50 Shades of Grey or Goofy Grammar School Principal?

Hey Readers — Here’s a really wacky story from Iowa. An elementary school principal, Terry Eisenbarth, was investigated for “whapping”  kids as part of their birthday celebrations at school — that is, hitting the kids lightly with a super-padded paddle.
Sounds like one of those things that just becomes a goofy tradition, but in our abuse-crazed culture, I’m sure you can guess what happened next: Even though only the kids who WANTED a whapping got one, two families objected to the practice as if the principal was practicing bondage and discipline (in plain sight of the other kids, and teachers, and possibly a pinata).  An investigation began, the principal resigned, and a year later,  here’s what the judge decided:

In a ruling dated June 14, administrative law Judge Robert Wheeler dismissed the charges of physical abuse against a student, failure to protect students’ health and safety and exposing students to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement.

Whether those “whaps” were harmless fun or psychologically damaging formed the bulk of the complaint, with several parents alleging the birthday ritual was an attempt by Eisenbarth to “establish his dominance and cause the children to act submissively.”

But more parents came out to support the former principal, testifying that the experience was harmless and optional, enjoyed by those who opted in and witnessed by other students and staff.

Principals Steve Brand of Mount Vernon High and Noreen Colbeck-Bush of Mount Vernon Middle School testified on Eisenbarth’s behalf, saying their own children had participated in the birthday ritual and neither of them considered the practice abusive.

Colbeck-Bush said parents who objected did so because the birthday “whaps” appeared to resemble disciplinary “spankings,” but that she easily distinguished between the two behaviors. Brand said he’d observed Eisenbarth at work as part of professional rounds of Washington Elementary and found him to be a good administrator.

… After conducting a criminal investigation, Sergeant Harvey Hall of the Linn County Sheriff’s Office determined no children were traumatized by the “whappings,” and no crime had taken place.

Hey, I’ll bet SOMEONE was traumatized — the principal! To have his public, offbeat ritual called a psychologically damaging form of child abuse is like  calling a high five “hand-to-hand combat,” or a backslap a “beating.” But during a year of investigation, that’s the soul-crushing cloud he was under. Kudos to a sergeant and judge who were able to distinguish between silliness and sadism.  You’d think that would be pretty easy, but in a culture beloved of Worst-First thinking (a man, a kid, a pat — SEX ABUSE!), it takes guts to stand up for what’s right.  Whap on! — L.
 
(Only picture of a principal I could find.)

A Lemonade Stand that Did NOT Cost $280? Imagine that!

Folks — I am loving your responses to the post below this one, which was about all the expensive things a parenting magazine says you need for a lemonade stand. (And the fact that the mag also calls it a “family lemonade stand,” as if kids can’t possibly be trusted to do anything on their own. ) So feel free to peruse them. Here’s one that made me cheer:

Dear Free-Range Kids: This post inspired the perfect kind of summer-fun afternoon for my girls, ages 8 and 7 and 4. And as a side-benefit, it also put an end to the fighting and whining that can drive a mom crazy during summer 🙂
The girls were over the moon excited when I asked them if they would like to make a lemonade stand!

After a quick trip to the store for lemons, cups and ice (we spent only about $7), they made some quick handmade signs on poster board that we had lying around the house. Taped one to the side of their wagon and had another one for waving in the air to attract customers. And yes, they hand-squeezed 8 lemons to make a gallon of homemade lemonade without my help.

Then they loaded it all up on their wagon and went off on their own around the corner and to the stop sign at the end of our cul de sac where they spent two hours manning their stand. They took turns waving the sign, taking the money, and pouring the lemonade. And from what they told me, they learned a lot about teamwork and good salesmanship (I wouldn’t know for sure, because I wasn’t there. I stayed home except for bringing them each a hot dog for dinner because they were too busy to come home.)

But the best part for me was the looks of excitement and pride on their faces as they gave me an account of each customer. After they counted up their money, they planned a shopping trip to buy what they need so they can do it again tomorrow. Ended up with $24 profit!

I think the spontaneity and independence they were able to show by planning and preparing and selling all on their own is what made this, “The most excellent day ever,” to quote my 7 year old.  – Erin

A Lemonade Stand Costs HOW Much, According to a Parenting Magazine?

Hi Folks — We all know that magazines exist to sell things, but this example seems particularly outrageous: A parenting magazine lists all the things your kids need to run a lemonade stand — from name brand ice cube trays to an actual, store-bought stand, to a juicer  to squeeze the lemons (has no one heard of hands? Or lemonade mix?)  — and the total is pushing $300. If you want the breakdown of all the costs, here it is! – L (and don’t diss me for vlogging! I am trying to embrace all sorts of new things!)

Science Teachers Weep! School Evacuated for “Chemical Spill”

Hi Folks! This note was posted by a high school student commenting on the story of the school that allowed two students to fry Ferrari red because they weren’t carrying a doctor’s prescription for non-prescription sunblock.   But maybe that school loses to this one, in the sticklers department. – L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: This reminds me of a ‘chemical spill’ my school had a couple months back. Keep in mind this is a high school, with around 800 14-18 year olds walking the halls.

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We were told to evacuate because of a ‘chemical spill’ in one of the science labs a bit before noon. Now, there were some actual dangerous chemicals in some of the rooms, so we evacuated without complaint. Soon, we found out what the ‘chemical spill’ was: mercury. Someone had dropped an old thermometer made of mercury, so the entire school had to be evacuated.

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We had to sit out on the football field for four hours. There were no clouds to block the sun, it was actually fairly chilly out, and about half the school hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch. No one was allowed to leave to stadium, even to grab a sweatshirt that was sitting ten feet away in their car.

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They had to test everyone who had been inside that room that day for traces of mercury. Two hours later, they all came up negative. I got a mild sunburn from that day, which I’m pretty sure was a bigger cancer risk than a bit of mercury.
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Also, since I nearly failed chemistry, I asked my homeroom teacher (who happened to be a science teacher) if the mercury was really that bad for us. He said no, mercury is usually only harmful if ingested. So my entire school was kept out on a lawn freezing our hungry butts off and getting sunburned not only for two hours of our school day, but two hours AFTER school had ended, to ensure no one was licking the mercury off the floor.

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In all, 100 kids got tested — really just their clothes and shoes — or about one eighth of the school. The school is Totino-Grace high school located in Fridley, Minnesota. Here’s a piece about it that ran on KARE 11.
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On a side note, the school did away with the glass and mercury thermometers a couple years ago, but I guess they missed a few. – A Student

WWMCD? (What Would Madame Curie Do?)

Slightly Off Topic but Uber-Safety Gone Mad

Hi Readers! I just learned that the United States Post Office will not allow you to ship anything with a lithium battery — like, say, an iPad — overseas:

Lithium batteries are included in many popular electronic devices such as iPads, Kindles, smartphones, cameras and other electronic devices.  The batteries can explode or catch fire in certain conditions during overseas transport.

This change is required by the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU), both of which currently prohibit lithium batteries in mail shipments that are carried on international commercial air transportation.

USPS management anticipates the regulation to be adjusted by January 1, 2013, with customers being able to mail specific quantities of lithium batteries internationally (including APO/FPO/DPO) if the batteries are properly installed in the electronic device.

Gee, have planes been exploding right and left because a passenger dared to bring a laptop on board a transcontinental flight? Talk about under-reported disasters! Or is this a new and shining case of Safety Madness, wherein the teensy chance of something going disastrously wrong creates an entire new and cumbersome way of doing things? Feel free to take a guess. – L.

14-y.o. Boy Babysitting Younger Siblings Shoots Armed Intruder

Hi Readers — This story is just so wild, I had to put it here and ask YOU to parse it. Long and short of it: Someone knocked on the door of a Phoenix, AZ home during the afternoon, when a 14-year-old boy was babysitting his three younger siblings. He didn’t recognize the woman so he didn’t answer the door.

Soon after, the teen heard a bang on the door, rushed his siblings upstairs and got a handgun from his parent’s bedroom. When he got to the top of the stairs, he saw a man breaking through the front door and point a gun at him.

The boy shot the 37-year-old man, who is in critical condition but expected to survive and be booked into jail.

So — on the one hand, this shows just how competent a young person can be, even under unbelievable pressure. On the other hand, I worry that this will make even more parents AFRAID to let even their teenage children babysit because “look what can happen when they’re home without an adult!” I also wonder, somewhat perversely, what would have happened if the kids HAD answered the door when the strangers knocked. Maybe if the intruders knew there was someone at home, they would have skipped that house and looked for an empty one. Certainly most burglars prefer an unoccupied house.

And then I also wonder what this says about guns in the home.  BUT I don’t want this to become a forum for or against gun control. I’m really just interested in what went down.

So I am putting this out for you to chew on. And, on a completely different topic, I hope some of you attended a Free-Range picnic this weekend and had a great time! — L.

UPDATED! Can You Set The New York Times and Psychology Today Straight about Free-Range Parenting?

Readers — In today’s New York Times there’s an article about a new type of food product: a pouch parents can give their kids to suck, rather than making them go through all the rigamarole of, you know, eating food from a plate. Or even a bun. Or even chewing.

Putting aside my feelings about the product, I was shocked to read the inventor’s explanation for why a feeding tube…er, sorry, pouch…is suddenly necessary for kids:

Mr. Grimmer believes the pouch’s popularity can be attributed to the emergence of a new way of relating to our children. He calls it “free-range parenting.”

Parents, he explained, want to be as flexible as modern life demands. And when it comes to eating, that means doing away with structured mealtimes in favor of a less structured alternative that happens not at set times, but whenever a child is hungry.

What Mr. Grimmer is selling, he said, is a way to facilitate that: mobile food technology for the modern family. “It’s on-the-go snacking, on-the-go nourishment,” he said. “It moves with kids and puts the control in their hands.

The article goes on to talk about how kids are so structured that they have no TIME to eat a real meal, so this is a lovely “free-range” alternative. For his part, the reporter adds that he gave his daughter, under age 4, a pouch to suck after her gymnastics class, and another on the way to a party because somehow lunch got skipped.

I feel for the guy. His toddler is already so over-booked there’s no time to stop and eat  the carrots. But to think that is “Free-Range” is so, so, sooooo wrong my brain is turning into a  pouch of plum-spinach mush.

In fact, Free-Range Kids believes just the opposite: We are all for giving kids a chance to do things on their own — play, walk to school, spend an afternoon just drawing on the sidewalk — which in turn gives us parents a chance to do things on our own, too, including get out of the car. Maybe even make a meal. Or have the kids make a meal.

We have to stop this misconception of Free-Range as harried chauffeurs before it grows. Already a  Psychology Today blogger has written a piece about “The Perils of Free-Range Parenting,” which goes on and on about how SHE doesn’t believe kids should make their parents give them snacks instead of  meals. Moreover, SHE doesn’t think kids should be the ones to decide whether or not they’re going to sit in the car seat, or what time they go to bed.

Lady — neither do we!

“Free-Range” is not a (depleting, exhausting) lifestyle.  It’s just the conviction that kids today are safer and more competent than our culture tells us they are. That’s why we can give them  responsibility AND freedom — and not schlep and schedule up the wazoo, to the point where they have to suck their meals in between appointments. Can someone please drop these folks a line and tell them that? – L

For kids too busy to digest a Cheerio.

UPDATE!! Look at this lovely piece by the Pscyhology Today blogger, Dina Rose, realizing that Free-Range does NOT mean “Let kids do whatever they want while we cater to their every whine” parenting. Kudos for the correction, Dina, and welcome!! – L