Jersey Jazzman: What Do We Teach In America's Schools? "Hey, Honey, Sit Down and Shut Up!"

America, it's time to play Spot The Pattern!™

First, Chicago (all emphases mine):

Earlier this month, we posted a story about discipline practices inside Noble Network of Charter Schools, which educates approximately one out of 10 high school students in Chicago. One former teacher quoted in the piece described some of the schools’ policies as “dehumanizing.” 

[...]  

Through the teacher, several students also agreed to communicate by text message. 

One described an issue raised by others at some Noble campuses, regarding girls not having time to use the bathroom when they get their menstrual periods. 

“We have (bathroom) escorts, and they rarely come so we end up walking out (of class) and that gets us in trouble,” she texted. “But who wants to walk around knowing there’s blood on them? It can still stain the seats. They just need to be more understanding.” 

At certain campuses, teachers said administrators offer an accommodation: They allow girls to tie a Noble sweater around their waist, to hide the blood stains. The administrator then sends an email to staff announcing the name of the girl who has permission to wear her sweater tied around her waist, so that she doesn’t receive demerits for violating dress code. 

Last year, two teachers at Noble’s Pritzker College Prep helped female students persuade administrators to change the dress code from khaki bottoms to black dress pants. Although their initiative was based in part on a survey showing that 58 percent of Pritzker students lack in-home laundry facilities, it remains a pilot program available only at the Pritzker campus.

Next, New York City:

A veteran city educator who said officials botched her sexual harassment case is calling out Mayor de Blasio for shaming victims — and omitting dozens of sexual harassment complaints from recently published city statistics.

The educator, who asked to remain anonymous because she fears retaliation, said she was sickened to hear de Blasio say this week that the Education Department substantiated less than 2% of complaints because of a "hyper-complaint dynamic" in the city agency.

"I'm certainly offended that Mayor de Blasio would say that," said the educator, who sued the city over her harassment by a supervisor and won a settlement.

"With a wife and daughter of his own, I was in shock," she added.

She called the city Education Department's investigation into her claims "a long, complicated, ugly process," that ultimately failed to bring her justice.

"No one would go through this if it were not true," she said. "It is a horrific experience. It upends your entire life."

City officials are scrambling to contain a growing sex harassment scandal in the city schools.

A tally of sex harassment complaints published by the city Friday omitted 119 Education Department complaints erased from the record because officials deemed them "non-jurisdictional."  

Figures published by the de Blasio administration on April 20 showed 471 cases of sexual harassment complaints in city schools from 2013 to 2017. But internal records kept by Education Department officials showed 590 complaints during the same period — a figure 25% higher than the number reported by de Blasio. 

Observers said it looks like the Education Department is trying to hide the facts about sex harassment cases. 

"That's exactly what's happening here," said New York City Parents Union President Mona Davids. "They covered things up and they squashed the complaints."

NYC teacher Arthur Goldstein has more on this.

Let's go to Washington:

At a roundtable with the nation’s top educators on Monday afternoon, at least one teacher told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that her favored policies are having a negative effect on public schools, HuffPost has learned. HuffPost has also obtained video of DeVos expressing disapproval of the teachers strikes currently roiling Arizona.

DeVos met privately with more than 50 teachers who had been named 2018 teachers of the year in their states. As part of the discussion, teachers were asked to describe some of the obstacles they face at their jobs and were given the opportunity to ask the education secretary questions. 

[...] 

DeVos also expressed opposition to teachers going on strike for more education funding, per video of the meeting obtained by HuffPost. DeVos made her comments after Josh Meibos, Arizona’s teacher of the year, asked her about when striking teachers will be listened to. In response, DeVos told Meibos that she “cannot comment specifically to the Arizona situation,” but that she hopes “adults would take their disagreements and solve them not at the expense of kids and their opportunity to go to school and learn.”

“I’m very hopeful there will be a prompt resolution there,” DeVos can be heard saying in the video. “I hope that we can collectively stay focused on doing what’s right for individual students and supporting parents in that decision-making process as well. And there are many parents that want to have a say in how and where their kids pursue their education, too.”

She continued, “I just hope we’re going to be able to take a step back and look at what’s ultimately right for the kids in the long term.” 

When reading this, keep in mind that about three-quarters of America's teachers are women. So when DeVos tells teachers they shouldn't protest against receiving low wages, she's very much telling women to stop complaining that their pay is low compared to other professions for college-educated workers -- professions more like to employ men.

It's also worth noting that DeVos is sticking to a set of talking points about the teachers strikes that she paid for.

Back to Washington:

We all know that black girls are disciplined more harshly for the same infractions as their white peers in schools (and life), but a new study shows that part of this disparity is linked to school-uniform policies.

The National Women’s Law Center recently looked at school dress codes in Washington, D.C., and found that black girls are unnecessarily and predominantly penalized under uniform rules.  

In fact, because humans in their unconscious and implicit biases are the ones who enforce rules around dress codes, it goes without saying that sexism, racism and traditional gender roles play a part.

According to the study, black girls were found to often be in violation of dress codes for so-called infractions like being “unladylike,” “inappropriate” or “distracting to the boys around them.”

Of course, no one should expect DeVos's Department of Education to investigate racial bias in school discipline anytime soon: her crew is too busy suppressing investigations. But while the intersection of sexism and racism makes these dress codes especially pernicious for girls of color, girls of all races are regularly made to feel ashamed of their bodies while in school.

Like in Florida:

Lizzy Martinez, 17, a junior at Braden River High School in Bradenton, Fla., had been swimming and tanning all weekend at a water park in Orlando. But when Monday morning came and she had to get dressed for school, Lizzy’s bra felt painfully constricting on her burned skin. 

So she ditched the bra and purposely chose to wear something dark and loose — a long sleeve, oversize, crew neck gray T-shirt — so she wouldn’t draw attention to her chest.

But around 10 a.m., about 15 minutes into her veterinary assistance class, Lizzy was called out of the classroom for a meeting with two school officials, Dean Violeta Velazquez and Principal Sharon Scarbrough. They asked her why she wasn’t wearing a bra

She said she told her school administrators about the sunburn. They insisted that she was violating the school dress code. (The 2017-2018 Code of Student Conduct does not say bras must be worn by female students.) They told her to put on an undershirt because boys were “looking and laughing” at her, a detail she later challenged. “No one said a thing to me until I got to the dean’s office,” Lizzy said. 

She was crying and wanted to go home, so Lizzy’s mother, Kari Knop, a registered nurse, was called at work. “I said, ‘Lizzy, I’m working,’” Ms. Knop said in a phone interview. “I told her, ‘Can you just put the undershirt on and call it a day?’” 

Lizzy was embarrassed and angry but she relented. When she returned wearing the undershirt, the school principal had left. The dean, according to Lizzy, instructed her to “stand up and move around for her.” 

“I looked at her and said, ‘What do you mean?’” Lizzy said. “I was a little creeped out by that.” The school has a strict disciplinary policy and she didn’t want to appear defiant. (School officials refused to comment, except in a statement.) 

The dean told her that her nipples were still showing through her T-shirt and she should use bandages to cover them up. “She told me, ‘I’m thinking of ways I could fix this for you.’ She said, ‘I was a heavier girl and I have all the tricks up my sleeve,’” Lizzy said.  

Lizzy was given four adhesive bandages from the school clinic. “They had me ‘X’ out my nipples,” she said.

Even if you have a conservative point of view on what is and isn't appropriate for students to wear at school... you can't tell me this story isn't creepy. But this is how we tell girls to think about their bodies now.

Another story from Michigan*:

With prom season in full swing, many teens attending schools with harsh dress codes are taking to social media to call them out. This week, one school in Michigan has decided to take their policies a step further with items that they’re calling “modesty ponchos,” and the students are not having it. 

Prom night at Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Michigan is set for May 12, and the school has already announced that they would be handing a colorful poncho-like piece of fabric to all of the girls who show up wearing something that the school deems too revealing, reports Fox 2 Detroit. A student told the news source that “teachers will determine whether what they’re wearing is compliant or not when they walk in the door.” She added, “I do believe the school has gone too far with this. As we walk into prom, we are to shake hands with all the teachers and if you walk through and a teacher deems your dress is inappropriate you will be given a poncho at the door.”

To be clear: I am not against schools setting some reasonable restrictions on student dress. No student, for example, should be allow to wear clothing that has wording intended to denigrate others. Reasonable people can disagree about where the lines are. But there is, to my eye, a distinct odor of slut-shaming in many of these policies -- which goes a long way toward explaining the racist skew in how they're implemented.

So, what have we got going on in America's schools these days?

  • Girls can't use the bathroom when they have their periods.
  • Women teachers who file charges of sexual harassment are told they are "hyper-complainers."
  • Teachers -- again, most of whom are women -- are told their protests against making a pittance are "at the expense of kids."
  • Girls are told by school officials they need to cover up, because their bodies are too distracting.

America's schools are swimming in sexism. Both teachers and students suffer from the consequences of systemic misogyny.

Add to all this the hidden (and not so hidden) curricula in racism, homophobia, heteronormativity, Islamaphobia, and so on...

You know, I don't know why a social conservative like Betsy DeVos is against public schools. They seem to be transmitting exactly the values she and her ilk hold so dear.

“I think that putting a wife to work is a very dangerous thing.”- Donald Trump.

* OK, yes, Divine Child is a Catholic school. But it's not like the phenomenon of slut-shaming at the prom is restricted to private schools:

Prom is supposed to be the most magical night of your high school life — you get your hair and makeup done; you wear the gorgeous gown that makes your mom cry, "You're all grown up"; and you generally look flawless as you kiss good-bye to your awkward years. 

For these teens, prom was ruined when their outfits were banned. Check out their "inappropriate" and "immodest" choices to see for yourself that these girls look beautiful, no matter what their school says.

I don't have daughters, but if I did, I wouldn't have a problem with them wearing any of these outfits. Your mileage may vary, but that's the point: why is the school making these decisions? As one of the girls -- who is wearing what I would say is a very modest dress -- says:

"Maybe instead of teaching girls that they should cover themselves up, we should be teaching boys that we're not sex objects that they can look at."

Amen.

By the way: #6 is infuriating. What is wrong with people?

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Jersey Jazzman

Jersey Jazzman is the pseudonym for Mark Weber, a New Jersey public school teacher and parent. Weber is also a doctoral student at Rutgers University in Education Theory, Organization, and Policy.