The Duct Tape Incident and Related Stories

Pink Duck TapeIn 2013, I wrote a vague post about an incident that occurred at Jackson’s then-school, Antioch Charter Academy II.

To make one long story short, one of the Elementary teachers at Jackson’s school is on administrative leave while being investigated for abuse. The family of the child whom she allegedly abused is suing the school for violating the child’s constitutional rights. Stories about this were on the news, in the local newspaper, and picked up by national news outlets (and one London tabloid) in December (2012) and again in February (2013).

At the time, I was prevented from saying anything more than that, and posting the article that my Publications class wrote.

The criminal investigation has been over for a long time. In the past week, though, the boy’s family apparently won a $250,000 civil suit. The topic has been brought up  on the Facebook pages of local newspapers. It’s all speculation and assumption.

Jackson doesn’t go to that school anymore, and I was never a big fan of censorship to begin with.

The Duct Tape Incident As Related To Me By Two Different Parents

This is the story that I was told, by two different parents whose children were there. The stories were essentially the same, except for one detail.

The teacher had a small group of rowdy students. She jokingly pointed to a roll of craft tape on her desk and said, “If you guys don’t cut it out, I’m going to duct tape your mouths.” The kids thought that would be hilarious, and asked her to duct tape their mouths shut.

In one version of the story, the teacher gave the kids the tape, and the kids put it on their mouths.

In one version of the story, the teacher stuck the tape on the kids’ mouths.

After apparently realizing that maybe this wasn’t the best disciplinary idea ever, she told the kids to take the tape off of their mouths.

As an aside: My one friend said that her daughter was sad that she didn’t get to wear the tape. I believe it was hot pink.

The Chair Incident As Related to Me By Jackson

There was another allegation – that another teacher pinned the boy down by placing a chair over him. I said that to Jackson. He said, “That was M- X-.”

ACA II doesn’t have desks. They have all of the K through 3 kids in one huge, open classroom, that’s probably the size of my apartment. It’s big. It’s loud. It works for some kids, but not for others, but that’s another post.

When the kids get loud, the teachers quiet them down by using a sort of meditation exercise. Apparently, the boy in question was continuing to talk and to poke others around him to get them to make noise. So, one of the teachers (not the same one) put her chair over him to stop him from harming the other students.

What About the Kid?

Almost every comment vilifies the teachers and paints the boy as a sainted child with special needs. If anyone ever mentions that the child might possibly have behavioral issues, that person is shouted down.

I didn’t know the kid or his family. All I can tell you, firsthand, is what Jackson told me when I asked him how he felt about the whole thing.

“I’m glad X is gone. He was a bully.”

Why I Can’t Tell You If This is the Truth

ACA II never held a parent meeting to address these issues. Just before the news came out, we were sent the world’s vaguest message ever written. After the news came out, we were sent a message that the school could not address the issue at all because of the criminal investigation. The teacher with the “duct tape” was placed on administrative leave, and that leave was never explained to the children. (Indeed, one of the kids in my Publications class thought the teacher had actually killed a student.) After the criminal investigation was over, there was still no meeting and no information. Perhaps there has been some in the new school year, but I tend to doubt that.

Several years ago, a music teacher at Carmen Dragon Elementary, also in Antioch, was found to have child pornography on his school computer. No students were involved. No students had access to the computer. There was a criminal investigation. The school sent out a detailed letter to parents stating exactly what had happened and what would be happening going forward. The school made counselors available to the children, despite the fact that the children were not involved. The school held an evening assembly for the parents to ask questions.

One of these schools handled the issue the right way. One didn’t.

What I Think This Says About ACA II

ACA II does not have a principal. The school does not have one administrative head, although, since this occurred, one teacher did take on a slightly more administrative position. I’m not explaining it well, because I never really understood it well. I have always found it ridiculous that the school doesn’t have a principal. That’s just my personal opinion.

The school doesn’t trust its parents enough to communicate important, weighty information to them. It’s not just this incident, though this is the most serious issue. There is a definite “us” (the staff) vs. “them” (the parents) mentality among an influential minority of the staff members. At least, that is how I felt.

I think the teacher who has had her name dragged through the mud far too many times is actually a very good teacher. I’m glad she’s there. I think the problem wasn’t her teaching, or even that she had a lapse in judgment. The problem, I think, is that the school’s disciplinary approach is weak.

The school practices “positive discipline” which stresses “natural consequences” for behavior. There isn’t punishment or reward. It’s based on the theory that we all crave connection and want to work and play well with others. It works really well for kids to whom natural consequences matter. But if the kid doesn’t care, it doesn’t work. (I’ve seen this firsthand with my own daughter.) ACA II is a public school. They cannot pick and choose the children whom they feel will do best in their environment. Some children do not do well with positive discipline, but the school doesn’t have any alternatives (or didn’t, as of spring 2014). The school doesn’t deal well with children who have behavioral issues that involve potential harm to other students. They do very well with kids who have special academic needs. There are children who have behavioral issues, and the teachers are able to address some of those needs.  But there are children who exhibit more challenging behaviors, and the school has not, historically, done as well addressing those issues.

Conclusion

This is all just hearsay and opinion. The school never issued an official statement. What we have here are the stories from three children, and my conjecture based on those stories, as well as my experience as the parent of an Elementary child at the school. I do not pretend to speak for anyone else, and anyone who would like to comment is welcome to do so. (And before you ask, no, I am not taking this post down.)

I would still actually recommend ACA II for Elementary-aged children, and for some Intermediate and Middle School children. But that really is another post – I intend to write a review of the school in time for lottery season.

 

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4 thoughts on “The Duct Tape Incident and Related Stories

  1. I like the post and pretty much agree with everything you said. I think it might ruffle a few feathers among the staff. I might add that I wish the school would post a complaint tree so parents know whom to go to for help in resolving issue. I, myself, am very reluctant to volunteer at the school because I feel frustrated by some problems and because I do not know to who I should turn for resolution help.

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