Friday, May 02, 2014

Seattle High Schools Update

Several items of interest from two SPS high schools.  One item is an update about the dress code coming from Ballard's principal which seems to be a thoughtful letter.  The other is about several issues at Garfield High School.

Ballard's Mr. Wynkoop let the students know that administrators had thought about this issue as the weather was getting warmer and let the students know - in advance - what the dress code policy at Ballard is.

But,

Recently we have become aware of an effort to organize a protest of some kind later this week that would include girls wearing overly revealing clothes. To attempt to head this off and/or make our position clear, I spoke with the Student Senate today, took input and answered questions related to this issue. I also wanted to make it clear to our entire community about our justifications, our expectations and the steps we will continue to take when issues arise.

This is precisely the right course of action. Here's our policy, here's why, our expectations and yes, consequences. He spoke of preparing students for life as well as safety issues.

However, he did note that students wanted a clarification of the term from the Student Handbook on
"revealing or disruptive clothing" and provided examples.

I also like that he is NOT going to contact parents unless the situation cannot be remedied by the student (with the school's help).

He also says this:
--> I have heard concerns from some students that this standard is furthering "rape culture" by penalizing young women for the thoughts of young men, but I thoroughly disagree with this interpretation. Being distracted from learning is an involuntary process that students cannot fully stop on their own, where as students are FULLY responsible for their actions.
I can see where he was going with this thought but I'm not sure it was made as clearly as it should have been.

Garfield High School

First, I was looking at Garfield's home page and right there under the principal's contact info is a concerns and complaints page.  On it they explain the step-by-step process.  Good idea.
Second, I see the Garfield PTSA raffled off a car.  A Tesla Model S.  Wow, pretty nice.
I also see that the PTSA, using three different grant sources, will be funding a mobile iPad cart with "powersync cart, 17 iPads and wireless airport."  Again, great job.

Also, looking at the Garfield student newspaper, The Messenger, they have an op-ed on dress codes.  I'm not sure I agree with it but it's one student's take on it.  Somewhat amusingly, there is a previous op-ed on the problems with thongs. (Yes, written by a female student.  It appears that apparently thongs are not so comfortable.  What a surprise.  Note to girls; you can find regular underwear that does not have the dreaded VPL.  Male readers, don't ask.)

But there is a second Garfield student newspaper, the GHS Truth.  It's a very entertaining paper with bon mots like "nothing to throw your panties at" and " folktastic" and calling the prom venue "a mixture between a royal hall and an Ivers (sic)." 

I don't know the origins of the newspaper but they seem to be future investigative reporters.  One of the more interesting stories in their newspaper (named season 1, episode 7) reveals that the parents of one Garfield student, who had allegedly been hazing students at the foshing event last fall and who was subject to "emergency expulsion", are suing the district.  What the reporters at the GHS Truth did is get the court documents and those papers are quite revealing.

From the article:

As well as seeking to overturn the decision they are seeking damages for the “pain, mental anguish and emotional distress” that they claim Cole has experienced as well as his decreased “future earn- ing capacity”, that they claim is a direct result of the negligence and misconduct of the School District.

After reading the court documents, I have to concur with the analysis proved by the GHS Truth.

The parents appear to focus not on the misconduct (of which there seems to be evidence by the accusers) but of how the district handled hearing this case.  (How often we see the district dinged for just this kind of thing in the past.)  And, it looks like the district may have indeed not followed their own procedures and not only will lose in court, but could lose money.  The court date is not until Feb. 23, 2015 (so there's a lot of time to negotiate - my money is on the district backing off).

As well, the reporter, one Erasmus Baxter, states that the court documents seem to indicate that what many seniors had claimed - there was no pressure to participate - was not true at all.

But there was also some humor in those documents.  From the analysis:

"...there’s some great lines in there including X's father trying to compare paddling to a fun “birthday spanking” 
By the way, please do not attempt to scold me for including the documents.  They are, like all court documents (including my own recent court case where the filing documents on the part of the plaintiff are both humorous and ridiculous), public record.  Anyone can see them.
As Mr. Baxter says,  "The world would be a better place if people didn't just take what the media said as the whole truth. Do your own research." 

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

We received the very specific rules for school clothing from Garfield on our answering machine--2 inch straps, 5 finger rule on length (not sure how they measure), no bare midriff.
GHS mom

Charlie Mas said...

I just read the parents' statement and boy is it powerful.

It provides a clear and indisputable description of how the school utterly failed to follow the District's policies and procedures.

This is the culture of lawlessness at work in Seattle Public Schools.

When called to action, almost no one in the district ever ask themselves "What are the rules?"

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that the only thing that has been posted is by one side. When you file a complaint in court, you present what you how the facts will support, it allegations, not proof. I think that it will be interesting to see what the whole case looks like when all is said and done.
-SWWS

Lynn said...

Actually it appears all of the relevant documents the district produced at the discipline hearing and appeals council hearing are included in that list. You'd think that would include any information they had to support their actions.

I don't support hazing or frosting - but I have to admit I'd be happy to see some limits placed on the autonomy of principals.

Charlie Mas said...

Also, I really enjoyed reading The Truth. That's energetic writing.

Charlie Mas said...

You'll recall the editor of The Truth as the fellow who was recruited as a media contact by the Nathan Hale students who protested at the Federal Building.

Anonymous said...

I read the reports filed by the students who had been hazed and I thought their experiences sounded awful. I appreciate the actions the GHS principal took to make GHS a safer place for students. -RR

Tian Qing said...

In response to this post about the recent protest at Ballard (from a student's perspective):

There was a lot of misconception about what exactly, we, the students, were attempting to raise awareness about. THE DRESS CODE IS NOT THE ISSUE. The protest itself was not about wearing "overly revealing clothing." (In fact, most of us wore instead shirts that said "my clothing does not define me.") Rather, the issue is how the administration at Ballard has been talking about and enforcing the dress code. We held this protest because, NO ONE, EVER, SHOULD BE MADE TO FEEL INFERIOR OR DEGRADED BECAUSE OF WHAT WE CAN OR CANNOT WEAR.

The original catalyst for this protest was a comment by the administration in a speech given to all the underclassmen. One of our assistant principals explained to students that if they don't want to get bullied, they must dress more appropriately. This is an entirely wrong approach--it blames the victim of bullying, rather than attempting to prevent bullying all together (which, Mr. Wynkoop, does in fact perpetuate rape culture). In some cases, the administration is responsible for the bullying. One girl received an unpleasant comment from an assistant principal and responded "that makes me feel really uncomfortable." To this, the administrator said, "That's my job. To make people feel uncomfortable so they wear more appropriate clothing."

Another example of inappropriate enforcement of the dress code, which I witnessed myself, occurred when an assistant principal pulled a girl over for wearing short shorts. The administrator made this girl turn around and show her butt in order to explain that her shorts were too short, and thus, too revealing. This action was hardly necessary, and much less appropriate, as it occurred in the middle of the hall as people were passing by.

Finally, the issues with how the administration approaches this problem are remarkably clear in the email Mr. Wynkoop sent. The addition of the three new rules, although generalized to encompass the entire student body, are actually targeted towards girls. I have never once witnessed a boy being reprimanded for his clothing, however I see girls pulled aside every time the sun is out. The addition of "this list is not exhaustive" included at the end of these new rules essentially empowers the administration to send people home arbitrarily. If there is going to be a dress code, it needs to be clear, and consistently enforced.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The assistant principal really used the word, "bullied" in reference to the dress code?

Sexual harassment, to me, is not bullying. They are separate issues and both are wrong and both are bad. I find it troubling if the Ballard administration is trying to equate the two.

"The addition of "this list is not exhaustive" included at the end of these new rules essentially empowers the administration to send people home arbitrarily. If there is going to be a dress code, it needs to be clear, and consistently enforced."

Okay, for the first sentence. The administration cannot see every single violation of the dress code so it probably does seem arbitrary.

Second sentence, right on.

Anonymous said...

I worked for a short period of time at this school. True DAT about the clothing. OK for the boys to run about with their butts hanging out, causing permanent harm to hold their pants at their KNEES but not for a girl to wear less then a sarong? Seriously. This DOES need addressed. I got so tired of seeing young man butt crack. And besides, who likes to touch anything they touched when they have not washed their hands and are constantly grabbing their stuff and butts to keep those pants up? ADDRESS THE DRESS. For BOTH sexes. And, in retrospect, there was too much gratuity with the girls.

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