Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Seattle teacher clueless and cruel is What Got To Me Today!

When I was about thirteen, I remember not being allowed into a home while wearing my winter coat, because it smelled like smoke.  True, I lived with a smoking parent (didn't we all back then?), and the house in question was a non-smoking house (I totally get it because as an adult, my house is a non-smoking house and I can't stand the smell of smoke either). I was met, however, by the homeowner, with an "'re going to have to stay out in the garage until you get that coat off, I don't want it in my house."  Well, I was totally mortified and embarrassed, which is probably why I still remember it today. 

Now, take that mortification and multiply it by 1000.  This has got to be how it felt for an eight year old girl in Seattle when her teacher kicked her out of the classroom because the scent of her hair (from a hair product) made the teacher ill.  It is reported the teacher also told the girl she was allergic to her hair, even though she wasn't allergic to her own dog's hair, before kicking her out.  She said  the hair made her feel faint and like she was going to vomit.  This happened openly in front of the little girl's classmates.  Add to it that the little girl is bi-racial, the only ethnic student in the advanced placement class, and that she was outcast first to the hallway, and then to a lower level class because of the way her hair (product) smelled. 

Okay...let me take a deep breath here because I am so outraged by this that if I don't, my hands will shake too much for me to type.

What in the h*** is this woman doing in a classroom if she can't even realize the negative and hurtful impact her words and actions are going to have on this little girl?  According to the father, who is African-American, he has been encouraging his daughter to not give in to peer pressure to straighten her hair like her white classmates.  He writes on his blog, "I want her to know she's beautiful".  So, in compromise, the girl wears a hair lotion (Organic Root Stimulator Olive Oil Moisturizing Hair Lotion) to keep her hair in a natural state.

I understand that some people have real physical reactions to chemicals and perfumes.  That isn't the issue.

The issue is how the teacher treated the little girl.
The issue is how the teacher never contacted the parents. 
The issue is how the school didn't return the parent's call, or deal at all with the situation, when the girl told her parent's what had happened.

So, if the situation continued to be ignored, the little girl would no longer be allowed into the advanced placement class.

Well, needless to say, due to the failed response of the school, the matter has escalated.  The parent's do not wish to send the girl to school in the current environment.  The NAACP has stepped in, and the school has turned to it's lawyers.  By what I've read so far, there has been no action to the teacher, and no apology to the little girl or her family.

If the teacher would have made her concerns known to the parents, it is very likely they may have changed products to alleviate the problem, in a way that was sensitive to the girl's self-esteem.  The teacher had a real opportunity here to create a supportive environment, and even turn it into a teaching moment.  Instead, this young girl will never forget how she was singled out, insulted, embarrassed in front of her peers, her hair compared to that of a dog, and demoted to a lesser level of learning.

I remember a smoky winter coat from 23 years ago.  You cannot tell me this 8 year old little girl will forget.

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