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School stops parents from walking kids to class in the morning



school.jpgThere's a lively debate going on over at the Gradebook education blog where some schools, complaining of disruption and safety concerns, are discouraging parents from walking their elementary students to their classroom in the morning. I find that incredibly sad that some schools would try to squelch such a sweet practice.

As our colleague Jeff Solochek notes, Sand Pine Elementary School in Wesley Chapel this week started heading parents off with a sign by the fence saying, "Parents will no longer be permitted to walk students to class in the morning." But at many other schools across Tampa Bay, parents pour onto campus first thing in the morning and are greeted warmly. Which is the more welcoming image?

One of the reasons given is that they are trying to get a better handle on what adults are on campus. I find this incredibly paranoid thinking. Has this even been a problem? Have roving bands of strange men been showing up at elementary classrooms that are teeming with other adults and children and causing trouble? No. It's a solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

But oh, our imaginations can certainly make it a problem. As one poster on that blog imagines, it "seems fairly obvious that would be a huge security issue. What would stop a random pedophile from entering the school as a 'parent.' "  Oh brother. Can we skip the scare tactics and admit the problem is parents often use the opportunity to ambush the teacher and distract her at a very busy point in the day?

My son's second grade teacher solved this on the very first open house night, in a room with parents only, when she talked about this problem and encouraged us to use the carline and drop the kids off and show them they are "big kids" now who can make their own way to class. But if we wanted to come along, make it a short goodbye at the door and don't bother the teacher unless you are there to volunteer for the morning. Otherwise, make an appointment to talk to her when it's convenient for her, not you. 

I thought this was a much more adult way to handle the problem than that Wesley Chapel school's icy sign. She let us know she can't stop what she's doing when we arrive. She encouraged us to recognize that our kids are capable. But she acknowledged that some people aren't walking with their kids because they are helicopter parents but because they love the morning ritual of starting off together. And if the parent respects the teacher's time, the teacher will gladly respect the parent's connection to their child and to the school.

What do you think? Does the school have a point that parents walking kids pose a danger and a disruption? Would it make you feel the school doesn't welcome you?

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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