School parties were completely out of control. Hundreds and hundreds of parents, grandparents, etc. were attending the holiday parties (Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day). So many visitors arrived (800-1000 at least) at about the same time that it was impossible to check them in, so visitors signed in and headed back to classrooms. The doors were basically open to anyone. The classrooms were filled with parents sitting around mostly talking to each other and maybe snapping a few photos of their kid while 1 or 2 assigned room parents ran the games. Parents brought elaborate fruit skewers, snacks and treat bags as though it was a competition to be better than the next class. Most of the food wasn't eaten by the students. As a volunteer, I threw large amounts of food away after each party.
I remember viewing the parties differently after the Newtown tragedy last December. Our school Christmas party was about a week after the shooting, and as I walked through the school it was obvious that anyone off the street could just walk in to the school and do whatever they wanted. There were probably close to 1000 visitors (in addition to around 900 students and staff) for that party. Perhaps it wouldn't be a deranged shooter (though it's possible), but consider people in the midst of bitter divorces/custody battles, parents with drug/alcohol problems, unstable family members, angry parents etc. The possibilities for some kind of dangerous situation is endless.
The superintendent said there were even a few cases where some students had to be removed from their own parties because they had anxiety over the amount of people in the room. Think about how sad that is, and imagine it was your child who couldn't participate in holiday festivities. She also said after conducting a district survey, students felt the most unsafe on these days because of the amount of strangers in the building, and teachers were most unhappy - they could barely join in the classroom celebration because of the amount of visitors. I attended the parties because my kids asked me to since 'all the other Moms come'. They were not fun.
The days lunch visitors could come was also limited (to three days a week instead of five) just to lessen the number of visitors on campus for safety reasons. More visitors means more monitors where the visitors are, which means education professionals had to put their work on hold to monitor for safety. Imagine telling a doctor or lawyer they would have to stop working for an hour once a week to monitor visitors in their building. Sounds absurd, doesn't it? Having many visitors roaming around a campus can be stressful for everyone, including the staff. Teachers attend many trainings on what to do in emergency situations, including what to do when unidentified or un-badged visitors are roaming around. Monitoring for extra visitors campus takes attention away from the main objective of schools - educating children.
So, of course, there are many parents who are very upset by this, and then a local news station did a story that sounded as though the district is telling parents they can't come to the school any more. First of all, that is incorrect. The facts are that parties will be limited to a maximum of three room-parents who are there to lead the party and games. Treats are limited to a snack and drink and treat bags are not allowed. It's back to the basics which means to let the kids relax and enjoy not doing any school work for one hour. Parents are VERY WELCOME to come and volunteer at any time during the year. Some of the volunteer opportunities that were sent home are: library, school festival (needs 100's of people for help), classroom assistance, reading, car line, box tops, and the list goes on.
Many parents had comments following the news story. Parents felt they have a right, no matter what, to come to the school any time they want, and damnit, no one better tell them any different. They are tax payers after all. Many said they would pull their kids from the district and feel the school is trying to assert control and push parents away so they can indoctrinate their kids (yes, this was actually said on a facebook thread). Many parents said the 45 minute parties were a special time with their kid they just didn't want to miss.
I am appalled. It is unbelievably selfish for parents to think they can come in to a school at any time just because they want to. Are the parties for the kids or the parents? And why do parents feel entitled to do whatever they want? It is not your right to just do whatever you want because you want to because your kid goes to school somewhere. There are guidelines that need to be followed like most situations in life.
What about the right of every kid and teacher in the school to feel safe. It is the right of the school to turn anyone away for any reason, although that is very unlikely to happen in most cases. In the wake of Newtown and other tragedies we rely on our school to do everything in their power to keep our kids safe. Well, in the end, that means that everyone has to follow the rules and no one is any more special than any other parent or adult in the school, no matter what your situation. Everyone wants the best for their kid, but it still requires a collective effort. Remember that every parent in a school is a stranger to probably at least 95% of the people in the school.
Some parents said they don't trust the teachers, and parents need to be in there monitoring what's going on. First of all, parties are not the time to monitor your teacher's professional abilities as an educator. Secondly, hovering over teachers because you don't trust them for some reason only undermines the role of the teacher in a classroom. If you have a legitimate concern, there are pathways in which you can address the concern such as meeting with the teacher, meeting with the principal or removing your child from the situation. You are always welcome to attend private schools or homeschool if you truly feel the school is doing a terrible job. That is certainly within your rights.
It is time that we collectively look at the good of the whole over the good of the individual. The policies create safer environments for our kids, with a side effect of parties that are fun for the kids and serve as a bonding time among the members of a classroom, including the teacher. Parties are not bonding time for parents and their children. Parties are not a time for parents to visit with each other. There are many ways parents can achieve those objectives such as family dinner time, reading together, helping with homework, weekend activities, playing boardgames, setting up playdates with other families. Message me if you need more suggestions on how to have quality time with your children outside of school.
It is our jobs as parents to raise functional adults, or rather, to 'parent ourselves out of a job' as I heard in a parenting class once. If we are eating lunch with them and hovering over them at every chance that they have to explore independence, we are hurting them. We are preventing them from having the tools to make decisions on their own, solve problems on their own and feel confident in situations away from Mom and Dad. We want to let our kids know we trust them and that they are individuals capable of making decisions and solving problems on their own (if not, we need to give them the chance to fall down and learn from it) so that they may grow into successful adults.
I know I'm in the minority in supporting the school district on this decision. I feel that parents are being selfish, and are foregoing the good of everyone for their own personal wants. If our society is filled with people who feel entitled to do what they want and feel they are the exception to the rule we will be raising a generation of untrusting, self-righteous, entitled adults, and I will truly be worried for what will happen to our society.
Everyone needs to refocus on what is really important - the safety and education of our children - which means everyone will have to follow rules that were well thought out, very justified (the superintendent explained the reasoning behind the decisions in depth at a PTO meeting) and in the best interest of those we care about the most - our children.
All it takes is one tragedy to turn a community upside down. Had the school district not changed the policy and something happened, what would the community be saying then?