When I heard the news that Hannah Rinehart had died and the Gwinnett County school district denied her bereaved husband permission to spend her final days with her, I was dismayed but not surprised. Hanna's story had made news around the country when her husband battled to extend the 20 days of sick leave he was entitled to annually.
Mark Rinehart had not expected his wife to die. He anticipated that she would survive her battle against a rare flesh eating bacteria that she contracted from her dog and would need round-the-clock care after leaving hospital. He requested that the school system grant him an extension on his leave so he could take care of her, but was denied. His coworkers offered to donate their own sick leave to him so that he could be by his wife's side during her convalescence, but they were told they could not do that.
In late August, Mark Rinehart made what he called the 'difficult, but necessary decision' to return to work for the start of the new academic year. Even as his wife lay dying, the school officials cold heartedly applied the 'rules'.
But this should not be surprising to anyone who is familiar with this school system. Take for example their school bus policy. Children are expected to be at the bus stop five minutes before the bus arrives. If you are late you are removed from your seat and placed in the front of the bus in detention which causes students, especially young ones, much distress and confusion.
Many after school programs which helped underachieving students have been axed so students who have learning problems are treated as disciplinary problems and routinely punished. Among other penalties, they are detained during recess and breaks so that they can get their assignments done instead of getting access to specialized help.
This year due to budget cuts parents having to purchase several books which would have previously been given to the students at no charge. This is causing unexpected hardship for many. Surely there are other items that could be axed so that students could get their books.
School teachers and administrators generally take a very iron fisted approach to many day to day issues concerning students when a little compassion would have been a much more effective solution. Some school administrators are practically off limits to parents who request access, being shunted off instead to others lower on the hierarchy and teachers will rarely communicate with parents one-on-one, preferring printed handouts, emails or appointments.
Many of the issues plaguing this system can also be found in other school districts too, as more and more anti-student policies are adopted. Some of these are being implemented by score and test driven schools for whom students are now just pawns. If you are too weak to produce the grades that make the teachers and administrators look good, you are viewed as a problem. The system is geared toward achievement only and schools are no longer taking a holistic approach to education.
In this red state Conservatives are lobbying for more charter schools which cherry pick good students to create the illusion that the public schools are no good and this is spawning tough school rules and academic standards.
According to the Atlanta Journal: "... after an open records request, it was found that 30,751 students in the class of 2011 left high school without a diploma as opposed to the 15,590 that had originally been reported.
The drastic drop in graduation rates across the state of Georgia did not come as a result of schools reporting fraudulent data, but rather came about from a new federal requirement that regulates all schools throughout the United States to report graduation rates under one, consistent formula."
The schools are in big trouble but instead of these dictatorial and adversarial approaches to school management, the state needs to make a real effort to invest more in the students and teachers.
Fri Sep 07, 2012 at 5:52 AM PT: MANY THANKS TO KOS GEORGIA, CLASSWARFARE NEWSLETTER: WALLSTREET VS WORKING CLASS GLOBAL OCCUPY MOVEMENT, AND COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT FOR REPUBLISHING.