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Have we lost our common sense? Another facet of the crisis in our schools
A five year old girl was recently suspended from school for talking to a friend about a Hello Kitty Bubble Gun, saying they needed to get together and shoot each other with their bubble guns.
A five year old girl.
Shooting each other with their bubble guns.
Hello Kitty Bubble Guns.
Pink Hello Kitty Bubble Guns.
You know the kind that shoots bubbles out of it; soft, float on the air bubbles.
Suspended for ten (10) days from school, and she has to undergo a series of psychological tests to see if she is a danger to society.
The Principal felt so strongly about the perceived “terroristic threat” that the little girl was questioned for three hours before her Mother was called. Now, get this picture in your mind: a five year old kindergarten student was talking about shooting her friends and herself with a pink Hello Kitty Bubble Gun, bubbles, shooting bubbles. She is suspended for ten days, later reduced to two days and the verbiage changed from a terroristic threat to a threat to harm others.
Again, she said she wanted to shoot herself and friends with bubbles from her Hello Kitty Bubble Gun. The toy was not at school; it was at home. At no time was this little girl threatening, or throwing a tantrum, or hitting, or yelling, or screaming. She was in line, in the school room, ready to leave to go home. She wanted to play with her friends. Just play with her friends.
People, do we not have enough out there to worry about without jumping to the extreme measures of scaring a little child to tears while performing a Spanish Inquisition on her for three hours. Without her mother. Without a lawyer. My God, what have we become? Was she subjected to waterboarding? Did she have to sit in a circle of light for those three hours while the principal hammered at her with questions about her ties to Al Qaeda? I mean, she was termed a "terroristic threat" right? I understand we need to watch out for our children and be careful; that we need to seek the truth in every manner in order to maintain a level of safety for our students, but this? Interrogating children in this manner is absolutely ridiculous!
First, if there is a problem, it sure as hell isn't in Kindergarten! Although we may identify problems this young, do we need to kick a five year old out of school for this? Wouldn't it be more prudent if we were to assist the actual professional doctors by providing information, such as what is seen in the class daily on students who are having issues in class? Here is what it takes to become a School Counselor in my state of Missouri.
Educational Requirements: (Option 1) Completion of a master's degree with a major emphasis in guidance and counseling from a college or university meeting approval of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education or (Option 2) A master’s degree or higher degree in education, school counseling, counseling, counseling psychology, or a closely related mental health discipline; and additional graduate course work specific to school counseling.
Required Coursework: (Option 1): Completion of a planned program of at least 24 semester hours of approved graduate credit in courses in guidance and counseling with at least 12 semester hours focused upon guidance in the elementary (elementary certification) or secondary schools (secondary certification). Complete one course in each of the following areas: Orientation to the Personal and Professional Development in Counseling; Foundation of Elementary and Secondary School Guidance; Theories and Techniques of Elementary and Secondary School Counseling; Analysis of the Elementary School Child and School Learning Problems; Theories and Techniques of Group Counseling; Practicum.
(Option 2): Must either possess a bachelor’s degree in education from a state-approved teacher preparation program or complete a curriculum in teaching methods and practices, classroom management and the psychology of the exceptional child, as specified by the recommending certification officer of a state-approved program;
Experience Requirements: (Option 1) A supervised internship of at least 3 credits OR (Option 2) at least 300 hours of a supervised internship
Examination: Option 1 - None; Option 2 - Praxis II; Must achieve a score higher than 590
Institution Recommendation Required?: Yes, must recommend for certification
Certification: (1) Elementary - Grades K-8; OR (2) Secondary - Grades 7-12
Background Check: Yes
Now, this may seem like a lot, and it is; but is enough to make a diagnosis on a child this young? To term them as a “terroristic threat”? I know we have many, many issues in the school that the counselor must be aware of and cope with for the school’s sake, but is child terrorism within that person’s scope of expertise? Or is the school asking someone who is, at heart, a teacher to make decisions that may well color a child’s life for the rest of their time in school and possibly even after? This five year old kindergarten girl now has a permanent record of this diagnosis on her school records. PERMANENT! It becomes part of her scholastic record for all to see and judge her by forever. Should her family move, the new school will receive her transcript and view it, and make a determination as to how she will be received. Is this something that should be on her transcript to judge her by?
There are enough things in schools which require attention, serious issues like drug use, abuse, bullying, family home life, and behavior disorders, to say nothing of gangs, teen sex, and actual weapons. I understand we need to be on guard for everything, but at some point Common Sense needs to play a role. Common Sense tells me this little girl meant nothing harmful with her statement. Common Sense tells me a normal, intelligent person could have determined that within a few moments of questioning. Common Sense directs me to contact her Mother immediately, to discuss it with her in the presence of parent and child together rather than behind closed doors, treating the child as a criminal; one guilty until proven innocent.
What times we now live in. Schools fearful of guns and bombs; schools providing day care and busing for children who have children; schools having armed guards at the doors with metal detectors; schools calling the police when a Kindergarten aged child throws a tantrum because a Principal “fears for their life”; schools afraid of a Hello Kitty Bubble Gun. I have no issue, and a lot of sympathy for those whose job it is to determine what is and is not a threat to our children’s safety, but do we need to educate ourselves on what to really look for, rather than have a knee jerk reaction and red flag a child for a desire to play with her friends with a toy?
I believe we are asking school counselors to perform a job they are not necessarily prepared for. I believe we need more in depth and specific training to deal with the threats society is now facing, rather than throwing someone in to the fire who is not prepared to fight this fight. We wouldn't ask a plumber to take care of an electrical problem, or have an automotive mechanic perform root canal surgery, would we? Then why are we asking someone who is at heart a teacher to diagnose and treat a child in school with this type of behavior issues?
We all want to help our children grow up and become healthy, productive members of society; well-rounded and intelligent and able to think for themselves. I truly believe most teachers take our children and love and care for them as if they were their own. But has the position of School Counselor changed and become beyond what the position was originally intended to be? Are we behind the times? I am afraid the world has changed, and we are lagging behind.