Tuesday, September 21, 2010

School Security: Keeping Our Kids Safe from Terrorists, Chupacabras, and Parents

You may remember from an earlier post that our elementary school is not very fond of me walking my son into school in the morning.  The thing is, Little Dude has a really hard time with transitioning from home to school in the morning.  Having me there for even a very short period of time helps to normalize things for him.

Last week when I tried to walk my son into the cafeteria (where his class meets in the morning), I asked an aide, "May I walk him in? I need to speak with his teacher."  The aide said, "no, you can't come in." And the door was summarily slammed in my face.  Slammed. in. my. face. y'all.

So now?  I am going to mess with certain people at this school for sport.

This morning I walked directly into the front office, produced my ID, and said, "I need a pass so I can walk Little Dude into the cafeteria."

The secretary said, "Um, do you just want to talk to his teacher?  I can get her."

"No, I need to talk with his teacher, but I'm going to walk him into the cafeteria."

She took my ID and ever-so-slowly produced a pass for me.  Seriously.  I have seen her produce a sticker in under 15 seconds in the past.  This time, you would think she had to cut down the trees, mash the pulp, and make the sticky paper herself.  A pass consists of a sticker with my driver's license photo printed on it.  There is a special machine that makes it.  I'm pretty sure the scanner actually checks my driver's license against a national database of sex offenders.  So yay.  I'm all about keeping sex offenders out of the school.  However, once the system shows that a person is the legal guardian and not a sex offender, I don't really get the point of keeping parents out.

Look, I get it.  The school needs to be a safe environment, and they need to keep out terrorists and chupacabras and whatnot.   I get it that they're a little tech-happy with the security codes and the driver's license scanner and the fingerprint scanner the students now use in order to check books out of the library.  I also get that the aide and the secretary did not create the policy.  In all fairness and in all likelihood, neither did the principal, for that matter.  I feel kind of bad that the secretary was probably moving slowly because she was afraid that she might get into trouble for letting me in.  However, I don't feel badly enough about it that it's going to stop me from escorting my special needs child to the cafeteria in the morning.

Once I had procured my sticker (and been buzzed into the cafeteria), I made myself at home.  I sat down and had a nice chat with Little Dude's teacher.  We discussed his progress in potty-training and By the way, his teacher is amazing.  I'm starting to love her the way I loved our old pediatrician, Dr. McAwesome.  I want to sit in her lap and have her read me a story about how I can be anything I want to be when I grow up.

Before anyone decides to defend the school's position on keeping me out, let me review some important points:

  • All this cafeteria business takes place before school hours.  Once the school bell rings, the special needs class walks to their classroom with their teacher and aides.  The only thing I'm interrupting is, well, nothing.  There are some kids eating cereal, and there's Little Dude's class.  That's it.
  • Little Dude was absent last week for four days with a sinus infection, so we had to basically start over again with the separation anxiety problem.  By the way, separation anxiety would be better termed "panicked freak-out while child is forcibly peeled from your body from you like industrial-strength Velcro."  (Oooh, another suggestion for the Big Book o' Crazy.  I should totally help those guys write that DSM-V.)
  • I love security as much as the next mommy.  I want to know that my kids are safe, too.  I have no problem with someone politely asking me to get a security pass before I step into the cafeteria.  I do have a problem a door being slammed in my face as an aide hustles my child away from me.  It sends the wrong message to my child and it makes me all kinds of paranoid.
  • Our IEP specifically states that I can be in the school.  Texas education law requires that the school provide in-home training to parents of children with autism.  I asked for in-school "observation" in lieu of the in-home training.
  • I'm his mommy.
I have had it with the weirdly unwelcoming stance toward parents this school has taken.  I am going to be cheerily up their butts all the time.  


  1. More than likely they had some issues with parents in the past. Like, over staying their welcome and interrupting things. However, I completely agree with you and LOVE that you are willing to stay up their butts.

    And that picture of Shirley Temple with your quote on it made me laugh so hard I cried.

    Your blog is all kinds of fabulous!

  2. Wow, what I find really hard to believe is that Little Dude is at the preschool level. It's not like he's in fifth grade! Just, wow!

  3. Makes you wonder if those crazy, "They're brainwashing and indoctrinating our kids" people aren't onto something doesn't it?

  4. I understand that fingerprinting means it's easier to trace the books when they are lost, and people stealing cards and issuing books.....
    but in schools? fingerprint scanners?? seriously? you couldn't *drag* me kicking and screaming to that school. I don't care how good their curriculum is.
    It's a scary world out there....but that's too close to microchips under our skin shit.
    your column as usual rocks tho, thanks! :OD

  5. Common sense isn't so common. Stand your ground.

  6. You go girl! We're rooting for you.

  7. Yeah, my son's old school (special needs school with preK) was like that. They wanted ADVANCE NOTICE if I was coming. HELLO! Of course I'll be there! I'M BRINGING HIM TO SCHOOL!
    Now his new school is all, "Sure! C'mon anytime and visit!" In fact, they encourage visitors.

    See, I have a big problem with schools that do not allow parents in AT ALL. It is very suspicious to me. It tells me they have had problems in the past with whacko parents seeing something and misconstruing it or they got sued.

  8. Yeah,it's not just your school. It's a freakin' epidemic. My brother pulled his kids b/c of the same type of issues. It's just wrong and there is NO common sense when zero tolerance policies are in place. BTW, "I'm his Mommy" should be the only reason. I know there are people out there that think the state is the highest authority, but they can kiss my @ss. I AM THE MOMMA!

  9. The welcoming of parents into the school is led by the principal. The principal at our old school did not welcome people in. At our new school we are welcomed with open arms. So much better!

  10. I think their policy is a little harsh if they have a problem with you 'walking' your kid to school, Especially when you have a special needs kid. My son's school down here have several programs that encorperate the parents into everything. If we wish to bring and pick up our kid from school every day then we go to the office and they give us a tag for are vechicl and one for our child so that they make sure they go to theright parent in the drivethur line.

    yes, I know it's sounds like I am visiting a fast food joint but there are actually a lot that opt for this option.

    But the teacher has a sign up sheet for the parents in their classroom so they can volunteer. Everything from cutting out and helping prep projects for the class to a 'surprise reader' each week. Also the school asks for help with funrasing or any special events they have for the kids. Even every now and then getting to sit and eat lunch with them so the teacher can have a little break.

    And if we wish, they allow us to sit in with our child through class is we feel unsure of things, ect.

    They still check ID's and have people out in the hall incase someone comes in from another entrance, ect. But they believe that the learning process begins at home and they realize that the parents are the ones to carry on the training after they leave school. The communication is pretty good and it's easier for the child when the parents and teachers are on the same page.

  11. oh please stay up their butt!! Seriously.

    I feel like finding that aide and slamming a door in HER face!! I mean seriously does she LIKE having to deal with an unhappy child vs one who separates from his mom easier with a little sit down procedure. Is she trained for special needs?!?! Umm hello!

    Stay up their ass - and tell the principal what happened if you haven't.

    I'm with the Domestic Goddess - not letting parents drop in to at least observe the class is suspicious. Very. Makes me wonder why they don't want parents there. Odd. Very odd.


  12. hahaha! I would ask the principal "is it necessary to call an IEP meeting to have the accommodation of me walking my son into school before the bell rings added?" Because you as a parent can call one. And he as the principal would have to release all the teachers involved, and pay for their subs, and reprint all the paperwork to enable you to walk YOUR CHILD into the cafeteria.

  13. I think it is very odd that you were shut out from your son at school! I understand staying safe, but COME ONE! You are his mommy!! You stay up their butts mama!! Love your blog!!

  14. On, not One....sorry have not had my coffee yet!

  15. I am sorry that you have to go through that to walk your own child to his classroom. I would of put my hand up before she slammed the door on my face. UGH. But I know my daughters school which she is in 1st grade the office ladies know me by face and I never once have to show my ID for them to scan because they know me and I would think they would know you also since you make such a presence with your son and standing up for him to make sure he is ok in school. I think you are doing an amazing job for standing up for what you believe is the best care for your children :) Good luck and I hope it gets better

  16. Here in Oregon, parents are welcome hell they're HARASSED to come help in preschool classrooms. (Unless it's a Montessouri School, but that's a whole different thing) In my opinion, if they don't want you there they have SOMETHING to hide. Parents should be able to observe in the classroom. Now if it's a disturbance that's different but there is no disturbance in this case so next time an "aide" slams a door in your face, open it back up and stand your ground. (Or at least, that's what I would do)

  17. I wonder what would happen if you ignored them completely every day? I mean, what are they going to do? Call the cops?

  18. @Marla Sue -- The cafeteria door is self-locking, and requires entering a code into the lock to open it.

    @Submommy -- Wouldn't that make an *excellent* headline? "Mom of Special Needs Child Arrested for Accompanying Child into School"

  19. Oh hell... she.did.not.do.that. Crap like that pretty much invites you to crawl up their butts and hang out for the whole school year.

    My girls' old elementary school USED to have a great parent policy.... we always felt welcome and wanted. Then we got the Principal from hell. She made us feel SO unwelcome... it was horrid. We were walking my middle daughter into school for her first day of kindergarten (the only day you are allowed to do that, btw) and my oldest, who was in 4th grade at the time, was walking with us. Well, she was walking a bit behind my hubby and our daughter, while I was bringing up the rear with our preschooler.... so the Principal didn't realize that the kid was with us.... She quite nastily and rudely said to my daughter, "WHERE do YOU think YOU are going Missy?!?!?! YOU don't belong down here!" I popped up and rudely said, "SHE is with ME. DO NOT TALK TO MY DAUGHTER THAT WAY!!!!" Holy Moses.... Nice way to talk to kids lady. Can you imagine how she talked to the kids when there weren't 50 parents around????

    You go Momma!!!!! Take no prisoners!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Kill them with kindness has always been my battle cry when someone is obnoxiously rude to me. Especially where my children are concerned (that is if I can keep the momma bear at bay and not rip their throats out)!!

  21. My youngest is in preschool right now too (Aspergers/Sensory) and when he started last winter, they wanted to PULL HIM OFF me screaming, and flat out said NO. Period.

    I walked him INTO the classroom and stayed for 30 MINUTES every single day until he was comfortable, and mature enough to let me leave him outside of the room, then outside of the school. This took months.

    On the third day of this process(yes, third), my son's teacher called to see if I was going to continue it. I assured her this wasn't my first rodeo, and that I was going to do what I felt comfortable with. Point blank: Pulling my kid off of me yelling is not how I roll.

    So, the next morning I was greeted by the school psychologist and the principal. Lovely.

    After I assured them that they were great people, I continued on about my business doing what I felt was best. They never came back.

    And, after summer, my darling little boy is HAPPILY going to school w/o any transition issues. Why? Because I took the extra time to MAKE SURE he was comfortable instead of leaving him traumatized.

    Don't let them shut you out!

    (Deep breath, exhale).

    Go get 'em!

  22. As a former teacher, I just have to say...
    Please insist on walking your kid to class. That's your right as a parent. HOWEVER, please do not talk to the teacher before school. Set up a time for a conference. Here are some things a teacher has to do in the morning: follow up with students from the previous day about homework, asssignments, etc., offer assistance to students who didn't grasp yesterday's lessons, set up for the day (science experiments, etc)... the list goes on and on. If all that's done, it's a great time for her to bond with the students that are there early. So, even though she's super nice and talks to you, if you want to have her continuing to like you all year, don't monopolize her time before school. Imagine if every parent tried to conference before school! So do whatever it takes to help your little man transition well, but don't put extra burden on the teacher while doing it. Just my two cents.

  23. Good for you!

    You should make a laminated card that says "According to my son's IEP I am allowed to observe at any time. You will let me pass, no questions asked."

  24. You Go Girl! I'll even lend you the crowbar needed to gain access to those puckered a$$holes!
    I agree completely with liltoastfairy and Brittany!
    As the HIGHEST AUTHORITY in my child's life, I as Mama, WILL go into any classroom my child is in. I will, of course, submit to pass clearance, but I will not give any further advance notice! I don't trust anyone so far with my child's welfare to suggest that I would allow them to be captive for the majority of the day without making a few 'surprise visits' just to make sure everything is ok!
    I wouldn't tolerate rudeness from any school employee, including a principal. Go to the school district office or get into the faces of your elected school board officials-they are there to serve you, not the other way around!

  25. I can totally understand your frustration! My daughter doesn't have special needs, but she is having terrible (HORRIBLE, like crying so hard she vomits) separation anxiety at Pre-K. She's never been to daycare or preschool and she just needs to be handled with kid gloves. I am so so so freaking thankful for everything that I am allowed to do with her in her class - including stay with her all day if needed - and her teacher is da bomb diggety. I think I would go Ape Poop if it was a different case. I can't imagine if my kid had special needs PLUS anxiety issues - good gosh. You fight for your daily walk, mama! Good on ya!

  26. @Anonymous (former teacher)-- Good point. And normally, I wouldn't dream of pouncing on a teacher first thing in the morning. However, in this case she isn't reviewing lesson plans or anything. She's kind of just hanging out with the kids in the cafeteria until it's time to go to the classroom. I'm not getting into mega-detail with her, either -- just touching base on potty-training etc.

  27. @Hartley -- "this isn't my first rodeo" is my new favorite expression.

  28. Can we talk about PTA's.......My oldest just started K. This is a secret cult that should be on the national terrorist watch list.........

  29. Uh...I've got an additional piece of news to report...I'm hesitant to say "insight."

    I taught in my school district for 23 years. Received some teaching awards, had a high profile as an advocate for public education, ran a couple of extracurricular activities, was active in union issues...you get the idea.

    This year, in my first year in retirement, I've volunteered to lead a couple of field trips that are part of the curriculum I created, to help my replacements, and the administration requires that I be interviewed and fingerprinted.

    It is the LAWYERS who are running the school systems, folks, and they're charging the taxpayers $300 an hour to do it!

  30. I would kill an aide that slammed the door in my face.

    And also I would like to add that it is not the lawyers who are doing this... it's the crazy parents who keep suing people.

  31. Yes, but it's unscrupulous lawyers (is that a redundancy?) that take cases like that and encourage more litigation.

  32. Best reason EVER....you are the mommy. Period.

  33. I am totally watching Scooby-doo Adventure in Mexico with my daughter right now, and the monster is a chupacabra! Id never even heard of them until today reading your post!

  34. I'm a mom/teacher and I love your blog. Sounds like you have observed that walking him in helps him and if the teacher agrees, that's great.

    However, as for the general rule against parents walking in whenever, I have to side with the school. Every parent wants to think that them being there is a help to their child. However, SO MANY parents will absolutely disrupt the environment, monopolize the teacher's time, and/or prolong an anxiety-provoking separation with a child who would calm down IF YOU WOULD JUST LEAVE ALREADY! The policy is in place not because they are lumping parents in with sex offenders, but because about 30% of parents don't observe appropriate boundaries with the teachers or with their children. I've had parents inadvertently destroy children's work, utter obscenities and racial/homophobic slurs in front of my students, and one father pushed me in an effort to throttle a little kid (age 4) who he thought has pinched his daughter during the carpool line.

    It's also an effort to help the kids with independence. Some parents think nothing of carrying a child's backpack for them, helping them on and off with coats, and tying shoes for children who are more than capable to handle all that and who enjoy the feeling of independence from managing those things for themselves. So stopping parents at the door gives two important messages to the child: 1) your parents trust this place and know you are going to have a good experience here; and 2) you are capable of walking independently into school and getting ready for class.

    And, as someone else said, it's really inconsiderate to assume that a teacher is doing "nothing" during her prep time or while she is supervising children. Parents should call ahead and make an appointment. Every parent thinks that it is okay to pop in and tell the teacher "one little thing". Little do they realize that the teacher is being bombarded with "one little thing" from every single kid's parents and expected to remember it all when it is thrown at her unexpectedly while she's trying to prepare to wrangle 20 kids for the next 6 hours and send them home having learned somthing. Not to mention, if something occurs while she is being distracted by a pop-in parent, she is in major trouble.

    Now, I don't know how your school is set up, and as I said, it sounds like you have worked it out in a way that works for you, your kid, and your teacher. I'm just speaking to the issue of walking into the classroom unannounced. It doesn't necessarily mean that the school environment is unsafe or that they are hiding something. It really is being done for the kids' benefit and to protect the teachers' precious prep time.

  35. I didn't know that was Texas law about training for parents of autistic kids. Thanks for sharing that. And I work at an RTC with autistic kids. sheesh.

    Mine scares me, no id asked for. I just sign in and walk to get her from her classroom. Granted the teacher knows me and our family personally but the office people don't. Just letting me wander the halls. Thanks.

  36. I had a similar issue yesterday and now I am A PARANOID FREAK! Wait...I kinda have good reason though. My child was spanked by THE TEACHER last year. Also there is another autistic boy in my sons class that keeps hiting him. I just dont know what to do. Any suggestions, plase contact me Roxy_sinclair@yahoo.com


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