Principals Behaving Badly

Welcome to the latest installment of “Principals Behaving Badly”.  Up for discussion today, I give you the vice-principal of Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School, near San Diego.  He called for a school evacuation, as well as bringing in police, fire-rescue and an arson strike team (bomb squad) because a student brought a strange-looking item to school.

The item in question?  A Gatorade bottle filled with wires, that the student had created in his garage over the weekend.

The overreaction?  The vice-principal never, not once, walked up to the student, who was showing the item to other students, and said, “Hey, kiddo, whatcha got there?”

Nope.  Instead, he called in authorities, and now the student AND his parents are being recommended for counseling.  Their house was searched, as well.  Not surprisingly, no explosives were found.  Imagine that.

When the kid finally WAS asked about the item?  He revealed that it was supposed to be a motion sensor.

To enlighten… the Mission and Vision Statement from the school’s website states:

All Millennial Tech Middle School students will cultivate their technology skills to enhance their motivation and curiosity to excel academically in order to become productive citizens that will drastically impact the developing information age.

All Millennial Tech Middle School students will cultivate their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics skills to enhance their motivation to excel academically in order to become global leaders and productive citizens in their chosen career path.

So let me get this straight…  a kid takes the initiative at home, and creates something cool out of common household items.  Brings it to school, where one would think he would get constructive feedback from peers and educators, and instead, he gets the police called on him and is referred to counseling???

In my view, it’s the vice-principal who needs the counseling.  This entire mess could have been avoided if he had asked one simple question, “What’s that?”  And, one would think, being the principal of a technology school, that he’d either have the expertise or have a teacher who would have the expertise to look at this Gatorade bottle and say, “yeah, it’s suspicious,” or “no, there’s no explosive in there.”  All before calling in the police.

Instead, there was a complete overreaction, a student is forced into counseling (for what???), and the vice-principal stays in his ivory tower, to overreact another day.

And the “experts” wonder why so many of our kids are unmotivated, sitting on the couch all day, drooling and eating Doritos in front of stupid video games.

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16 Responses to Principals Behaving Badly

  1. Joy says:

    I’m sitting here thinking “you have to be kidding me” but I know you’re not. I would maybe be concerned if it wasn’t the kind of school it was and if there wasn’t a science fair going on.

    I feel this whole zero tolerance crap has to stop. Kids are starting to be paranoid and scared over everything. We are scaring our own kids. WTH!

    Calling all those law enforcement people? What a waste of their time and money. What pray tell does this boy and his parents need counseling for? For doing a science project?

    Now I really think I’ve heard everything.

  2. SKL says:

    I seriously want to know why the principal hasn’t been required to get counseling over this.

    It was bad enough that this error in judgment occurred, but I can’t believe they didn’t back off the implication that the child had done something insane and wrong. There was no school rule that I could find that this child had broken. I’ve read nothing to indicate he had had any ill intent in bringing his invention to school. So they should be publicly apologizing to this kid, not sending him to counseling. (Though he might need it after being so mistreated.)

    And it really makes me crazy to think they searched this kid’s home with no evidence whatsoever that he had done anything wrong. They say they found no explosives – but what if they had? There are plenty of legal substances that you might have around your house that could theoretically be used to make an explosive. So what would the authorities have done to this boy if he’d had some of these everyday substances in his garage or basement? This is such an outrage, it made me hyperventilate when I first heard of it. The HELL they would search my house without a warrant. The HELL my kid would go to counseling over an idiotic “educator.”

  3. shane says:

    This whole story is insane. I remember when the zero tolerance policy came in to effect I was in 8th grade. This kid got expelled from school a week later because a finger nail clipper with a file on it fell out of his backpack. They said the file was a weapon. What about a pencil, I could kill somebody with a pencil. Maybe they should take wood tech. out of schools also because someone could get killed with the saws. They should also ban p.e. because kids could fall down and get an oweeee! Our school system is going in the wrong direction. I understand that there has been some pretty bad school shootings but come on, have some common sense. A gatorade bottle filled with wires is not the same as an uzi.

  4. The comic you put up with this is SO appropriate. I live in Israel, and this ACTUALLY HAPPENS. Schools get evacuated every time a backpack is left outside with no one claiming it for more than five minutes. It’s getting a little ridiculous and I feel that the whole world is getting just a bit [a biiiiiit] over-paranoid.

  5. Nikki says:

    I too was sitting here thinking…WTH, this is a joke!? Why couldn’t that guy go ask the boy what it was? What would have been the harm in that. I agree it’s always better to be safe than sorry but this goes way over what was needed! My goodness!!! To scare the kids like that for no reason and to waste the law enforcements time and money! He should be responsible for that! Just sayin!!!

  6. Tessa says:

    If that is all the facts, I agree with you, that poor kid and family. But maybe there is more to it than the media/we know. Maybe he does need counseling for some reason or maybe he was telling kids it was a bomb?…

  7. Joy says:

    I’ve been thinking and thinking about this and just want to throw this out there and play devil’s advocate.

    First of all, after working in the school system for almost 15 years I do have to say that parents, in my opinion have ruined the schools. They seem to “blame” everything on them. They complain about just about everything and yet when it comes time for referendums and putting money into them, they vote no. Then you have to add that their kids do nothing wrong and it’s always the other kids who are at fault. Or the teachers fault but it’s never their own kids who are held accountable for things done wrong.

    Let’s just say this, “what if” this was a bomb? “What if” someone got hurt and word got out that “school knew kid had bottle with wires coming out of it and did nothing”? I’m just asking this because a few years ago there was a story about a boy who had taken a knife to cut something at lunch and the lunch people saw it and didn’t take it away and on his way home he fell and got hurt and everyone was up in arms that nobody took the knife away. It just seems to me that this is a no win situation. Remember the Virginia Tech shootings? After the fact there were all these red flags but nobody paid attention to them.

    I’m only stating this point of view and I think it’s totally wrong that things have come to this. The last few years I was at the school, I literally cried some days when I got home from work. I got pushed one day and one other day a kid threw an apple at my head. But in the case of the apple throwing incident, it didn’t even get reported to the parents because the principal didn’t want to deal with this kids parents. Can you imagine?

    I really think parents are ruining things by sticking their noses in way to much and I think that’s one of the reasons for this kind of crap that’s happening. When I was going to school my mom told me if I got in trouble at school I’d be in twice as much trouble when I got home and I respected that but now kids lie and their parents believe them.

    Do you think this has any bearing in the way things are now?

    • Tessa says:

      Joy, wow, I cannot believe they chose not to confront the parents on the apple throwing! That is crazy and sad. From all I hear, and see, it is because parents are coddling their kids too much now and basically are afraid to discipline their kids. I have met parents who will tell their kid five times not to do something, or threaten to do something if they don’t listen, but never follow through on it, so many kids just know they or think they can get away with it. They are also spoiled, and many parents do not give enough one on one time with their kids to even know them! When I was a kid, I always knew my mom meant what she said, her words were backed up by action, and so I listened to her.

      • Joy says:

        Yes Tessa, it is very sad. The thing is and I do understand because I did work in the EBD dept for many years, it was almost better to just report back to that special ed teacher rather than having to deal with the parents. The teachers would handle it in their own way but I was getting afraid of one day getting knocked down. These were jr high students and could have hurt me and it just got to the point that I didn’t love my job the way I used to. We just didn’t seem to have any control and the kids knew that and disciplining was a big problem for us. We were with those kids 45 minutes a day.

        This is a funny little story of my last year working there. Jason and I had gone to the school to pick Toby up from wrestling practice and Jason being the “big tough guy in the letterman’s jacket from the high school” that he was, wanted to go wait for Toby outside the building and I was in the car. This same kid who gave me a lot of grief was standing there waiting for his mom and he said to someone near him “there’s that bitch Mrs Erickson.” Jason grabbed him by the front of his jacket and said “that’s my mom and if you ever give her a hard time again I’m gonna come here and kick your ass. Do you hear me?” That kid never gave me a hard time again. In fact he was almost polite to me for the rest of the year. It still make me laugh when I think of it. I think that kid had brown in his underwear after Jason did that.

    • Tessa says:

      I also do think it is so sad that schools are the way they are, and teachers-school staff-have to have such a hard time disciplining and doing their jobs. I’d really love to go into teaching or school counseling possibly, but I always think about this end of it….dealing with parents sounds like no fun usually. It would break my heart.

  8. Nikki says:

    I actually do think the parents are a lot to blame. So many hover their kids, clutch to them for dear life. While protecting them we are actually hindering them. I am a bit guilty of this myself. I’m a whole lot better now! I don’t freak out if he walks around to the other isle in the store. There is a fine line between protecting your kids and putting fear into them. They have to learn trust and in order to do that they have to be given some wiggle room. Parents coddle their kids too much and I can see how some teachers and principles are nervous to confront them.

    • Nikki says:

      I should have also added that parents should always be willing to hear all sides and not automatically believe their kids. Believe it or not they do lie.

    • Tessa says:

      So true Nikki. I am just now learning to let Ben fall, lol, we were all 3 at the park and Eric and I were like right at his heels afraid for him to fall, finally I was like, “We gotta just let him go!”

  9. SKL says:

    Joy, I agree there are some kids who absolutely need a kick in the ass and some parents are the worst facilitators. But I haven’t heard any indication that this kid did any of the following: lie (to classmates, teachers, or authorities), act obstinate, bring in a banned object or substance, fool around in the wrong place at the wrong time, etc. If he was a habitual troublemaker or there are other pertinent facts, why isn’t anyone reporting them?

    I have absolutely no problem with the fact that they called this kid aside to find out what he had brought to school. And if they had merely taken it away pending further investigation, I could understand that, since it wasn’t obvious what it was, and I get the whole “what if” perspective. But to search the kid’s house? To assign him to counseling despite not having broken a law or school rule? They showed no reasonable restraint whatsoever, and yet we expect youngsters to be patient and tolerant in dealing with school populations.

    I am not saying this is a systematic problem with all schools. I’m saying someone in that school administration needs to own up to a mistake and withdraw the punishment in this particular case. Or provide more facts if there is really a different reason for this kid to need counseling / searches of his home. (I know there is privacy and all that, but all I heard was that he needs counseling because he brought a motion sensor to his techie school during the science fair.)

    • Joy says:

      I absolutely agree with you SKL. I think they went WAY to far and go to through their home is awful. I just wanted to point out that maybe this is what it’s come to because of the way things are now. I honestly feel parent’s need to take a step back sometimes and not feel “nobody’s telling me what to do with my kid.” We send our kids to school to learn and we should leave some of this stuff up to the teachers and administration. That’s just the way I feel and we can’t have it both ways. I think we’ve gone way to far and need to do something about this but I’m just not sure what or how to do that.

      • SKL says:

        Joy, if you’re saying that the parents’ unreasonableness makes it so educators are often “damned if they do / damned if they don’t,” I agree with you. Frankly, it seems a lot more learning got done in school when the teachers had paddles prominently displayed in front of the classroom, and weren’t afraid to use them. Now every day I hear of another parent suing the school because their precious poo wasn’t allowed to have purple spiked hair in KG or whatever. I don’t know how we let this happen in our country, but I’d be in favor of changing the laws to give the teachers more rights to make rules and enforce them.

        But on the other hand, if you’re a school principal, that’s your life’s work and you’re supposed to take it seriously enough to educate yourself, seek out best practices, and apply your mind to find the best solution to discipline issues. That’s what you’re getting paid for, right? The principal in this case fell well short of reasonable expectations. And again, I wouldn’t mind it so much if he would just back off now that everyone knows he’s made a fool of himself.

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