Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The Arizona immigration situation has been particularly stressful for some.  It is an understatement to say that tempers are running high.  Those who live on the front lines, in our border states, are especially on edge.  People are dying down there, and when the state of Arizona decided to take matters into their own hands because the federal government refused to enforce their own laws, tempers have flared on both sides. 

I personally support SB1070, and I think that Gov. Jan Brewer is doing a heckofa job holding the administration's feet to the fire.  The fact that the Arizona law holds law enforcement to a higher standard of reasonable cause than the federal law makes a mockery of the hysterical responses from the left.  But, then, they wouldn't know that it is a stricter law than the federal one, because they refuse to read it and educate themselves on the reality of the situation. 

The heated rhetoric of the controversy isn't restricted to just our political leaders and activists.  It has been trickling down into our school systems, as well.  The story of the high school kids who were suspended for wearing American flag t-shirts on Cinco de Mayo was a complete overreaction (it also impinged on the kids' first amendment rights), brought on by the passionate feelings some people in our education system have over the law.  The lines have been blurred between personal opinion and public responsibilities.  For some, political rhetoric is coloring every aspect of their lives and they find it impossible to maintain a professional, unbiased persona.

Unfortuantely, there have been objectionable reactions to this situation on both sides of the aisle.  We now have another overreaction, but this time on the right.  A twelve-year-old girl wore a t-shirt to her school in Big Bear, California a couple of weeks ago to support her favorite World Cup team.  She was excited to wear it, because her team was playing that day and she was going to be watching  the game in her performing arts class. 

One of her teachers, however, took offense to the shirt, and went overboard.  Coral Avilez was watching the game in class when her teacher saw the shirt and confronted her:

...her teacher saw her shirt emblazoned with the Mexican colors and, in front of the entire class, asked if she supported Mexico, according to Leroy Martinez, the vice president of the local League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

According to Martinez, Coral thought she was being asked a soccer question, and answered yes.

“Then what are you doing in my country?” the teacher asked, according to Martinez.

Stunned, the American-born student asked, “Why?”

“Because people like you make me pay higher taxes and make my insurance rate go up,” the teacher replied, according to Martinez.

Confused and hurt, Coral then ran out of the class crying.

I am getting so tired of our teachers politicizing the classroom.  It doesn't matter what side of the aisle you are on, leave the kids out of it.  Period.

But wait, there's more:

When Coral’s mother showed up to take the girl home, he said, she was told she would have to wait. Coral was being questioned about the incident by a group of school officials, including the teacher who allegedly made the remarks, and had to sign a paper before her mother could take her home.

It's hard to believe the school was "questioning" a twelve-year-old and not allowing her parents to be involved in the process.  It would also be interesting to know what paper she had to sign before she was allowed to go home.  Perhaps something to protect them from a lawsuit?  It's hard to believe that a paper signed by a twelve year old under duress will hold much weight in court.

When Coral returned to school the next Monday, she asked for permission to not go back to that class.  She was given two choices - either sit in the principal's office and read a book or pick up trash with the janitor.  She chose to pick up trash because she felt uncomfortable in the principal's office.  Can you blame her? 

The school board has launched an investigation:

Now the girl and her mother, supported by local civil rights groups, are asking that the teacher’s conduct be investigated for possible disciplinary action. The teacher later apologized to the class, according to local newspapers.

“The school has agreed, and we will meet with the superintendent this week to make sure that the investigation doesn’t drag on,” Martinez said. He said that there had been similar incidents in the area but this was the first time someone had come forward to complain. He said kids were usually intimidated by the teachers and afraid of repercussions if they asked for help.

This level of fear and intimidation in the classroom simply must stop.  It is bad enough that our children have to deal with bullies in their own peer group - they shouldn't have to deal with it from their teachers. 

This teacher was clearly in the wrong, and should be disciplined.  This is a California school, though, so who knows what will happen.  They have a notoriously difficult time keeping rogue teachers in check, and firing teachers in the state is almost impossible.  Although, considering his or her right-leaning ideology, the possiblity of a firing might just happen this one time...  But should the teacher be fired?  At best, they should be taken out of the classroom and put into a support position, perhaps in the front office.  It's pretty obvious he/she is having difficulty interacting with children in a responsible way - a main requirement to be a teacher.

The problem isn't with a teacher having political opinions - this is a free country, after all.  The problem is when these teachers bring their politics into the classroom and foist them on their students.  This happened to my own child this year, and it was most definitely not appreciated.  Children are not political pawns, and most of them, with a very few exceptions, never consider the potential political implications of their actions.  Namely because they're kids

This little girl is of Mexican descent (she is a natural-born US citizen), and was excited to support her favorite sports team.  Back in the late Seventies and early Eighties, I was in middle school.  During that time, the Irish Republican Army was wreaking havok with their war on the English government.  As a child of Irish descent, if I had worn a t-shirt with the Irish flag on it to support their team during the World Cup, would I have suffered the same treatment?  Most likely not, because back then, politics and the classroom (especially at the elementary and middle school level) were mutually exclusive. 

It's time to get back to that mindset.  Children are not  political pawns, no matter what side of the aisle you find yourself on.  Once they are 18 and can participate in the political process, all bets are off.  Until then, leave the kids alone.  And if they want to wear a t-shirt that represents this country or another, so what? 

Have we really become so petty and rigid in our ideologies that our children have to consider the political implications of a t-shirt?

Enough already.



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