. After listening to an interview with Porter, it's obvious he's more mature and intelligent than the teachers who gave him the demeaning award. WRTV's Derrick Thomas reports:

Sixth-grader Matt Porter didn't enjoy getting "Most Likely Not To Have Children" and "Sir Clowns-a-Lot" awards from two teachers at his school.

His parents aren't pleased, either.

Matt said he received the awards in front of classmates during a ceremony at the Decatur Intermediate Learning Center at the end of the recently finished school year. His mother and his stepfather have asked the Decatur Township school system to reprimand the teachers, and they want an apology.

"Words cut deeper than any knife could. They hurt," his stepfather, Joseph Sims, told 6News' Derrik Thomas. "When you hurt a child like that, you not only hurt him mentally, but it does hurt physically because you withdraw within yourself. That is what Matthew has done."

The certificates were signed by the teachers who distributed them. Matt recalled what the ceremony was like.

"I was standing in the middle of (the two teachers), and they (were) reading them off," he said.

"Everyone was laughing."

Matt felt humiliated.

"They (were) putting us down and everything," he said. "That is not what their job is for, to put kids down. They are supposed to teach us."

Amy Sims, Matt's mother, said she met with a school official over the matter but was not satisfied with the response.

She just told me that the teachers would call and apologize to him, and we've not heard anything at all," Amy Sims said.

Gary Pellico, spokesman for the school system, declined to say whether the teachers have been disciplined. He said system officials regret the incident.

"We don't feel like it was an appropriate awards ceremony at all," Pellico said. "It wasn't part of the school's award ceremony, and it will not happen again."

Amy Sims said her son needs counseling because of the awards. The school has offered it, but an agreement on who will provide it has not been reached, Thomas reported.

27 comments:

David said...

That article doesn't give any context. What were some of the other awards handed out? Where they all intended to be humorous? From this article it sounds like he was the only one being laughed at, but that may or may not be the case. He could just be oversensitive.

But let's everyone jump to conclusions based on a one-sided article written by a lazy reporter who didn't bother to get more info than one phone call could provide.

Anonymous said...

David, this is Earth calling.

We're wondering what "context" could possibly change the content of these awards.

We're wondering how you could have your head so far up your arse that you can't see straight.

If there were more silly awards, then the offense was compounded. There is no context to an award for a child "most linkely not to procreate." To 12-13 year olds...perhaps the cruelest age for children.

One-sided? Are you SERIOUS? What possible "context" could change the impact of these awards and the accompanying humiliation?

We can only conclude that you are related to one of these losers. Don't compound it. Stay quiet.

Tom Greenacres said...

I would like to know if the student was a problem student, disruptive and difficult.

Whether right or wrong, the awards might have been the teachers' gettign even for the kid-caused headaches. The titles of the faux awards make it sound as though the kid might have been an attention seeking handful.

kevin said...

I'm really not trying to be insensitive and I do think it was an odd award to give out, even in jest but I noticed the kid also got the "sir clowns a lot" award. So perhaps this child is a class clown that is perceived as the "never settling down" type?

Its all a matter of perspective. I've known my whole life that I never wanted kids. If I had received that award when I was 12, I would have proudly accepted it like a badge of honor. But there were probably things that I would have been sensitive about that other kids weren't.

Advance Indiana said...

Kevin, I agree the class clown award has been handed out as long as I can remember, but the other award touches on a particularly sensitive subject area for a young boy of that age with all the physicial changes going on his life.

Anonymous said...

On this blog and on another, I'm stunned at any defense offered for the pro-creation award. There is no "other side" to it, if the award was given, it is disgraceful.

It was, and is, downright silly, insensitive and unnecessary. There is no excuse for this type of public ridicule.

It amounts to adult bullying.

I know teachers have a hard job, and I'm betting this student was a handful. So what? Being "a handful" is justification for humiliation like this?

The guilty teachers need to be severely disciplined. Maybe even fired. Premeditated vengeance like this could be a symptom of much more depravity. If any administrator saw these "awards" in advance, and did not edit them, (s)he needs disciplined, too.

Think about it: two teachers conspired to name this award and give it to this student. This was not a spur-of-the-moment thing. Bad judgment is an understatement. There has to be a consequence to this type of poor adult behavior. As with the Trudeau situation last week, I have to ask: Who's the adult here?

It's not a good day for public education, sadly.

Advance Indiana said...

Abdul discussed it on his radio program this morning. There seem to be sentiment expressed there by Abdul and some of the callers that giving this award might be interpreted by other kids as suggesting the teacher was saying the boy was gay.

Anonymous said...

I would suspect, but of course I don't know, that the award is related to something that happened in class. That is the missing context.

Perhaps, David said in class that he doesn't want to have children or he is never getting married. I would doubt that the teachers are just outright mean.

Anonymous said...

OK, let's assume that the student said something in class about not wanting children, or anything at all remotely related to future offspring.

Under what warped sense of values does any adult, let alone a trained educator, take that comment to the level of public ridicule?

I really don't care if the student in question spends more time in detention than class. There is almost nothing you could say about this student, that would make me think the supervising adult/teacher should have permission to engage in this kind of stupid activity. Why is the student's behavior even being questioned here? He did nothing wrong.

For the school district to do nothing, results in the district endorsing these lapses in judgment.

Please explain how that's "context."

If the teachers involved, would step up, apologize, and say, effectively "this was a huge error in judgment," would go a long way for me. But time mas marched on, and the teachers are, apparently, silent.

Not to elevate this to levels beyond what's appropriate, but...I would remind all readers, that a disgruntled student who was consistently ignored, mocked, or, in his view, ridiculed, recently got a gun, and did some pretty serious damage at Va Tech.

Words are powerful, especially to teens. That's why teachers have a unique responsibility to be careful.

Anonymous said...

how about this. what has the kid done to deserve this award. I was a sub teacher inbetween jobs in Lawrence. I have had kids walk out of class, Dance, take their pants off, pull their own teeth, among other bizzarre behaviour in the middle of class for no reason that 10 years ago would have gotten me slapped by my mother. maybe the parents should take this as a subtle hint about their kids behaviour problem and tell him to man up because its a cruel cruel world and when someone hurts your feelings you arent always giong to get a large lawsuit pay off and an im sorry.

David said...

As I expected, people are up in arms about my comment. But remember, there are two sides to every story. This article gives only one.

Since the truth is somewhere in between the two sides, you can't arrive at it while only hearing one side.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter whether or not the kid said or did anything to SUPPOSEDLY "deserve it". Teachers are not supposed to get even. Teachers are supposed to be more mature than the students, and in some cases, the parents.

The class clown award is not given out these days in any school that teaches and expects respect.

The good teachers and administrators at Decatur Township do not support these awards, attitudes, behaviors but unfortunately there are a few teachers who refuse to join the current century and administrators who continue to try to sweep problems under the rug.

Anonymous said...

David, no one disrespects your view. There are no legitimate reasons for this award to have been given. Period.

The student may have been a complete shit in class. I have no idea. The "other side" has no merit in determining the basic fact: this award was and is stupid, insensitive and hateful. The sidebar details of this case are anecdotal. And please don't say we're shallow for not wanting to know the sidebar stuff. It's jsut not true.

It's like witnessing a traffic accident, and wanting to discuss the manufacturer of the stopsigns. Ireelevant to the wreck.

I'd like to hear the "other side" in due time. In the meantime, there is no doubt about these two facts: the award was given, and it shouldn't have happened.

Anon 2:43, I'm going to guess you're not a real teacher, and never were. I know some IPS teachers who deserve combat pay, and others in multiple districts. The most-cynical among them doesn't match your complete disregard for human dignity. "What has the kid done to deserve this award?" Are you freaking SERIOUS?

He's a child, genius. And the teachers are adults. Supposedly.

If you are in education, you need to get out. If you're not, we're all better off.

Anonymous said...

I am not the least bit surprised by this. I live in Decatur Twp. and have 3 children who attended school there. Our elementary school was good but once our oldest son hit the middle school all kinds of problems started. I would call and email his teachers daily and never received any response. Drugs were common as were arrests for fighting and stealing. The deciding factor in pulling our kids out was when one of my daughter's friends was constantly harassed by her classmates and school administrators did absolutely nothing. The bullies wrote obscenities all over her locker and when her mother went in a week later to ask the principal to clean the writing off her daughter's locker, she was told that if she wanted it off she needed to clean it herself!

Anonymous said...

It matters not what circumstances prompted two teachers to humiliate a student in front of his classmates, both should be fired.

If they do not realize the psychological damage done to this student or any student before hand, neither one needs to be teaching in the public school system.

Anonymous said...

The internet allows everyone to be judge, jury, and holier than thou.

Can't you see how this may have been an inside joke that the class and the child enjoyed. Not until the parents saw it and was the child humiliated. The kid may not want kids, why is least likely to have kids an insult in every case?

Be objective.

The parents may be looking for their fifteen minutes and a nice lawsuit. If the kid got most likely to be a janitor award, would that bean insult. Maybe his dad is a janitor and he loves his dad.

Maybe his mother beats him and tells him she wishes she never had kids. So they weretalking about having children at school and he insisted that he would never have kids. Maybe he successfully debated the other kids in the class on the issues and responsibilities of child rearing. The teachers respected that and gave him an award.

Please be less judgmental the world would be a better place. Teachers deserve the benefit of the doubt and assumption of innocence.

Anonymous said...

To the defenders of these teachers, they are NOT innocent? They are TEACHERS and ADULTS and EDUCATED and should know and fully understand that their behavior (no matter what lead up to it) was inappropriate.
Society punishes children when they do wrong, rarely considering that the child may yet lack the understanding of what they did was wrong and why it was wrong. The punishment is meant to teach them the lesson.
These teachers should have understood the meaning of appropriate behavior long before they entered a classroom, so there is absolutely no rational justification for their behavior.
I could almost understand that one teacher would be so vicious (or stupid) to behave this way, but for two people to conspire to each give this child such demeaning awards, boggles my mind.
Neither teacher deserves "the benefit of the doubt and assumption of innocence" under these circumstances.
Let them now learn their lesson.

T-bird@camby said...

Wow what a world we live in. The teachers involved in this should not be teaching in Decatur Township or any other school. We have to work so hard to set an example for our children not to billy each other then for what ever reason they get bullied by teachers in front of the whole school. A joke or a bully! No so called adult has the right in any context to make fun of a child. Shame on you and those who are over you for not making Decatur Townships mission statement and vision beliefs clear to the staff. I have children in Decatur Township and volunteer in the schools. I would not sit still and watch while mine or any other child is being the victum of a bully. I praise these parents for thier actions. Don't stop until your child gets a face to face apology from the teachers and who every may be involved in this. You don't have to go for blood! But you have to give your child the security that you have stood up to the bully for him!!

Dorothy-Dean said...

What saddens me most about this story is that it looks like nothing has changed. I had a teacher who singled me out and spent an entire year breaking down my self-esteem and humiliating me in front of my entire class. She would remove the girls from the class to spend a few hours in the little library to discuss me, leaving me in the classroom with the boys. She would refuse to answer questions announcing to the whole class that I was obviously stupid. She told me how hard it must be for my parents to be saddled with a child like me. This and more went on for an entire year. Now 30 years later, I'm still in therapy trying to combat her words.

Teachers are leaders to whom our children spend the majority of their day listening. Their words carry a lot of weight. There are a lot of frustrating issues around being a teacher and I understand the human desire to lash out in frustration or to use humor as a way to vent or redirect. However the reality is that teachers are adults and students are children. Just as we expect parents to find alternatives to beating their children, schools and teachers need to develop alternative discipline programs to deal with the myriad of social, economic, family, gender, drugs, sex and violence issues that impact our learning environments. In an utopian reality this situation would be a precipitator for an open dialogue and work session.

To the child who was humiliated, I hope that he is able to hear and use the very public outcry to bolster his wounded self-esteem and not allow this incident to define him.

To the blogger who said the teachers did not deserve presumption of innocence, I understand your ire, but it is also part of the problem. It is an angered response that more than likely got these teachers into this predicament. All people deserve a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. It is this understanding of respect for the rights of all of us that should lead us away from instances of trouncing on the rights of others.

However, regardless of the teachers guilt or innocence, the reality is that this was allowed to occur. We heard about this time, but what else is going on in the school about which the other children won't speak? Ask yourselves how much you know about the people who have charge of your children for 8+ hours a day. How involved are you in their schools in any capacity? Consider this a wake up call. Please don't press snooze.

Anonymous said...

Appears that the two teachers, and possibly an administrator, should be awarded the title of "people in the wrong line of work".
Agreeing with Dorothy Dean -- if this can occur, what else is going on in that school system that hasn't yet surfaced?

Becky C. said...

Class clown award? Big feakin deal. The kid probably was the class clown--and it was given in jest.

I would think the the no children award would be strange except someone in the area told me it was given because Matthew had perfected the typical sixth grade boy attitude of finding both little girls and the idea of marriage disgusting. If that was the context, and he was a well known tease of the girls--so what. If there is a more nefarious context then there is cause for concern.

But the context matters a lot here. And I think much much too mch has been made of this.

~Becky

Anonymous said...

Becky,

Just like the teachers, you are wrong. That kind of behavior is inappropriate, for any reason, anywhere, but especially in a school.

A.G.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the view from on high, A.G., I am certain you changed Becky's mind. Your analysis was certainly indepth.

Excuse me for not following all your arguments, was the answer "black" or "white."

B.P.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to apologize, BP, for not identifying myself in earlier comments and my brevity in responding to Becky.
Becky does not recognize either award as being inappropriate because "The kid probably was the class clown--and it was given in jest". "Big feakin deal".
I think that it is a big deal as teachers have every opportunity to grade children in a respectful manner on their performance, participation, attendance as well as conduct. I have two children that are university graduates and one still attending, and I can never remember a report card that did not grade conduct.
Becky's hearsay also absolves the teachers of any wrong-doing in the "no children award" provided that there was no "nefarious context". Hearsay has it that “Matthew had perfected the typical sixth grade boy attitude of finding both little girls and the idea of marriage disgusting”. Would it not then be equitable to award all of his “typical” male peers the same award?
The teachers are guilty of collusion, stupidity, and all manner of crimes, beyond poor judgment, for their "nefarious" behavior. The principle and school board are equally at fault, because an incident such as this should never happen in 2007.

Further, I do not consider my views as being "from on high". Ethical (appropriate) behavior is not reserved for a certain class of people, a certain demographic or cultural group. One does not need to be a lawyer or astronaut or teacher to recognize right from wrong, black from white. It was apparent to me that I could never change Becky's point of view, so I did not try. There were no arguments, no analysis, and so no need for “depth”. My response was just my point of view. I was stating a point, simply and briefly, so that even a reader as you, could possibly understand. At times, BP less is more and there is also the adage of remaining silent and being thought a fool. Becky and you could possibly have a lot in common.
Thank you for your insight and contribution to the subject of this blog.
Now, what was your point? Or did you just want to argue for the sake of argument?

AG

Anonymous said...

The life is not easily categorized, but categorization makes life easier. To say someone is wrong without the facts is easy. To think that the teachers just set out to be mean is too easy. There are much better insults.

What were the other children's awards? "Most likely to have children" - slut. Anything can be an insult, I try to interpret things in the best possible light.

Please give people some credit, they obviously intended to make a joke that they thought the children would enjoy. Try to have a sense of humor. We want to fire people every time they make a mistake.

You should apologize to Becky, now, I demand it. You probably offended her by saying she was wrong and lumping her in with those teachers.

I think we can have comments, discussion, and disagreement, but before you decide who is right and who is wrong we need more information.

BP

PS. I agree that perhaps maybe Becky adn I do have things in common and I think Becky and I could have a beautifully complex future together. Becks?

Anonymous said...

The facts speak for themselves.
The teachers are adults.
The student is a child.
The child was in their care.
The student was offended by the award that he publicly received from each teacher.
The humorous intentions of the teachers should never have been carried out as they were custodians of this child and responsible for his care.
The joke backfired as they often do when directed at a person, and no one is still finding humor at this child's expense, except for you and Becky. Here I will concede and give the teachers credit for showing a small degree of intelligence in not giving some poor child a "slut" award.
This is along the same lines as why at work or in public, we no longer play "grab ass", or tell dirty or racial jokes and why men no longer whistle at women.
I would also consider the teachers behavior as bullying. They are certainly bigger, older, and more powerful and out number the child.
I will not apologize to Becky, the teachers, nor anyone else for their lack of understanding of ethical behavior. I strongly feel that the child has been slighted and is in far greater need of my support than the teachers with their union and the school board with their lawyers.
You, Becky and the teachers should understand that if it is not right, then it is wrong.
And if you are not certain, then have it clarified by a supervisor, manager, principal or lawyer.
This is life today and you can find yourself fired, sued, in prison or all of the above for not behaving ethically, particularly in a work (school) environment.
Stupidity should be painful.

AG

Anonymous said...

OK,thanks.

BP