Does Teacher’s Pet = Pedophile Alert?

Hi Folks — Here’s another little story that reminds us how  Worst-First thinking has become de bbkddrtktz
 when it comes to kids in the company of adults: A young Teach for America teacher took a student out for a hamburger and was immediately reprimanded by the school.

Yes, rules are rules, and he probably should have signed a lot of forms first, but sometimes — weirdly enough — a moment comes up that is not pre-scheduled and pre-approved and pre-notarized. It’s what we used to call “spontaneity.” (Now we call it “actionable.”) So off he and the kid went, got burgers and came right back.

The child’s mom sounds livid. As reported in the Houston Chronicle, she said, “He walked right out the front door with my child…This was not a role model.”

A better role model would NOT take an interest in her son?

I GET that we are terrified of adults grooming our kids into Sandusky  submission. The Miramonte stories shake me, too. But do we really want to treat every teacher-child interaction as prelude to perversion? My mentor, social studies teacher Genevieve MacDougall, took me out of high school for a few days, with my parents’ permission. She wanted me to drive her from Chicago down to Southern Illinois to check out a one-room school house she was thinking of buying. She paid for my meals and my room at a little hotel, and it is still one of the fondest memories of my life. I dedicated my Free-Range Kids book to her!

I doubt she’d be allowed to do that today. As the teacher in the hamburger story was quoted as saying:

“I care for my students and am trying to make a difference in their lives,” he said. “I try to build positive relationships with my students, and in that effort, I bought a student in my class a hamburger for lunch that we ate back at the school with others. I regret this mistake, but I am proud of YES Prep, and the work that I do there. I am glad that Yes Prep investigated the situation and found no reason that I should not continue to teach my students.”

As parents, we must (I say it every time this topic comes up) teach our kids to recognize, resist and report abuse. But we can NOT treat every teacher who dotes on our darlings as dangerous. Let’s bring that pendulum back to the middle, where it belongs. — L.

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122 Responses to Does Teacher’s Pet = Pedophile Alert?

  1. AB February 20, 2012 at 6:28 am #

    This reminds me… a woman in one of my online mom groups posted about her son’s church teacher wanting to take him to see Star Wars 3D because they were both fans. She wondered if she was overly paranoid for saying no. Sadly, everyone assured her that they would forbid it, too, and that it was creepy, inappropriate, weird, and a “huge red flag.”

    I thought it was so sad. We want men to get involved with kids and lambast those who don’t, then freak out when they try!

  2. Michelle H February 20, 2012 at 7:04 am #

    I use my son’s preschool teachers as babysitters. So I guess we’re not supposed to trust teachers or anybody else these days? These people can go about their paranoid business, while my kid experiences life.

    When I was in 8th grade, only 4 people (all of us girls) wanted to go on the 8th grade trip which including 12 hours of driving to Washington DC. The chaperones? 2 male math teachers at the school. The trip was fantastic, we all had a great time (met our state senator and spent time at the Smithsonian). Nowadays, I’m sure people would freak out about 4 teenagers spending a 6 days with 2 male teachers. Aside from the fact that part of the trip was buddying up (easy enough since there were 4 of us), them dropping us off at the Smithsonian and saying “go to whichever museum you guys want, and meet us back here in 6 hours.” Best school trip I’ve ever taken.

  3. are we there yet? February 20, 2012 at 7:25 am #

    Yikes. The two prior comments say all I could have offered.

    But your comment about “spontaneity” struck a chord with me. I work in a school in an area where the weather runs from changeable to lousy at the time of year. I have been considering proposing a blanket/general purpose permission slip that can be used, with the principal’s OK, for an outing in the immediate neighborhood without the need for a per-trip approval. So a walk to the local lakeside park or library is a thing we can just do without wondering what the weather will be like and if it will work out.

    Do you know of any similar initiatives? In a situation like the posted incident, maybe that would forestalled the whole thing. They would have a signed form, the teacher and student check with the office on the way out, and that’s that. Maybe that kid’s parents had already said no: fair enough. But allowing for some spontaneity or teaching outside the classroom is too rich an experience to pass up.

  4. Melissa February 20, 2012 at 7:33 am #

    My kids kinder had a blanket permission slip, as they had a park right next door that was accessible by a gate. There is also a similar one at my kids school 🙂 It’s great as it gives permission for the teachers to take kids on close to school activities/walks without me having to fill out a form each time.

  5. Jeanne February 20, 2012 at 7:58 am #

    I have to disagree here. If he had the mother’s permission, then fine, but without permission it isn’t appropriate. Your story, Lenore, and the comments that followed about adults in your lives all involved getting a parents’ permission. If someone wanted to take my children to see out for a hamburger to award him for something, fine. If someone took my child out for a hamburger, it wouldn’t make me leap to Sandusky conclusions, but I would seriously question that adult’s judgment.

  6. LauraL February 20, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    Jeanne, I get what you’re saying because I’m thinking “yeah, would want to know that” and then I wonder if it is because I’ve been conditioned to freak out; at the same time, this child was *already* under the teacher’s supervision. They simply left school grounds – but the child was *still* under supervision! It was part of the day.

  7. Newbuffalomom February 20, 2012 at 8:28 am #

    When I was in 3rd grade I felt ill one day. I’m not sure why, but I wasn’t able to go home. I remember sitting on my teacher’s lap during silent reading. Yes, it was a male teacher. I just remember how it made me feel better, by giving me comfort. It was not creepy or pedophilia. Just a guy trying to help.

  8. Donna February 20, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    So Jeanne, you question the judgment of an adult who just happens to like your kid and takes him out for a burger? Not as a reward, but as a friendly outing. That is sad. Is it that you think your children are unpleasant and people who want to be with them are off? Or that any adult who enjoys the company of a child not their own is off? Or should we just not attempt any interaction with other people’s children?

    I had several adult friends as a child. Some teachers. Some just adults I knew. One took me to New Orleans. Another took me many places including a summerlong trip to New York and Rhode Island – as a babysitter for her kids. I can’t imagine my teens without E. We are still close today and I know I can count on her for anything. I hope my daughter finds as good a friend in her teens.

    I agree that the teacher should not have taken the child out of school without permission. He should have ran out and grabbed the burgers himself and brought them back. If that is what the uproar is about (the article is unclear), I understand. I don’t know that I’m okay with a teacher I don’t know taking my kid off campus for burgers in the middle of the day, though I’d be fine if the teacher is a friend. But she’s only 6. If it is mere fact that an adult grabbed a burger with a kid, I agree with Lenore.

  9. Get Kids Outside February 20, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to question what happens when an adult escorts a child off campus without parent permission. However, it is not grounds for going ballistic. It isn’t clear how old the child was in this case either. That would make a difference too. This teacher was young and did not understand the legal ramification of their actions. Had something happened to that child, he would have been in deep trouble. That’s why there’s paperwork involved. All a teacher has to do is have the parents sign a permission slip at the beginning of the year that states that they may take short off-site trips and state where those trips might be. That’s it. There are times when I have wanted to take kids out on my own, but I wouldn’t even think of it unless I had parent permission, and preferably in writing. I have a good enough relationship with some of my parents that they wouldn’t have a problem with a short trip off site, but I still wouldn’t do it. It’s just too risky.

  10. QuantumMechanic February 20, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    When I was in high school (mid-1980s) my chemistry teacher (a woman) would (with parental permission) take me contra-dancing on many a Friday night.

    I wonder how that would go over these days!

  11. Donna February 20, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    My objection to a teacher taking my kid off campus without us being friendly and having an agreement that it’s okay whenever has nothing to do with pedophilia. I just kinda expect my kid to be in school during the school day. I’d like to know if she’s going to be somewhere else. But she’s 6. I may very well feel different when my is in 6th grade.

  12. Kimberly February 20, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    I’ve purchased off campus lunches for students – but I arranged to go pick them up while the kids were at recess. I wouldn’t put a student in my car. When I was changing my car insurance I was specifically told that if I was transporting a student that was using my car for work and I would not be covered. The agent knew of a teacher this had happened to.

    My male principal and female AP and councilor have taken kids home in their cars. (Always 2 of them together sometimes all three). Theses were cases when

    1. The child was a pick up and no-one showed up.
    2. Child was a bus rider and couldn’t get into the house – and no neighbors were home.

    Repeated phone calls were made and either the numbers were disconnected (Norm), or not answered. Kids get out at 2:45 – and now it was 4:30. The alternative was call the cops and CPS. Unfortunately they have had to do that on a couple of occasions, when no adult could be located.

    At the beginning of the year we were told we could not friend any student on social workers – in the whole district! Including our own relatives! Turned out our technophobe principal had misunderstood the rules. (If we have a relationship outside of school with a student (child, member of same church were two examples) we can friend them.)

  13. Sera February 20, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    Certainly where I come from, this would be considered… inappropriate. Teachers and their students are NOT “friends”. Don’t get me wrong, ideally all student-teacher relationships should be friendly and positive, but the teacher is both an accreditor (needs to be marking the students’ work in a fair and uninfluenced manner, so that the grades are a true reflection of the child’s ability) and a disciplinarian. Teacher and student are not social equals – the student is subordinate to the teacher. Therefore, no student-teacher relationship is a “friendship”, and many “friendship”-type activities, such as going out for lunch together, are considered inappropriate for the type of relationship, and if they do occur, are considered odd and abnormal. (Although it is not uncommon for ex-students and ex-teachers to become friends after the student graduates or teacher retires or moves to another school).

    Is the teacher grooming the child? Maybe. Possibly. It’s not like one lunch together is equal to “grooming”, but it (to my mind) IS abnormal and somewhat inappropriate behaviour.

    Even while I was in university, I did not consider my professors to be “friends”, because while they were my professors, they were not my social equals – they were educators and accreditors, and hence our relationship was a student-teacher or perhaps a business relationship (if you consider tertiary education to be a service bought – I am the customer and they are delivering the product). They needed to be fair and objective in determining what grades I deserved and, hence, whether or not I was worthy of having a degree conferred. It would have probably been frowned upon by the uni had either of us bought the other lunch.

  14. Erin Marie February 20, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Honestly, I see your article as over-reacting. Unless there’s another article about the situation. The one you linked says nothing about thinking the teachers is a pedophile or grooming the child. The mother is upset because the teacher took her child off-campus without her permission. I would be upset as well.

    Not because I think the teacher is going to try something or because I think my child is not safe with the teacher but because I’d like to know where s/he is. Just as if my child were at a friend’s house. A quick phone call: “Mom, so-and-so’s mom is going to the store; is it alright if I go with them?” Or even just “Mom, so-and-so’s mom is going to the store. we’re going, too.” Or even a text nowadays. The specifics are based on the situation (as always) but I’d like a heads up if my child isn’t where I thought s/he was. And to be asked my permission if it’s not something that’s been established previously.

  15. Christina February 20, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    Really, Sera, even at uni? I had rather the opposite experience. I was invited to meals and other get-togethers by several professors while I was at university. I met my Russian economics professor at our local pub with other students on numerous occasions. I never thought of them as friends but as mentors. As exams were blue-booked, my grades were entirely unaffected, as the professors wouldn’t have known which paper was mine in any event. However, my time at uni was vastly improved by the interaction and as a young adult who had been on her own since 16, it was a huge support for me psychologically (not to mention nutritionally). My husband (a law professor) and I host several get-togethers every semester, and the students very much appreciate being able to talk to their professor outside the academic institution. It actually makes my husband’s job easier in a lot of ways, because his students feel much more comfortable approaching him during office hours with issues they might otherwise have been embarrassed to bring up (lest they appear not quite bright enough, etc.). Taking an interest in a student is not being a “friend”, and it can have a huge impact on that student’s life. I will always be grateful to those professors who thought I was worth their time and took real steps to convey it when so many others in my life were actively giving me quite the opposite impression.

  16. Larry Sheldon February 20, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    I think about things that I did as a kid, and how they would be interpreted today, even though there was nothing that could remotely be construed (in those days) as ‘wrong” or questionable.

    And later, as an adult, stuff that I did on the myriad field-trips, marching band tours, soft-ball fields and soccer pitch maintenance and more. Some could be twisted with a little effort to put me in jail.

    I some years ago took an oath to have nothing to do with anybody’s children–a terrible loss for me, and I think, for them

  17. Queenoid February 20, 2012 at 9:50 am #

    This brings to my mind a couple of incidents I remember from my youth. Excellent incidents.
    I had a couple of homosexual teachers. I didn’t realize it at the time, as I was oblivious to everything. But my parents certainly knew. Small town. Anyway, in those ancient days the way for them to have children in their lives was to become teachers. And they were good teachers. Mr. Miller had boys hanging out at his house, and some friends and I did things with Miss Riddle.
    For all of us, it was great. We did community service projects and helped around their homes. And we had the wonderful benefit of a deeper relationship with these people. There was absolutely nothing inappropriate, ever.
    I have thought about the fact that, these days, these relationships would probably be impossible. And I think everyone is the poorer for it.

  18. Meagan February 20, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    I designed and painted the sets for most of the plays during my time in high school. Our history/drama teacher took me, outside of school hours, to pick out paint and then bought me lunch. I was a Junior I think. I’d never felt so adult and honored, and, in the midst of a pretty miserable adolescence, it was moments like that which helped me get through. How sad that being treated like a real person, instead of a… what? A job? Is considered dangerous.

  19. pentamom February 20, 2012 at 10:14 am #

    I’m with Donna here. It is probably correct to say that this was poor judgment on the part of the teacher and should not be permitted as the appropriate way to handle such a situation.

    But NOT because taking a child off campus for a bit to eat is “probably” pedophilia, or that it’s the first thing we should worry about. Rather, just because it is unprofessional and is not within the normal (current) expectations of where a child will be during the school day and under what kind of supervision and by whom.

    If we still lived in a time and place where things like this really were no big deal and the expectations of exactly how things are done were more flexible, I wouldn’t have a problem with it, either. But a teacher in these times should know that a little more procedure is required.

    And the teacher should be “reprimanded” in the sense of being told not to do it again *in that way* and to make sure that he has permission before doing anything like that, but not in the sense of having some permanent stain on his record. What he did was mildly poor judgment, not a crime or even a shadow of a crime.

  20. pentamom February 20, 2012 at 10:21 am #

    “Don’t get me wrong, ideally all student-teacher relationships should be friendly and positive, but the teacher is both an accreditor (needs to be marking the students’ work in a fair and uninfluenced manner, so that the grades are a true reflection of the child’s ability) and a disciplinarian. Teacher and student are not social equals – the student is subordinate to the teacher. Therefore, no student-teacher relationship is a “friendship”, and many “friendship”-type activities, such as going out for lunch together, are considered inappropriate for the type of relationship, and if they do occur, are considered odd and abnormal.”

    This line of thinking gets really strange if you replace “teacher” with “parent.”

    I’m not my children’s social equal, it’s true, and my primary way of relating to them should not be “friendship” in a way that undermines my unique responsibility to them and authority over them. I’m responsible not for so trivial thing as grading them, but for making sure (insofar as it’s in my power) they “measure up” in *every* area of life, and for regarding them with a sufficiently critical eye to make sure they avoid things *even worse than* poor academic skills or lack of effort in study — and to exercise appropriate discipline when necessary.

    And yet, not only do I treat them in a friendly fashion and share meals with them, I take them on vacation, play silly games with them and kiss them goodnight (when they’re young enough to still appreciate that.)

    I am not saying that all the intimate interaction a child has with a parent is appropriate with a teacher, but the reason for that can’t be because it’s not possible to be friendly and social with someone whom you need to hold accountable and correct from a reasonably objective standpoint. Otherwise, good parenting would be impossible.

    It’s also an implicit claim that good homeschooling is impossible, but maybe I’d better pop the lid right back on *that* can.

  21. Karen February 20, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I’m surprised no one has reacted to this part of Sera’s comment – “Teachers and their students are NOT “friends”. Don’t get me wrong, ideally all student-teacher relationships should be friendly and positive, but the teacher is both an accreditor (needs to be marking the students’ work in a fair and uninfluenced manner, so that the grades are a true reflection of the child’s ability) and a disciplinarian. Teacher and student are not social equals – the student is subordinate to the teacher. Therefore, no student-teacher relationship is a “friendship””

    This is so much not what I want my son’s relationships to be like that we left regular school and he attends a Sudbury school, where staff and students *are* equals and sometimes friends. He can go off campus with any adult or student.

    I don’t think children should be subordinate to anyone just by virtue of them being young. If a teacher needs that kind of position in order to be able to teach effectively, something is wrong.

  22. Stephanie February 20, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    I would definitely want permission for a teacher to take one of my kids off campus. I like how my son’s teacher handled it recently when she bought Happy Meals for some of the kids in the class as a reward for good behavior. She sent a note home so we’d know they wouldn’t need lunch that day, and one of the people in the office picked the lunches up for her.

    Not nearly as spontaneous, which is fun, but much more professional.

  23. Larry Sheldon February 20, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    I’m a little confused–for most of 70 years I have worked for somebody else. And not all of them were friends, all judged me and made reports on me.

    But often I went to lunch or ran errands, and them with me.

  24. ShadowL February 20, 2012 at 10:51 am #

    There is a gentleman who is a family friend of one of the other kids in my sons scout troop. Said kid has divorced parents, mom is not remarried, similar to my own son.
    P has been a part of my sons cub scout troop since my son was 6, he even took over when the troop leader and his own son left the troop because of health reasons. As my son got older and moved up in scouts, P has remained a scout leader and now is assistant scout master to the Boy Scout Troop, doing a lot of the foot work for events like Klondike derby and an annual ski trip.

    This man LOVES being part of scouts despite not having one of his own and has made sure that my son, as well as 2 other boys from his cub scout den, have opportunities to do things I wont do such as fishing, winter camping and hunting. Many times he will gather a core group of 4 boys (all having been in my sons den from cub scouts on) and takes them out for “boy stuff”. The boys come home dirty, smelly, and talking about what they got to hunt/fish/see on that trip. Some times its overnight, some times its a whole weekend. He usually tries to make sure there are at least 3 boys and 1 other adult on those trips so the boys can get merit badge credit for them.

    I have never had a reason to have any doubts about P’s intentions with my son but when he asked if my 13yo could spend the night at his house alone, my heart still skipped a beat. NOT because I have ever not trusted P, but because society has conditioned me to think “worst first”. My first thought was “why?” and I felt terrible about it. I talked to my son about it and asked him if he ever felt weird around P and my son assured me that he did not. and since I had not either I let him go.

    P took him out for burgers for dinner, they played video games until midnight, the next day they went for a hike and went squirrel hunting.

    My son does not have a father in his life and P did a bunch of the “boy things” I cant or wont do. My son learned how to handle a rifle safely, learned how to take it apart and clean it, and learned how to clean a kill to be able to cook it. He came home Saturday evening with a full belly, smelling like wet hunting dogs and talked for 2 hours straight about what he learned and how much fun he had.

    I agree we want men to be a part of kids lives, but then let the world freak us about about actually doing it.

  25. Milo Moon February 20, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    I am going to comment on this and shed a little more light on the matter. I live in Houston, and know of YES Prep. They are a chain of public charter schools that focus on lower income kids. The teachers are very involved in the students education. Not like the union and paranoid controlled public schools that suck the life and joy out of teaching because they are unable to actively engage and challenge the kids out of fear being attacked by the parents. My kids go to rival system of public charter schools in Houston. The teachers at my kids’ school are actively engaged in their learning beyond what they did when we had them in the local public schools. My oldest has already had a multi-night lock-in with other students as part of a study group. There was also another night that my oldest (in 7th grade) and a couple of other kids slept over at teacher’s house that heads up the college prep group as part of a study session. While we were hesitant to let him spend the night at a teacher’s house (male teacher at that), we do trust this teacher. It was a school sponsored event. However we are not blind, we talked with our son about things to watch for. We let him know that if at any time there was anything uncomfortable (and discussed situations with him) to walk out of the house and contact us and we would be right there. My son wondered why we were talking about this and presenting these issues if we did not trust his teacher. We let him know that we did trust the teacher or he would not be going. However we cannot be there every minute of the day with him, and he has to know how we expect him to act if ever caught in one of these situations that are usually a subject that to many parents are afraid to talk and actively discuss. That is the weapon against these people that groom kids – you educating your kids and they know that they can trust you. That is how pedophiles work, they find kids that don’t have an open communication with parent figures.

    Now going back to YES Prep, The parent knows that these teachers are going to take a vested interest in their kids. We don’t know everything involved in the decision making process of this teacher, or everything that happened leading up to the event. Maybe the child needed someone to talk to right then, but the teacher needed lunch. Should the teacher taken the student off campus without permission of the parent? No. Most of the Teachers at YES are young with only a few years out of college. So they will make slight errors in judgement, but this should not be something to hit the panic alarm over.

  26. Peter February 20, 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Karen, thanks for bringing up Sudbury schools. I have not had any personal experience with them. But at the moment, I think it is going to be homeschooling, unschooling, or Sudbury for my son. Sudbury sounds like a free range concept.

    Why are some of you reading this blog if you have the need to know where your child is at every moment. Isn’t the free range goal to raise our children to be competent out on their own? A teacher out with your child sounds less worrisome than them on their own. Doesn’t it?

    Helicopter parenting is a continuum, isn’t it.

  27. Erin Marie February 20, 2012 at 11:58 am #

    I don’t think wanting to know if a teacher takes my child off-campus is helicopter parenting. I don’t need to know exactly where my child is at every moment, but I need to know a general area. What if something happened (family emergency/whatever) and I needed to find my child for whatever reason and s/he is not at the school? Or a doctor’s appointment that I forgot, or my child forgot even if I had mentioned it that morning, and I went to pick him/her up from school and s/he wasn’t there?I think as a parent, even of a free-range kid, I am not asking too much to be able to find my child in a relatively short amount of time, and I cannot do that if a teacher has taken him/her to lunch away from school without letting me know first.

  28. Gina February 20, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    @Karen..OFF TOPIC. Karen, May I friend you on Facebook? I am VERY interested in Sudbury Schools. I’d like to share my background and ask some questions. 🙂

  29. ChecklistMommy February 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    I have to *slightly* disagree — I had many great and close teacher/student relationships which I value to this day, but I do believe that no teacher should EVER be alone outside the bounds of his/her teaching duties without having clearly communicated his/her intentions to do so with administrators and parents. This is one instance in which I believe the risks are too great — and I am a parent who is not remotely “helicopter-y” and allows my children to wander beaches and parks outside of my bounds of vision, and to run down sidewalks and around corners, etc. (This might not sound like much, but they’re all five-and-under.)

  30. Christina February 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    @Karen, I did respond to Sera’s comment regarding friendship in part. However, my relationship with the professors I mentioned in my post, while friendly, was definitely not friendship at the start. I would not have called myself a “subordinate” but the professor/student relationship by its very nature possesses a power dynamic. While I did eventually become friends with some of my professors, it was because we had stayed in touch after the course had ended. To come at it from the other side, by the end of my third year, I had already been working in my chosen field for a while in a professional capacity. This put me in the most unusual position once of being both a student of and a supervisor of one of my professors when he took on a professional role outside the university in that field. It was an extraordinarily uncomfortable semester for both of us, and it was in part the acknowledgement by both of us that it was not an easy situation that allowed us to not only remain friendly but to later become friends.

  31. Jenn February 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Why can’t we trust a teacher to be alone with our children? They did a background check after all! (j/k- I know background checks don’t actually protect kids). However, we do allow our kids to be alone with babysitters, family and friends and do we question their intentions when they want to do something nice for our kids? Just because someone is being nice, doesn’t mean that they have ill intentions. Are we so paranoid that we can’t accept people being kind without accusing them or a horrendous crime?

    I have a unique perspective on teacher-student relationships because my father was my mom’s professor in university. My dad always had students over at our home for dinner, to babysit, to help with assignments, a place to crash, to do our yard work, etc., and I think we grew up richer seeing how kindness spreads. When I was a kid, we had our teachers over for dinner and I learned that my teachers were to be respected but also could be counted on as someone who could help me. I can honestly say that I became friends with my teachers over the years, which was cemented during the year I was their student. I still think of those teachers as Mr. or Mrs. even though we’ve been on a first name basis since I turned 18. I babysat for my profs, I would go to their homes for dinner, and do odd jobs to pay for tuition. Shouldn’t we get to know our teachers on a more personal basis? They do spend (in many cases) more time with our children during the week than we do. As a teacher, I try to know my students on a more personal level but it’s hard to do when having a personal interest in them, elicits suspicion. In my career, I’ve been invited to a meal at a student’s home once: for a thank you appreciation lunch at the end of year with three of my colleagues who also taught the family’s children. It may be hard for the teacher to initiate a relationship with a family so why not start it by inviting him/her over for coffee?

  32. Karen February 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Gina, my name is a link that will bring up contact information. See you on FB 🙂

  33. CrazyCatLady February 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Milo Moon, it sounds like the charter school that this teacher and your child are a part of are trying to make a caring learning community. That is a great thing.

    However, it sounds like this particular mother did not read the small print (which was probably pretty large in their mission statement.) I would have to say, it sounds like this very proactive system is not the school that she should have her son in because it doesn’t fit with her beliefs.

    As for the teachers/professors as friends…this was not an attempt at being a friend/equal. I get where this teacher is coming from. A child who is not doing their best in school can sometimes be helped by a teacher taking a special interest in them. If you read John Taylor Gatto, he has lots of examples of times that just showing that an adult cares, as an adult, (not equal) can make more of a difference in a child’s attitude toward learning than any amount of lectures or book learning.

    Students are human. They have human emotions and needs. They have parents who are divorced, one parent sent overseas, siblings with cancer, parents who lost their jobs and are about to be homeless. Teachers are also human and can react and help students with their needs, based on their greater experience. This whole thing is why groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters got started. There is no reason that a teacher can’t be a mentor and still teach. It may actually make the students more interested in what is being taught.

    And Lenore, I have to disagree. This is not a “teacher’s pet” issue. In my mind “teacher’s pet” is totally different – a smirking kid (with young kids) who is too helpful and tattling. An athlete with special privileges due to the ability to draw paying crowds for teams and won’t do any work because he knows he will get a pass. Not a disadvantaged kid whom a teacher is trying to be a mentor to.

  34. Celeste February 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    One time I was out running errands while my kids were in school and I was surprised to run into my daughter (age 7) and a few of her classmates in the grocery store with the school principal! It was during school hours, so naturally I had expected my kid to be at her school, which was right around the corner from the grocery store. As it turns out, the principal had decided it would be a good idea to take a few students who were finished with their classwork on an impromptu walk to buy popsicles for the whole class. (It was an unusually hot and summery October day.) I thought that was just fantastic! And my daughter was so proud and excited about it too. These kinds of zany, off-the-cuff experiences are valuable and memorable. I entrust my children to the care of the principal and teachers each and every day. I communicate with them regularly, and trust them to make appropriate judgment calls about the day’s events. It’s encouraging to me to see them having fun ideas and the ability to be adventurous and spontaneous. These kinds of things make my kids’ educational and community school experiences all the richer. I don’t feel the need to keep tabs or sign forms for every little move they make during their school days.

  35. Donna February 20, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    “Why are some of you reading this blog if you have the need to know where your child is at every moment. Isn’t the free range goal to raise our children to be competent out on their own?”

    I don’t need to know where my child is at all times. I do like to have expectations as to where my child may be at all times. I don’t think free range means turning your kids out at 7am and not giving a damn what happens to them until dinner time.

    If my kid went to a school like Karen’s Sudbury School where the expectation is that children go off campus and grab burgers with teachers when the mood strikes, great. I don’t have a problem with that happening at all. My expectation as to my child’s day is that it’s flexible. She may be at school; she may not. If I need her for some reason during the day, I’m not shocked to find out she’s at the local BBQ with her English teacher.

    However, if the school is a closed campus, as the one at issue seems to be, I kinda expect my child to actually be at school all day. I don’t appreciate the fact that someone circumvented the policy and took my child off campus without telling me or apparently anyone else in the school. Hanging out with my kid over a burger doesn’t raise any red flags. Removing my child from the school against school policy and without my permission does kinda raise some red flags. I’m sure this teacher was simply young and inexperienced, but there are some red flags in THIS scenario, although not in all scenarios involving kids leaving school to grab burgers with teachers.

    Sera, wow you must go to the most sterile and unfriendly university in the world. I’m glad I didn’t go there. I went to a major state university so many core classes were huge. Professors didn’t interact with those students much outside of class. But the small major classes were often very friendly. I had professors we called by their first name in class. Professors who took us out for drinks or lunch. Professors who invited us to their homes. It just depended on the professor. I had a doctorate candidate for one literature class who invited the entire class to his house for beer, snacks and a viewing of Monte Python for his introduction to the middle ages every quarter. It was a blast.

    I viewed my relationship with my college professors the same as I view my one with my boss. We are all adults. We socialize at times but still manage to keep it professional at work/school. Most grading was blind – a numerical code was on the paper, not a name – so distance in grading was easy to maintain.

  36. sexhysteria February 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    The real danger to kids today is the epidemic of emotional incest, with parents trying to control a child’e every thought, word and deed. The supposed “fear” of stranger danger is merely an excuse to cover up parents’ desire for emotional incest with their kids.

  37. Selby February 20, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    I was at a party recently and met a young man who is an Eagle Scout (I’ll call him Scott). He talked about the achievement, and how even today, his response to people who ask, “Oh you were an Eagle Scout,” is, “No, I AM an Eagle Scout.” The achievement is such that you identify with it forever, even when you are not actively taking part in Scouting. And he’s not. Because of his age. Because of the suspicion.

    Scott told me how after graduating high school, he attended a local community college and so was able to stay active with his troop and move into a more mentor-type role with the younger, upcoming scouts. Then he noticed something start to happen: parents were giving him ugly, suspicious looks when they dropped their sons at meetings. They began to question the scoutmaster about Scott’s presence. What was a twenty-something male doing loitering around scout meetings? Was his interest in the boys healthy? “Loitering?” the Scoutmaster replied indignantly, “Healthy?! This is an Eagle Scout!” But it made no difference. Nothing was said directly to Scott, but the underlying discomfort turned into hostility, and reached such a level that he eventually phased himself out of the troop entirely. And he cracked some jokes, but you could see the bitterness was still there.

    Male teachers are suspect. Eagle Scouts are suspect. What’s next – we don’t trust soldiers around our kids? When a fireman busts through the door of a burning house to rescue a kid, we make him show ID?

  38. Selby February 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm #

    Oh and by the way, I read the article and the teacher did not take the student out to lunch. He bought the kid a hamburger and they went and ate back at the school with others.

  39. Kay February 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

    Kids learn best from caring adults who take the time to help them learn about the world around them. Many schools have become factories that churn out groups of monolithic thinkers who learn how to march in line versus lead it. It’s been widely reported that personal attention focused on a child’s individual interest and ability leads to more successful kids.

    Well, there are caring adults out there willing and more than happy to take a positive role in children’s lives – why stop them?

    I understand parental concern (I see red flags everywhere too), but I also try to foster relationships with those people too. That way, it’s more of a community raising my child versus me handing her over to the school system to be responsible for her.

  40. pentamom February 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    “I understand parental concern (I see red flags everywhere too), but I also try to foster relationships with those people too.”

    Maybe it’s like this — as parents, we should see “yellow flags” pretty often, even if we don’t really have reason to think that a particular person would harm our kid. Still, there’s nothing wrong with stopping and thinking about whether a given situation *could* be inappropriate.

    But the modern mood causes us to dye every yellow flag red — no longer does our conditioning merely allow us to have a perfectly legitimate reaction of “Hmmm… is it really a good idea for my child to spend the night alone at this man’s house? I need to think that one through.” No, we’re trained to say, “My CHILD? A MAN’S HOUSE?? What is he THINKING?????” Or worse yet, “MY CHILD? A MALE TEACHER ON A HAMBURGER RUN????”

    Or, to the extent we don’t let that happen, we’re the odd balls, and the “safe, responsible parents” are the ones who throw red paint at every situation. And because the red paint is flying around, some like ShadowL feels guilty about thinking twice about letting her son stay with his adult friend, when really, that’s a perfectly legitimate thing to think twice about, as long as you think rationally and treat the other person with fairness rather than unjustified suspicion. But all the flying red paint makes us forget that there’s a difference between yellow flags, which cause us to stop and think and maybe form certain careful guidelines, and red flags, which cause us to panic and mistrust.

  41. Lucy February 20, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    I used to work for a program that ran breakfast and after-school clubs in impoverished neighborhoods. I once took two of the children who attended the clubs, a 10-year-old boy and his 7-year-old sister for hot chocolate at Starbucks and a little tour of my college campus, shortly after their brother had been sent to prison (they already had one brother and their father in prison). I got permission from their mother and picked them up from their home (i.e. didn’t take them from one of the clubs), rode the bus with them to town, walked them around part of campus, took them Starbucks, and rode the bus back (all very public places). At the time I worked part-time for the non-profit as I was myself a student and I did lots of other part-time work babysitting so plenty of people in the community trusted me with their children on a one-to-one basis, many of them friends of this family.

    My employer gave me a formal warning and threatened to fire me if I did anything similar in future. Even though I arranged the whole thing with the mother’s permission, stayed in public places, and was dealing with kids in a neighborhood I knew well and often babysat in. Because I met these particular kids at work my employer deemed it inappropriate that I spend time with them outside the clubs. The children and their mother were very upset that I had to refuse an invitation to dinner at their house (as a thank you for taking them out) or risk losing my job. Another worker at the clubs suggested to me that if the mother was onboard we could just tell the non-profit that they had decided to hire me as a babysitter (the family couldn’t actually afford to do this). That’s what we ended up doing so that I could go dinner at their house and take the children out a couple more times. I think it is completely ridiculous that a mother who trusted me with her children and appreciated a willing, positive role model in their life (I was the first in my family to go to college and her son was fascinated that I had made it to college from my background), essentially had her decisions over who her children could spend time with overruled by a business afraid of getting sued.

  42. Larry Sheldon February 20, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    Can anybody direct me to a blog about raising children in an environment where trust and respect are the default norms?

    I thought this on might be from its name, but clearly this is a ‘hove two inches off the kid and between it and anything interesting kind of place.

    I don’t need any more of that.

  43. Karen February 21, 2012 at 12:48 am #

    Larry, there is a ton of focus on trust and respect within the Sudbury community. Try Sudbury Valley School’s web site, or the Clearwater School’s blog, to get started. Peter Grey’s blog on Psychology Today is great. Check in on Liberating Kids’ Facebook page.

  44. Larry Sheldon February 21, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    “Male teachers are suspect. Eagle Scouts are suspect. What’s next – we don’t trust soldiers around our kids? When a fireman busts through the door of a burning house to rescue a kid, we make him show ID?”

    Save some electrons: males are suspect. (Which is strange given some of the statistics I have seen.)

    But yes, I am suspect–triply so because of my age.

    As I have mentioned, I work very hard to avoid other people’s children at all costs and at all times.

    Which is heartbreaking going both ways.

    An especially wrenching thing happens here–where we moved into the house where 3 or 4 generations of the friendliest before (the picture you see when you look up “old fashioned neighborliness”.

    The youngest is a delightful little girl (first grade age?) who is madly on love with our dog. She comes over (unescorted and unhovered-over as near as I can tell) to visit our dog.

    I am afraid to open the door if I an here alone, and don’t. (I don’t know that she does, but she can see me through the window if she looks.)

  45. In the Trenches February 21, 2012 at 1:07 am #

    They drill you with fear of litigation in teachers’ college. Honestly, for every hour of useful instruction we got, there was at least another hour of fearmongering. We were told about the dangers of touching students, even a casual or reassuring hand on a shoulder. We were warned against hugging the little tykes. We were fed horror stories about lives ruined on both sides — kids who were taken advantage of, as well as teachers who were inappropriately accused. We had whole classes on legal responsibilities.

    It horrified most of us, who got into teaching because we enjoy human interaction and kids in particular. If we’re going to go the robot route, then by all means just cut out the middle man and go to automated classrooms. It’s bad enough that kids these days hardly have any contact with adults as role models. They see their parents for only a few hours; they see us most of the day. But we’re not good role models for human interactions with restrictions like that on us! No wonder kids (and apparently whole generations of adults, judging by some of the comments on this blog and elsewhere) have grown up in fear and without any nuanced understanding of what it means to be a human being in a community of human beings.

    With the (to my mind) nonsensical, efficiency-driven system of age apartheid in schools, most kids are completely unable to relate to anybody who is not exactly of their age. They have no opportunity to watch adult behaviour on a day to day basis, and learn what the differences are between childish and mature thought and actions. One of the biggest differences, I would have thought, is that children follow rules blindly, whereas mature minds learn to contextualise and use nuance in their decisions. Following rules is not decision making. It is the abnegation of the responsibility to think and feel as a human being should. Can we then blame them for poor decision making skills later? Life is rich and complex and demanding of full participation; alienation from these processes can only sicken and weaken us, mentally, spiritually, and physically.

    When we see people who are capable of these skills, we recognise their worth. I’ve read that Atticus Finch is Americans’ greatest hero – more people relate to him than to Batman. We recognise and value those who can navigate complexity with nuance and humanity. Where do we see these skills explicitly valued in public life anymore? People could do a lot worse than ask “WWAFD?” when confronted with complexity.

    Zero tolerance is a profoundly dehumanising policy. Robots, not humans, are programmed to respond only in a certain way to certain stimulus. The whole point of being human is that we are complex and have the faculty of reason, something that in previous ages was considered to be a shared faculty with angels. Milton would be appalled by our apparent rejection of our greatest gift. While I understand the power dynamic that exists between students and teachers, I reject the suggestion that it precludes normal human, emotional and social interaction. I can’t imagine the kind of alienation that thinking of my job as a kind of factory work would produce in me. My own humanity would be compromised, and that would have an effect on my students, some of whom remain friends a decade after I taught them. I like to think that both our lives are better for those interactions, and that can only have a positive effect on our communities.

    What kind of a world would we like to live in? We have to figure that out, and then live our lives as if that place already exists. Waiting for others to change it, or listening to naysayers will never work.

  46. Celeste February 21, 2012 at 1:20 am #

    Oh wow; I thought Free Range parenting meant turning your kids out at 7am and not giving a damn what happens to them til dinnertime. But now I’ve been enlightened. Thanks so much for clearing that up for me! Is there a website for parents like me, who only give a damn what happens to their kids between dinner time and 6:59 am?

  47. Library Diva February 21, 2012 at 1:23 am #

    I believe that when kids get to be about the age the student in this story is, they need a trusted non-parent adult in their lives, who can listen and give good advice without punishing them for being in an iffy situation. It can be an aunt or uncle, a neighbor, a friend’s parent — or it can be a teacher. I think the mom in this story is seriously overreacting. At the most, she should have discussed her concerns with the teacher and asked that it not happen again. What need is there to involve the media?

  48. Larry Sheldon February 21, 2012 at 1:39 am #

    “Oh wow; I thought Free Range parenting meant turning your kids out at 7am and not giving a damn what happens to them til dinnertime. But now I’ve been enlightened. Thanks so much for clearing that up for me! Is there a website for parents like me, who only give a damn what happens to their kids between dinner time and 6:59 am?”

    That sure is a vicious twist.

    II think I have seen enough here.

  49. Caroline February 21, 2012 at 2:28 am #

    Since the subject of Sudbury schooling has come up several times, I’d like to offer a view of how the staff/student relationship in Sudbury schools benefit children enormously in their ability to be free-range. I’ve been working at a Sudbury school for 4 years.

    The staff role (we sometimes “teach” but we also role-model, mentor, friend, guide, advise, learn (from students) and collaborate so we do not call ourselves teachers) is on an equal footing with the students in that everyone has an equal vote in running the school–rules, policies, budget etc. Indeed, the staff goes up for election each year and the students vote whether we should continue to be on staff. The ages are also free to mix and interact all through the day.

    The students are respected and their interests are taken seriously in an authentic way (not a inspirational poster on the wall kind of way). They learn great communication and social skills this way, and most importantly, learn to advocate for themselves. They learn to listen to their inner voice if something doesn’t feel right, and they learn that they can and should speak up to adults. They aren’t reprimanded, told to be quiet, sent to the principal’s office, given a “red” light status or in trouble for challenging an adult. They are valued for speaking up.

    We feel developing this confidence and wherewithal will help our children stay safer than any amount of helicoptering could possibly provide.

    Sudbury Schools tell parents that the way their child spends their day at school is their child’s business. During the school hours, parents are essentially paying us not to tell them what their children are doing. Their children are practicing independence in a reliable, lawful community. We are flowing directly opposite to the tidal trends of parent over-involvement, fear and micro-managing.

    I agree that the few minutes spent with the teacher getting a hamburger was perhaps more valuable than any math tutoring or grammar worksheet help for that student. At most, a reminder to ‘please sign out next time in accordance with our rules’ would’ve been all it took, and the teacher should continue to use his compassion, wisdom (even a youthful wisdom), intuition to make a difference in a child’s life.

  50. Peter February 21, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    Where did anyone say we don’t care what happens to kids at some point in their day? The world is mostly a safe place. It is the paradigm of distrust that is the problem.

    Sudbury schools sound great …except… I have watched some youtube videos about them, but I don’t know much more. So since the school doesn’t tell parents about the day, I have to ask my child about his day? Is that a locally voted on rule? I would like to be involved in my childs education, but I also want him interacting with other free range kids. Sudbury gives me one but not the other. Home schooling has the opposite problem. Perhaps I could volunteer/get a job as a science teacher/advisor? Do parents do that at all at Sudbury? And what are the attendance rules? Can I take my kid to the Smithsonian without issue from the school?

  51. Caroline February 21, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    I don’t mean to high jack the post, but Peter, our school would honor family field trips even during the school day as an “excused absence.” School and family are different entities; we don’t tell people to have “Sudbury homes,” just the opposite.

    You ARE involved in your children’s education.You can’t help but be your child’s most important teacher. Learning happens all the time.

    What’s wrong with learning about your child’s day from them, although it’s hard to answer, “What did you do today? What did you learn today” everyday. I wouldn’t always want to have to report back on a flowing, idiosyncratic, meandering day with evidence of having “learned something” at the end of MY day.

    Some parents do volunteer, offer workshops but they need to be in tune with the learning environment and have to offer something that students want.

  52. Bob February 21, 2012 at 3:08 am #

    I grew up in the sixties, and my siblings and I went to what I think were pretty typical schools at the time. We certainly never thought of teachers as equals, and we always addressed them as “Mr.”, “Mrs.,” or “Miss”– never by their first names. But that didn’t prevent us from being friends with our teachers. And it didn’t prevent teachers from giving us hugs and even (gasp!) kisses. No one ever thought there was anything inappropriate or suspect about it. No one got their panties in a wad over a display of genuine affection between teacher and student. In fact, it was encouraged.

    When my firstborn started school back in the eighties, the school we had her in was similar to what I remembered from my childhood. But within a few years, the teachers and all the parents who volunteered at the school (which was nearly all of us) were being given mandatory training in how to avoid being accused of child molestation and getting in trouble with the law. We were being told, essentially, never to touch a student. It was all downhill from there. Now we not only have adults not permitted to touch children, but we have lunch police prowling the schools and telling children their parents are either too stupid to pack them a decent lunch or that they don’t love them enough to do so.

    After our experience with our firstborn, my husband and I decided not to send any of our other children to school. It’s a decision we have never, ever regretted.

  53. Susan February 21, 2012 at 3:22 am #

    Sorry that’s the way it needs to be now days . Teachers should not have personal relationships with children outside the classroom. Everyone knows this. The teacher was probably acting without thinking but should have known better.

  54. gpo February 21, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    I had a teaching high school drive 6 of us from Oklahoma to Notre Dame for a weekend including a football game. I used to go out to dinner with this teacher all the time. Sometimes with a group and some by myself. I learned a lot of life lessons from him. The Summer after I graduated we went out to LA and LV. One of the best times of my life.

  55. Peter February 21, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    Susan, Why does it need to be this way now days? That is not the way I want it to be. If the rules and liabilities push this way, then that is what needs to change.

    It is not good for the children. It is not good for any of us.

    Caroline, Hijack away. I think it is directly on topic. Since Sudbury has students voting on rules, how much variance is there from school to school? Is the privacy all an outgrowth of the difficulties of reporting on what you learned today with such a freeform day?

  56. Donna February 21, 2012 at 3:48 am #

    “Where did anyone say we don’t care what happens to kids at some point in their day?”

    Actually, Peter, you said it. You were the one who said that we are helicopter parents for not being thrilled about the idea of our children leaving their closed campus school with a teacher against all the rules of the school. You implied that that meant that we needed to know where our children were every minute of every day. Personally, I see it as the difference between my child leaving the house to ride her bike to the park and ending up on a bus across town. I have issues with that as well as I like to have a general idea of where my kid is. If that makes me a helicopter parent in your view, I guess I’ll be a helicopter parent.

    “What’s wrong with learning about your child’s day from them”

    Because I’d have an easier time getting the launch codes for our country’s nuclear weapons from the president than I do getting information about my child’s day from her. With no information, I can only ask “How was your day? What did you do? What did you learn?” Those questions will invariably lead to the answers of “Fine” and “I don’t remember.” With more information, I can start a dialogue with my child about her day without it sounding like the Great Inquisition.

    Some kids are simply more natural story tellers than others. My coworker’s nephew starts rambling on about his day the second he sees an adult he knows and he doesn’t shut up until you make him. His parents know more about what happened during his school day than his teacher. My child keeps things very close to her chest. She would be perfectly happy to never mention a word about her school day to me. It’s not that she doesn’t talk – she never shuts up – she just has different things that she wants to talk about.

  57. Kevin February 21, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    When I was in high school in the late 90’s our debate team was coached and sponsored by the local Kiwanis. We went to breakfast with them at the local buffet place once a month and our coach, Mr. Smith, took the team to Mackinac Island for the state championships. We stayed in hotels with him for other tournaments around the state. It never once occurred to anyone that he would do anything improper and he never did. He was one of the nicest men I’ve ever met.

    My high school English teacher would invite some of her AP English students to her home for dinner at the end of the year. Nobody ever thought that improper. We were just impressed she’d want students to come to her house for a social event.

    We thought of these people as the teachers we wanted to have. They are the ones I still tell people about because they made an impact on my life and went above and beyond to connect with their students. I hate to see paranoia prevent teachers from actually making a real connection with their students.

  58. Lollipoplover February 21, 2012 at 4:10 am #

    “Sorry that’s the way it needs to be now days . Teachers should not have personal relationships with children outside the classroom. Everyone knows this.”

    I guess I don’t. Around here, the elementary teachers are actually part of our community. They have kids on the same swim team, volunteer along side us parents at fundraisers, and tutor outside the classroom. We see them all summer long in (gasp) bathing suits at the swim club playing with their own kids as well as ours.

    What kind of world would it be if we didn’t expect teachers to interact with kids outside the classroom?

  59. kiesha February 21, 2012 at 4:36 am #

    I wanted to join Key Club in high school, but I wasn’t able to get there. The Key Club meetings were held 30 minutes before school started. I was a bus rider because my parents left for work at 5 a.m. The bus didn’t get me to school until right before school started, so the only way I was getting to Key Club was if I got a ride.

    The teacher in charge of Key Club stopped one morning every month to pick me up from my driveway and take me to the Key Club meetings. Luckily, I lived along her route to the school, so it wasn’t a huge inconvenience, but she took on that role.

    If she hadn’t done this, I wouldn’t have been able to be in Key Club until my senior year, when I was allowed to drive to school. I never really became ‘friends’ with this teacher, but I was so grateful that she was willing to pick up a kid just so said kid could be in a club.

  60. pentamom February 21, 2012 at 4:55 am #

    “I thought this on might be from its name, but clearly this is a ‘hove two inches off the kid and between it and anything interesting kind of place.”

    Where are you getting this impression? From 10% or fewer of the commenters? Have you READ what people are saying here?

  61. Donna February 21, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    “I hate to see paranoia prevent teachers from actually making a real connection with their students.”

    I agree, but in this case I think it’s the paranoia on this board that is the problem. We’ve made a complaint about taking a child out of school without his mother’s consent into an issue of pedophilia and fear of adults having any contact with kids.

    The only comment made by the mother involved her child leaving school without anyone knowing. At no point did she bring up pedophilia or worries that the child was being groomed. She didn’t state that her children are not allowed to share a meal or socialize with their teachers ever. She’d just prefer the teachers not take them on impromptu jaunts around town during the school day and she’d prefer the teachers not teach her kids to break the rules whenever it suits them. You may disagree that teachers should need permission to take kids off campus but I don’t think that’s an overly helicopter request. Back in the free-wheeling 70s, permission slips were signed for every off campus excursion in my life. Even the kids who left school for lunch, only did so after their parents signed the yearly permission form. It’s not a new or strange concept that kids don’t leave school without permission from parents (either specific or just general understanding).

    When we fail to separate the valid concerns from the paranoid fears, we – the people on this board – run the risk of creating the exact environment we want to avoid. We make it about issues that were not even raised in the initial information.

    I rarely disagree with Lenore, but without more information, I’m on the side of the mother and school that the actions of the teacher lacked good judgment, not in seeking to make a connection with a student but in taking him out of school against school policy to do it.

  62. Diane S. February 21, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    @Milo Moon – I think the charter schools are great, esp. compared to public. And taking an interest in kids, in their lives, I really don’t have a problem with it. There’s quite a few kids out there that really could use an adult in their life that will take an interest, go out for a burger or a movie with them, even the cheesy ones like watching the Star Wars clone wars 3d (I’m a purist – I don’t like the prequels), and alot of times just listen to venting, or whatever.

    I often get strange looks from mom who is pushing a little kid, because I wave at the baby (who usually waves back), in the grocery store while i’m shopping.. Why? Because little kids are fun. I was at a graduation for one of the girls at the church school, and for 10 minutes before the ceremony, one of the 5 year olds told me this complicated story about how a mouse came to his house, unlocked the door using a key, and showed up in a closet. Including walking straight up the walls.

    The kids that i teach at church, I want them to do well in life, and if they’re having trouble reading, I have a selection of books ranging from very easy, to 4th grade level, that they can take one home, to read, or practice reading with me.

    My husband teaches Sunday School, and he and some of the men from church take the boys out for a hotdog cookout, fishing, and camping trip to a state park by us. A friend and I take the younger kids out to the movies, or else to the local pizza place that has a game room, and provide tokens for them to have fun. Why? Because some kids really need a basically normal childhood, esp. if they are living with only mom due to dad just not being there, or locked up in prison or jail. We haven’t had any moms come down on us for taking an interest in their kids.

    The teacher in this case probably thought the kid would like a special treat, and running to get the burger & bring it back would be no problem.

    BTW, we also get kids at church that are completely out of control, and will pee up against the church (even though the bathroom is a few steps away just inside the door); and when trying to get that kid onto the van to take them home due to misbehavior (fighting too); some will just drop their hands and say “you can’t do anything, because of liability”. My husband ended up with a black eye due to a fight on the van, but you can’t get the kids to actually stop fighting really, without physically restraining some; but due to “liability” you can’t? Does this make sense?

    Seems there’s more than just free-range kids, and helicopter parents. There are run-wild kids that are just out on their own, that someone needs to take an interest in. So whaddyathink?

  63. Donna February 21, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    “Seems there’s more than just free-range kids, and helicopter parents. There are run-wild kids that are just out on their own, that someone needs to take an interest in. So whaddyathink?”

    I agree. However, not a single example provided by you or Lenore or just about anyone else involved taking a child somewhere against the rules and without anyone knowing. They all involved prearranged plans with the parents permission. “Don’t take kids out of school without parental permission” does not actually equal “never form a caring, mentoring relationship with a child ever again you wretched pedophile.” They are actually two different concepts. Both prevalent in society right now but we have no indication that this situation if an example of the later and not the former. Why is it that we are always saying not to assume the worst of people first but then assume the worst first from this very cryptic article?

    Nobody accused this teacher of being a pedophile. He wasn’t fired. There is no indication from the article that he is being prevented from bonding with kids at school or outside with parental permission. (That may be happening but I can’t tell from the short article). In fact, it appears that mentoring is a goal of the school from someone’s description above. I guess I just don’t see why this is comment-worthy without more information.

  64. Karen February 21, 2012 at 7:47 am #

    Peter, I can give my answer to your questions (“Since Sudbury has students voting on rules, how much variance is there from school to school? Is the privacy all an outgrowth of the difficulties of reporting on what you learned today with such a freeform day?”)

    I’ve been involved with two schools, one as staff and both as parent. There is a fair amount of variation between the two schools, but the core philosophy and policies are the same. The privacy aspect of the school is inherent to the model – it’s not a result of difficulty in “reporting” but more an outgrowth of kids not being measured and the need to protect the kids and the school culture from loving but behind-the-scenes coersive parenting. Even the most easygoing, kind parent can throw the whole school into turmoil when they feel they should have more rights and say in the day-to-day workings of the school.

    My kid, who is graduating this year, rarely has anything to say when I ask him how his day was.

    I hope this helps.

  65. Jenn February 21, 2012 at 8:01 am #

    @Donna- I have to agree with you that too often we assume the worst (or the best) from an article or story. There is often more to the story that is not reported or missed so too often people take what is reported as factual information. Most schools have parents sign on a yearly basis a registration form to verify their information is correct. There is also on this form a checklist of things that parents give permission for (children’s photos to be published, administer KI pill, permission for field trips within a 5km radius, etc.). Most parents just send it back to school signed and don’t update their information nor check over this list. Most aren’t aware that this list exists and just check off yes for everything (including the answer that most pople would check off no for-my child can leave the school alone in the event of a school closure). I wonder if this school also has this same form and the parent had already given permission but wasn’t aware (which the media wouldn’t report because then there would be no story!).

  66. Cheryl W February 21, 2012 at 9:38 am #

    Susan, if “that is is the way it is today” then I submit that our schools are no better than Russian orphanages of the 1980s. Babies confined to cribs all day with staff who are so hardened that they don’t even pick them up when they cry so that the babies stop even vocalizing.

    Teachers in the lower grades NEED to be able to give a kid a hug, tell them that someone cares, because sometimes home life is so bad that they don’t think they have anyone who cares. I am friends with a kinder teacher – she says that she has risked her job many times giving kids hugs or holding and rocking them on her lap because they were: homeless, a parent got shipped overseas, they were taken from their home and put in foster care, mom has cancer…the list goes on.

    Older kids need to know that people care as well. They have the same issues and do not know how to navigate the world any better than the younger ones. Hugs may be needed, it may be a lunch that is needed. It all depends on the kid.

    It seems to me that it is much more acceptable for people to talk to and even walk other people’s pets than it is to care for a child.

  67. Susan February 21, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    I am really surprised by the majority of comments by posters here who self identify as “Free Range Parents”.

    Would have guessed you would all have been outraged by the teacher taking the child out of school for just a few minutes.

    My impression was that most Free Range Parents really do let their children leave the house with the only limit being ” come back home when the street lights go on”., fully trusting their children to be able to make decisions about where they should go and what they should do.

    I truly thought most of you have no idea exactly where your children are most of the day, and are okay with that because you have confidence in your children and trust their judgement.

    Your responses on this issue was a surprise as I expected you would stay in line with Lenore’s point of view. .


  68. Susan February 21, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Sorry typo – should have read

    I wOuld never have guessed any of you would have been outraged by the teacher taking the child out of school for just a few minutes.

  69. Susan February 21, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    @ Cheryl W Yes I hear you & agree.

    “teacher says that she has risked her job many times giving kids hugs or holding and rocking them on her lap because they were: homeless, a parent got shipped overseas, they were taken from their home and put in foster care, mom has cancer…the list goes on.”

    It is a shame that the rules had to change because of the terrible things a minority of adults have done. Being a woman, I would probably do the same thing as your teacher friend. However if I was a male teacher I wouldn’t – too risky , much more likely to be misinterpreted. Plus most sex offenders are male.

  70. Irene February 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    I have to agree with Donna. Sometimes I find this board to do the Worst-First thinking that they claim to be against. Just the title of this post was negative, nowhere in it did anyone say that the teacher was a pedophile. With just a few clicks of the mouse you would have seen that the group that was making this an issue has a history of making a mountain out of a mole hill with a lot of things. The mother was upset that her child left the school without her knowing, that was it.
    I wished that Lenore would have tuned this story in to a positive one. The school did what most Free Range Parents are complaining never happens in schools now a days, they didn’t over react. They talked to the teacher, and everything was fine. No one was fired, or had to have an “investagation” into the matter. Isn’t that what we want, not to quickly acuse someone who is being nice to a child of being a pedophile? Yet, Lenore did just that with the title of the post. She quickly jumped to a conclusion that the teacher was being accused of being a pedophile, and used a title that quickly caught our eyes, and made us think worst-first, just like the media we complain do all the time.

  71. Donna February 21, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Susan, I’m not outraged over the teacher taking the child from school for a few minutes. It was a bad judgment call because there appears to be a rule in place against it and it is against the expectations of most parents whose kids attend school, not because there is anything wrong with taking a kid for a burger.

    If I could pick the perfect school, I’d prefer that my child attend school with an open campus where kids are allowed to go get burgers with whomever they want at lunch. But, unfortunately, that doesn’t describe most schools. Teachers should not be teaching children that it’s okay to flaunt the “don’t leave campus” rule and grab a burger whenever the mood strikes (kids figure out how to ditch school all on their own).

    I’m simply not agreeing with Lenore that this is some indication of the pedophilia phobia gripping this country.

  72. Noël H. February 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Like Milo Moon I also live in Houston and I think a salient point is that the teacher involved happens to be the son of our former city mayor and state governor candidate. Otherwise I doubt that a brief run to pick up burgers would have garnered the publicity it has, especially at a YES charter where teachers commonly drive students around and take them out for meals.

  73. Noël H. February 21, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    I should add that I think the teacher made a simple mistake but should be reprimanded for not obtaining prior permission. (As is what happened.) Perhaps he didn’t think to because they weren’t going out to eat, merely running to pick up lunch to take back to school, and it all happened in the span of a few minutes. The mother is the one calling for his firing, but I think her motives are less about her son’s safety and more to do with publicity.

  74. CrazyCatLady February 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

    Susan, I worked at a day care/preschool when I was in college. The owner’s sons worked there from time to time when hands were short and or they needed money.

    There were so many little boys and girls who had no father in the home with them. These kids LOVED that these young men were coming to the day care to play games with them, and yes, occasionally, hold them on their laps when they fell down or got hurt. These children NEEDED adult male attention. (When you are 3, everyone over 12 is an adult.) No one complained. Many of the moms were disappointed when the guys went back to college.

    There should NOT be a double standard for men, after all, our babies are going to grow up to be men. So, I guess that the moms don’t want men around their kids want society to go back 50 years or more and be more hands off and only the women do the kid raising. Nope, not me. I love that my husband can change a diaper. I love men who take their toddlers to the store. I hate that they get flack for trying to raise their kids the way that society in the 80’s and early 90’s said they should do.

    And for the record, the ONLY convicted child molester that I personally have known….is female.

  75. Susan February 21, 2012 at 7:38 pm #


    I know what you mean in situations where children either have absent parents of either gender. Our hearts naturally go out to them and they desperately need a caring adult or even just the comfort of a hug or a pat.

    However I think everyone also understands rules limiting physical contact and limits on being “alone” with a child. Because it is so difficult to pre-identify sexual predators all people working with children need to restrict the types of contact they have. It is very sad to not be able to give a hug to a child who seems to need one.

    But damage sexual predators inflict on their victims lasts their whole lives.

    It would be wonderful if there was another way to protect children from this issue, while not depriving some children from contact they crave.

    All that said, I agree that this topic is an offshoot of the title of the inflammatory blog post title, and does not appear to have been at issue in the school incident in question.

  76. Kaylee February 21, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    “The mother is the one calling for his firing, but I think her motives are less about her son’s safety and more to do with publicity.”

    No, she didn’t. She wasn’t happy about it but no where in the article did it say she was calling for him to be fired, that she suspected him of “grooming” her son, that he was a potential pedophile or anything else that people here have been conjuring out of nowhere. The whole entire situation is that a teacher took a child away from the school campus without permission. It’s the people HERE who have jumped to worst-first.

  77. Susan February 21, 2012 at 11:36 pm #

    Yes this blog post itself looks like it is guilty of fanning the flames of fear – actually attempting to create paranoia where none existed?

    Why would the owner of a blog that fights paranoid thinking write a blog post that incites paranoia?

  78. Noël H. February 22, 2012 at 12:18 am #

    Kaylee, yes indeed, the mother is calling for him to be fired:

    “The mother of the Yes Prep child who went with teacher Will White, 25, to Pappas Bar-B-Q on Jan. 17 said parents can no longer blindly trust teachers.

    The boy’s mother, Phyllis Johnson, wants White fired for taking her son off campus without her permission. White has apologized, saying he was only trying to help the child. He declined Friday to comment further.”

    Please see for this particular quote.

    I live in Houston and have heard far more of the story than a reasonable person would think necessary.

  79. Peter February 22, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    Let’s imagine for a moment that this is a story about a teacher that violated a rule about getting a permission slip. A rule no more important than a child shouldn’t leave the classroom to go to the bathroom without the teachers permission. The rule was violated. A reporter found out, and wrote a newspaper story about it.

    Hmm. Don’t see it happening. Without the background events of abuse by teachers, priests, and coaches, this doesn’t rise to the level of news.

    “Teacher took child off school grounds on a different day than expected. News at eleven.” Nope. I don’t see it.

    The public’s perception of risks, because of news stories of actual abuse, is exaggerated vastly beyond the actual risks. This over reaction is what I am pushing against. We now have a result where millions of students are tought in an environment of fear. I can’t comfort a child because someone may get the wrong idea. I am one misunderstood observation away from being a news story or worse. The vast majority of teachers are not evil.

    The vigilance with rules and liability worries, harms our kids. Real harm, not some chance at harm. You think you are protecting that small group of kids from that awful situation; you probably aren’t. Instead we are robbing millions of children of authentic interactions that shape their views of the world.

    We have thrown the babies out with the bath water.

  80. pentamom February 22, 2012 at 1:54 am #

    It does look like this incident actually *wasn’t* blown out of proportion. The reason an article was written about it was that the teacher involved was the son of the former mayor of Houston, and everything becomes “news” if the newspaper decides that who you are makes the story.

    Still, the mother’s comments were rather silly. “Not a role model.” The worst thing this teacher did was not getting permission in a context where he should have known that permission was necessary. If that kind of technical foul in a totally harmless situation makes a person not a role model, then there simply are no real role models to be had in this world.

  81. Donna February 22, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    Actually, I don’t think we hear a bit about this story without it being the son of a candidate for governor. Everytime the child of a candidate messes up during an election year we hear about and more is made about it than it really is. If the teacher had been John Smith, son of nobody you’ve ever heard of, there would not have been an article.

    And, in this case, nobody overreacted except Lenore. It is clear the focus of this story has always been about taking a kid from school without permission. That’s it. It has never been about pedophilia or fear of this teacher. He was reprimanded for what he did wrong but the punishment fit the “crime.”

  82. Kaylee February 22, 2012 at 2:26 am #

    Thank you for the additional information, Noel. This story doesn’t seem quite so reactionary in light of the mother calling for his dismissal. That’s just silly. OTOH, the teacher used poor judgement. It’s only been a few months since the Sandusky allegations came to light and that nightmare is still in the forefront of the public mind.

    I’m not sure that teachers not being able to do things like this is such a tremendous tragedy anyhow. When I was in school (back in the far-less-paranoid 1970s) my teachers were nice, helpful and supportive. They encouraged my writing and my artwork but they didn’t try to be my “friends” and never took me off campus for anything other than a parent-approved field trip. My friends were other kids, and frankly I’d prefer that my children’s friends be other kids, too. They have more than enough interactions with adults. It’s unsupervised, spontaneous kid-kid time that’s lacking and greatly limited by paranoid parents.

  83. EricS February 22, 2012 at 2:32 am #

    It all boils down to what is “appropriate” and who makes that call? One person’s appropriate behavior may not exactly be another’s. To me, if I had known the teacher and trusted him/her (obviously since they are the ones watching my kid during that time), I would have been ok with this. Especially for the simple fact that I trust my child even more, to know what to do if he was inappropriately dealt with. Back in my days at elementary school, this kind action would have been fine with the parents. For one main reason, because all the parents KNEW their kids’ teachers. That is what Parent-Teacher meetings are for. Not sure if they do those these days. There were teachers at my elementary school that did have “teacher’s pets”. The children who exemplified a good student where treated with extra appreciation. Not to say the other children were treated less, but with certain situations the “brighter” students where made “team leaders”, or were treated to treats. Usually by making it like a reward system. So when the other kids see this, they know that if they excelled as well that they would get the same rewards. And it worked. There were usually more than one student who became “teacher’s pets”. And we were all taken for milkshakes, burgers, fries, pizza. All out of the pocket of our teacher. Most of these places were just down the street from our school. And the procedure would be no different than a field trip. I don’t ever remember, our teachers asking for permission. It was just a given. As long as it was during recess or lunch. There was a level of trust from the parents and the principle.

    Even in high school back in the 80s, we had teachers that were cool and did things with some of their students. All of this, to me, played a huge part in our growth as students. School was hard enough with all the cliques and bullies. It was nice to know there were teachers we could call friends, even mentors. Many of us learned to deal with the negative side of growing up in school because of some teachers, who took that extra care and time for their students. On top of the positive influence from home, this just made me grow up faster, and be smarter in all aspects of life at a very early age. Again, what is the difference now than back then? Other than the fact that crime rate, and crimes against children are much lower now than ever before? Yes, there are incidences of teachers taking advantage of their students, but those are isolated incidences spread across this vast earth. And statistically account for much less than people fear. As I always say, this all has to do about how the parents feel, their fears, and less to do about their children. Remember, teach your children to protect themselves. That is the best way to making sure they are kept safe. It gives them confidence, less fear, heightens their intuition and awareness, and gives the a sense of accomplishment and responsibility. Too many parents deny their children these given right to grow positively, just so they feel better about themselves and their decisions.

  84. Kaylee February 22, 2012 at 2:36 am #

    @Donna: Yeah, “not a role model” is a looooong ways away from an accusation that the teacher is a pedophile or was in the process of “grooming” her son. I still think calling for the teacher’s dismissal is an over-reaction but then so is this article. Even the TAGS for this article are ridiculous: “pedophile,” “pervert,” “child rape” — really??

    I guess a more honest, reasonable tag of “leaving campus without permission” isn’t very exciting.

  85. Puzzled February 22, 2012 at 2:52 am #

    God. Teachers are human beings; teaching requires a human connection. This whole notion that teachers need to be superior is silly to me (I’m a teacher.) Tell me, for instance, how I’m supposed to communicate the virtues of democracy and freedom, from my stance as an authoritarian dictating right and wrong from the front of the classroom?

    On the main topic…jeez. Sometimes you have to wonder how the hell the world got to be this way. “The teacher spent time with my child…evil…he’s totally not a role model.” Apparently, to be a role model means not giving a damn.

  86. Noël H. February 22, 2012 at 2:58 am #

    In Lenore’s defense, the sensationalizing of the story began well before she picked it up. Even with a main character being near-famous, the story has zero traction but for the paranoia about improper relationships between teachers and students. At this YES Prep charter school teachers commonly spend extra time with the students off-campus and after hours – think ‘life coaches’. Spending more time together is actually sort of the whole point, which is why I am baffled as to why the mother is making such a fuss if not for the publicity.

  87. Cathy February 22, 2012 at 3:11 am #

    I wouldn’t be okay with a teacher or anyone I don’t know taking my child anywhere without letting anyone else know where they were. Not okay, ever. The teacher is in the wrong here. I normally agree with Lenore on things, but in this instance I think the mother had every right to not be okay with the situation. Doesn’t sound to me like she was being overly paranoid. IMO there’s a big difference between being free range and giving your kids freedom and realizing not everyone in the world is out to get you….and between not caring at all about the welfare of your child or who they are with. The line there might be thin, but it’s there.

  88. Cathy February 22, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    Let me add I wouldn’t be okay with anyone I DO know taking my child off to who knows where either…either way I’d be upset too. I am sure it is more the media over doing the story so not sure why this website wants to place all the blame on the mother for having very normal feelings about it.

  89. Jenn February 22, 2012 at 4:57 am #

    Cathy- who do you think took the story to the media in the first place? The school? Nope, has to be an official press release from the board office (and why would they want to bring more attention to the situation). The mayor’s son? Nope-he’s probably fed up with the whole situation and wishes it never happened. The kid? Possibly… Or the mom? Bingo! Parents can go cry what they want to the media and think it will help their situation. I feel really sorry for their kids to have parents who can’t solve a problem without calling in the media to solve it for them.

  90. Kaylee February 22, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    I get that the mother went to the media, as people tend to do when they feel they’ve been wronged (see: the post from the previous day about the boy expelled for bringing a knife to school. Should we all pity him for the media attention, too?)

    But that doesn’t make it okay to twist this story into something that it isn’t. The mother never said one word about the teacher being a pedophile or “grooming” or any of that nonsense. She said that she didn’t appreciate him being taken off school grounds without her knowledge or permission and she’s certainly not the only person who would have a problem with that.

  91. Buffy February 22, 2012 at 8:03 am #

    I think it’s really sad that, because of Jerry Sandusky, “good parents” must now be suspicious of every adult in our children’s lives. I would have had a VERY hard time sending my kids to school every day if I believed that none of the adults there were trustworthy and if I didn’t have faith in their decision-making.

    Also, I read a lot about how teachers/coaches etc can’t ever be alone with a child; that there are specific rules designed to ensure that this never happens. My question is – how do private music lessons happen? My daughter took oboe and piano lessons with private teachers, all alone in their studios. It’s been several years since she aged out of lessons so I’m curious as to how it is done now.

  92. Jenn February 22, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Kaylee- I don’t think going to the media is ever the right way to solve a problem for your children. A parent in my community went to the media because her son was being bullied and he wanted to commit suicide. It was not only picked up locally but nationally so the media was at the school, his home, at the park. The child could not escape the media, nor the backlash from the community. His entire world knew that at his weakest moment, he wanted to die which made it extremely difficult for him to get the support he really needed. It made his situation a lot worse, rather than better. Everything in his life became scrutinized from the poverty, the domestic abuse and mental illness of his brother. He did not ask for this, he was crying to his mother for help and the media took the story without thinking about how it would impact the kid. That being said, the media only had half the story (his younger brother actually started the incidents by calling the bully the N-word several times which escalated into the parents both being arrested for assault). We need to stop listening to the media and accepting what is presented to us as fact. Our children are learning this at school, maybe we should join them so we can learn how to distinguish between fact and fiction.

  93. Christy Rachelle Ford February 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Oh come on! My 6th grade Sunday School teacher was a “big sister” to my twin and myself. Horseback riding, sleepovers, swimming, we had a ball! And in high school, a couple of my teachers took me to lunch on two separate occasions. Once for my birthday (I think) and the other was a farewell dinner. My parents approved 100%.

  94. Donna February 22, 2012 at 6:04 pm #

    I would guess that someone else caught on to this story and brought it to the media. This is obviously a school that services a poor, inner city student body. Not exactly the type of people who can independently generate a media storm.

    And we don’t know whether the mother is trying to solve a problem or is simply basking in her 5 minutes of fame. She could really be concerned or just saying what gets her attention. Parents in the neighborhoods served by Teach for America run the gambit from trying their best in a difficult environment to crack addicts somehow staying one step ahead of CPS. Both groups will turn it on for the press – one out of genuine concern and one for attention.

  95. Brian February 22, 2012 at 9:40 pm #

    The term emotional incest is fantastic. The problem is not only kids only associating with kids. It is adults only reading blogs or media that agrees with them. It’s kids only getting to spend time with kids that are the same age. Our whole society divides itself into these little groups instead of living as a community where there are things we like, things we don’t and all sorts of fascinating differences that make life more interesting.

  96. samp February 22, 2012 at 11:39 pm #

    It is well known that students tend to do better in class where they feel that the teacher likes them. Teachers should not be robots (I am a teacher) and should be friendly and try to make a connection with kids as long as they can do it without crossing certain lines or losing control of the class. For me (high school teacher) I do allow students to ‘friend’ me on facebook. I never request them; they must request me. I do sometime interact with them on facebook with comments, and I have to admit I learn a lot about them!. However, my facebook page is G-rated, except for the photo where I’m holding a bottle of beer (private overseas school–teachers and parents drink beer and wine at school events). And I’m facebook friends with several parents and teachers who can easily view my page. I do not interact with students outside of school meaning that I do not activities outside of school hours with them–this is just a personal preference; I like my space away from students. But if another teacher took a group of students out to eat that I would not necessarily consider it inappropriate.

  97. Krista February 23, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    I would trust my instincts on this one. If I trusted the teacher, no big deal, just get permission next time. If in my gut I didn’t feel right about the teacher it would be a much bigger deal to me.

  98. Peter February 23, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Why does anyone allow their kids to be taught by a teacher that their gut told them wasn’t right? Forget about getting lunch off school grounds. If these people can’t be trusted, then why do we force our kids into their influence? Does that teacher need a note from a parent to have a one on one tutoring session in an otherwise empty class on school grounds? Are the risks different?

    I think there is some sort of cognitive dissonance going on here.

  99. Donna February 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    @ Peter –

    How exactly do you 100% control having your child being taught by someone your guts tells you isn’t right? I suppose you could homeschool but that is not feasible and/or desirable for the vast majority of people in the world (otherwise they’d be homeschooling now as this is not some super-secret method of schooling). If you choose to make use of other schooling options, you just don’t have that much control over the schools hiring and firing practices.

    Nor should you, because you truly only want, YOUR gut feelings to matter. You would be very unhappy if your child’s favorite teacher, a wonderful teacher by any criteria, got fired because the overactive gut of some helicopter parent says that something is off with this teacher because she gave a hug to a student who needed one. Who’s guts are going to be running the show? The loudest, most hysterical guts of course.

    “Guts” are not evidence of wrong-doing. Nor are “guts” consistent. And allegations about “guts” can be easily faked. Don’t like the teacher because she gave your kid a C? Insist that your “gut” tells you something is off. Some parents are willing to hold their children back in school, get them diagnosed with learning disabilities that don’t exist, do their homework for them, hire consultants to do their homework for them and manipulate the system to their child’s advantage any way they can. Other parents get hysterical over little things. I’m currently annoyed at my kid’s teacher because I picked my kid up at school at the end of the day and she had a 102.5 fever. That didn’t happen the second before I picked my kid up and my kid is telling me that she told the teacher she didn’t feel well. I will calmly talk to the, otherwise good teacher, tomorrow about the situation. Other parents would be screaming for the teacher’s head. Getting a teacher fired or students moved between classes because your “gut” says so should not be easy.

  100. Peter February 23, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    I think getting your child moved to another class based on your gut, isn’t the same problem as trying to fire a teacher based on your gut.

    And one on one tutoring in an empty classroom seems just as risky as what this teacher did. And yet the rules don’t require a note from home. If that was what happened here, and mom tried to get the teacher fired for it, which side of the debate would any of you fall?

  101. Beth February 24, 2012 at 5:25 am #

    Why on earth is one-on-one tutoring risky? And please don’t say “because anything can happen”.

  102. Peter February 24, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    I think it has the sames risks (not much) as taking a kid to get a burger. Either you trust the teacher or you don’t.

    Why on earth is “I bought a student in my class a hamburger for lunch that we ate back at the school with others.” a reason for regret?

  103. Donna February 24, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    “I think getting your child moved to another class based on your gut, isn’t the same problem as trying to fire a teacher based on your gut.”

    I agree that it’s a lesser result but the same problems exist. Teacher gave your child a B? Say your gut tells you that the teacher is off to get your kid moved. Your kid not the class favorite? Say your gut tells you that the teacher is off to get your kid moved. Teacher not doing what you want? Say your gut tells you that the teacher is off to get your kid moved.

    The school doesn’t have time to move kids from class to class at the mere request of every parent – which is all saying “my gut tells me something is off” with no further evidence is. The teachers in my child’s school don’t all teach the same thing at the same time. Overall the same material is learned by each class each year but the order and means varies by teacher. The teachers shouldn’t have to deal with the challenges of integrating a new student every time some parent requests that their child be moved to a different class. Further, the move of one kid many necessitate the move of another. Classrooms are very delicately balanced. By law, they must contain a certain racial, age and sex mixture as dictated by the local population.

    And while moving classes may be feasible in K-5 (if there is more than one class of each grade which there may not be in small school), it may not be a possibility 6-12. Now you are talking about rearranging entire schedules. To accommodate your one “gut,” you may have to move 6 or 7 different classes. And what if that is the only teacher who teaches a required course? Do you now get to claim exemption from entire graduation requirement at your mere request? That’s not going to get abused at all. Every parent won’t suddenly have gut feelings about their kid’s trig (or whatever class that kid sucks at) teacher.

    Sorry, but if you want to have so much control over your child’s schooling such that any request for class moves without substantiating a reason are expected to be honored, you clearly need to homeschool.

  104. Donna February 24, 2012 at 7:55 am #

    “And one on one tutoring in an empty classroom seems just as risky as what this teacher did. And yet the rules don’t require a note from home.”

    Huh? Any one-on-one tutoring involving my child in an empty classroom with a teacher would need to be done before or after school. There is no time in my daughter’s or her teacher’s regular school day for the private tutoring of one student.

    My knowledge and permission (even if only by acquiescence) is definitely required for tutoring outside of normal school hours. How else am I to know to have her there? If my gut tells me “no,” I would simply tell the teacher “no” and arrange a private tutor. I’ve never heard of a single instance where a student was tutored after hours against the student and parent’s wishes and such a situation (the insistence that the student attend against the parent’s wishes, not one-on-one tutoring per se) would raise a HUGE red flag to me.

  105. Donna February 24, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    “Why on earth is “I bought a student in my class a hamburger for lunch that we ate back at the school with others.” a reason for regret?”

    Because the child left the school against school rules. The school is a closed campus, meaning students cannot leave at anytime during the day. The teacher can leave for burgers, but the student broke the rules by leaving. He only broke the rules because he was encouraged to by a teacher. Most parents are not going to be thrilled with this aspect of the situation. I’m not saying that the school should fire him or take a serious action (and they didn’t), but I’d appreciate it as a parent if the teachers don’t make my parenting job harder by showing my kid that it’s okay to break the rules and leave campus for a burger when the mood strikes.

    Why don’t schools allow kids to go for burgers for lunch? That I don’t know, but most don’t and that’s the world we live in. Until the rules are changed, there are penalties for not following them. You can decide that something is worth the consequences but you don’t get to break the rules without consequence just because you think the rule is stupid.

  106. Stacy February 24, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    What’s strange is the concept that the kids wouldn’t be allowed to go fo a burger at lunch. I generally brown-bagged it, but in my school penty of kids went to the pizza place across the street.

    Peter: whenever your gut tells you something, remember Colbert and “truthiness”.

  107. Nissa February 25, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    I agree with your free range parenting premise. and I also agree that people should not freak out and be paranoid of perversion (that helps no one). But, I also worry when people that have no experience with sexual abuse and are uneducated on the issue seem to be creating an environment that is hostile towards people who were sexually abused and people who do work in the field trying to find solutions to the problem because it is a big problem. So, all I ask is that when you discuss these issues to please keep in mind that sexual abuse does happen, the people you see in the news that were raped as children are actually real human beings that exist. And a lot of your readers were also sexually abused as children, and no one protected them, or looked out for them, they were too small and too young to stop the offender. Your whole premise is that you want children to have a childhood and I can tell you the most effective way of killing a childhood is for them to be subjected to sex abuse. So, if people take training in awareness and prevention of sexual abuse maybe they will be less scared. They will be properly educated, and not feel so vulnerable and uncertain. And when you talk about the sex abuse issues, remember that it is real human beings that experience it, and they are listening and reading. You say that we should just teach our kids to defend themselves and fight back. I agree, but remember some children will not be able to do that and should not feel it is their fault because a 6 year old child is no match for an adult (emotionally, intellectually, developmentally, or physically). I tried to fight back when I was a child and it just made the assaults be more violent. The cases you talk about of parents freaking out are also rare news stories. Which one happens more: children being sexually assaulted or crazy people freaking out about? Just don’t forget to apply logic to your own conclusions. Why are some parents concerned about sexual abuse? Because it happened to them. So, don’t forget compassion about people’s experiences beyond your own. One thing is that the majority of kids that are abused will be abused in their own home by a parent/step-parent/relative/family friend. So, if parents can be aware and not overlook other kinds of abuse that is a good step towards keeping kids safe. And we should have open lines of communication with our children, so they are comfortable talking about embarrassing subjects and seeking help either from us or from a teacher. I’m not in disagreement with you. I just want you and others to know it is real human beings that experience sex abuse and it is devastating, and we were forced to keep it secret. So, don’t worry about people speaking openly and honestly about sex abuse. That helps solve the problem.

  108. Krista February 26, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    Nissa, I could give you a massive hug right now.

  109. Nissa February 26, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    Thanks, Krista!

  110. oncefallendotcom February 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm #

    Ironically it is the “sexual abuse awareness” people that has made the environment “hostile” to abuse victims. Many of these groups teach perpetual hate and anger, to never overcome it but relive the abuse and get angrier about it. If you choose to forgive the offender and move on with your life, you are wrong in their eyes. They want you feeding off hatred till the day you die.

    There are not many victim advocates out there with a level head.

  111. Nissa February 27, 2012 at 1:45 am #

    I don’t feel that way. I have not encountered that. I’m sorry you have. That’s awful. I encounter the exact opposite, everyone is always talking about forgiveness and compassion. Very surprised to read that.

  112. Nissa February 27, 2012 at 1:53 am #

    Oh, I just clicked on your site, Once Fallen…hence the bias you display.

  113. Nissa February 27, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    I’m just going to say right now that after reading your response (once fallen) and seeing your site, I will not get into a fight with you. That’s not what I’m here for. Not here and not anywhere. I don’t fight with strangers and trolls on the internet.

  114. My First Skool February 28, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    Actually, I understand how the picture comes into the frame. Some teachers do get too close to the child, making the parents uncomfortable while there are cases of which those teachers do have pedo-symptoms. No harm protecting the child.

  115. Beth February 29, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    @My First Skool, if it is truly the case that a teacher has “pedo-symptoms”, whatever they are, protecting the child would mean taking him/her out of the class or out of the school…right? Eating lunch together would pale in comparison to your child being in class with this allegedly pedo teacher every day. Right?

  116. Footloose and fancy free, but well Educated Parent February 29, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    @Beth are you talking about what to do if a teacher has been confirmed to be a pedophile? Hopefully, in that case the teacher would be removed from the school, not the students. Logic fail… Suggesting extremism to others is not going to help anyone.

  117. AnotherAnon March 1, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    I’m a thirtysomething woman, and I volunteer at a small Orthodox Jewish girl’s high school. During the height of Chanukah shopping season, I was at the mall and saw three of “my girls” shopping. I asked them if they needed a ride home, and they very gratefully accepted, saying that otherwise they’d have to drag their boarding parents out of the house at a late hour in cold weather to pick them up. They had me in stitches the whole way home and it was a positive experience for all concerned. Friends of mine who teach and volunteer at larger, secular-based schools have said that they’d be in serious trouble for doing the same thing.

  118. Beth March 1, 2012 at 4:42 am #

    Footloose, did you read My First Skool’s post? That’s what I was replying to, and I wasn’t being extreme.That post spoke of “pedo-symptoms” and “no harm protecting the child”. I was trying to make the point that if one is a parent watching out for “pedo symptoms” there is more to protecting the child than saying “no, my kid can’t go to get a burger with you.” I’m not the one that made any of this up and I don’t know what pedo-symptoms are.

  119. Footloose and fancy free, but well Educated Parent March 1, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    I just think that rationality gets thrown out the window when someone says, “There’s no harm in looking out for kids because sometimes people are pedophiles” gets met with suggesting they remove their children from school. Where is the productivity and logic in that conversation?

    Anyhow, as a side note, I do think that people who were sexually abused as children are less fearful of pedophilia because we actually have experienced the manipulation as children, so we have more of an idea of what to look out for. We know it when we see it and we don’t just see it everywhere. We can also recognize genuine kindness when we see it.

    If you want to know what pedo-symptoms are click on some of the web sites of the people on this comment thread, and you will find a web site for a book by a confessed, convicted, jail time served, now on the sex offender registry. Click on the book and read the chapter summaries. He is the one making derogatory comments about sex abuse survivors.

    There is a middle ground between being overly fearful and completely ignorant to the actual reality of sex abuse. Neither extreme is a good place to be.

  120. Beth March 1, 2012 at 9:04 am #

    Obviously I am completely unable to express myself. I’m done.

  121. Footloose and fancy free, but well Educated Parent March 1, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    I’m sorry. Maybe I had trouble understanding you. It was not my intention to upset you. I truly do apologize. Best wishes to you.

  122. Footloose and fancy free, but well Educated Parent March 1, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Please don’t let my dialogue chase you away (if you want to chat here). I’d be happy to leave the conversation. There are other forums I can gladly go to.