I came across this story on Bay News 9 which has sparked some interest regarding parental rights, especially when your child is in school. The article is almost a year old but the procedures you are about to read are still in effect for the 2011-2012 school year based on my research.
Parents, I urge you to please read this blog entry word for word.
The place: Virgil Mills Elementary School, Palmetto, Manatee County, Florida.
Parents of children enrolled at Virgil Mills Elementary School are having to wait about an hour to pick up their children when school is dismissed for the day which is creating problems. As part of a new policy instituted by the principal of Virgil Mills Elementary School, Mike Rio, parents are not even allowed to get out of their vehicles to meet their children even though the parents do not enter the secured part of the campus. Parents who do not comply with this policy are being turned into second class citizens by having a trespass warning issued which bars the parent from even entering school property for at least six months.
What? Trespass warnings? Turn law-abiding parents into second class citizens?
Here is the text of a comment I made to Bay News 9 regarding this newly instituted policy, all in the name of school safety:
All in the name of safety? Not in my book! If Mike Rio wants to threaten parents with trespass warnings, he has succeeded in turning his school into a mini-North Korea. By the way Mike Rio runs things, he is in my opinion out of touch with the parents, ready to use a trespass warning against anyone on his own personal whim. Furthermore, I support schools that have good after school dismissal plans such as parent pickup. But to threaten parents with trespass warnings is way too extreme. Remember what happened with another Manatee County public elementary school a while ago on this same issue? Parents, it's your kids.
Yes, public school campuses are closed campuses not only in Manatee and Pinellas counties, it is the standard throughout the State of Florida. The public school environment of today is nothing more like a state prison or county jail rather than a public school: Fences, gates, mandatory check in at the office including showing identification, and much more. Furthermore, students are being treated as inmates of a correctional facility during the school day.
Furthermore, if you want to know what a closed campus means, look across the Pacific Ocean to North Korea, the communistic totalitarian dictatorship run by Kim-Jong Il which is actually a prison. North Korea is a secretive, yet closed country and none of its citizens are even allowed to travel freely within or outside the country. In fact, North Korea has the poorest human rights record in the world according to this article on Wikipedia. Parental rights in North Korea are practically nonexistent; collective punishment in which not only the offender is punished but the offender’s family is punished as well is commonplace. If you travel there you will be escorted by a tour guide employed by the state and you will only be allowed to tour certain places, not to mention that you will be under constant surveillance while you are there.
Now what does that mean for you as a parent? In a nutshell, your parental rights are practically signed away when you enrolled your child in public school in the very first place. Here is a link to an article at ParentalRights.org which is interesting: Parents of 50 million children to lose parental rights. Quoting from this article, according to a decision in the United States Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit in Fields vs. Palmdale School District (427 F3d. 1197, 2005):
In sum, we affirm that the Meyer-Pierce right (of parents to direct the upbringing of their children) does not exist beyond the threshold of the school door.
Take that court case from the United States Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit in California, add in Florida’s draconian trespassing laws and you got a recipe for parental protest. Florida’s trespassing laws were also written with public and private schools in mind in that principals are allowed to ban anyone from a school campus for any reason whatsoever, even if you have a child attending that school!
Besides, trespass warnings in Florida are tools of oppression by higher authority, whether it may be a store manager or a security guard on private property or a school principal on public school property. After all, trespass warnings in Florida are convictions for trespassing without the benefit of due process and trial.
God knows what your children are being educated in public school if there is no parental involvement, once your child slips behind the gates of school that is closed to parents. Bullying? Child abuse? Physical abuse? Emotional abuse? Getting an education that you and I as Florida taxpayers have to pay for? That teacher – perhaps one of your child’s teachers – you find out on Bay News 9 that the teacher has been arrested on a sex related offense? Less and less homework every night and you find out when your child brings home D’s and F’s on his or her report card?
If you are concerned about your child’s performance, you set up an appointment for a conference with your child’s teachers. You arrive at school and your child’s teachers discuss his or her performance; it is carefully orchestrated to hide the truth. If you question the teachers’ authority to hide the truth as to what your children are learning, more than likely the principal will be called in to handle the issue which can result in a trespass warning being issued rather than working with you.
Now here’s my take on parental rights as far as school is concerned:
Your children are still your children. You have every right – and an obligation – as a parent to actively participate in your child’s educational process. Here in Pinellas County, we have fundamental schools where parental involvement is not optional - instead, parental involvement is mandatory or your child is sent back to zoned school.
Your local school district does not own your children.
Most schools have great student drop-off and pick-up plans for those students who have to be driven to school, especially due to ineligibility for busing (there are students that walk to school daily, but the walk to school must be pedestrian friendly and not have to go through dangerous situations between home and school and vice versa). These drop-off and pick-up plans are parent friendly, but you’ll won’t find that at Virgil Mills Elementary in Palmetto.
While we’re on the subject of Virgil Mills Elementary, after I read the article on Bay News 9 I feel that Virgil Mills Principal Mike Rio is out of touch with the parents. Instead of being helpful, Mike Rio dangles the threat of turning a law-abiding parent into a second class citizen by having a trespass warning issued (and consequently make if more difficult for your child to get to school, especially if your child does not qualify for bus service). Furthermore, according to the Bay News 9 article, Mike Rio has made good on his policy by hiring off duty Manatee County Sheriff deputies just to see that the pick up policy is enforced.
In my opinion, for all intents and purposes Mike Rio is running a closed world at Virgil Mills Elementary compared to Kim-Jong Il running a closed world with North Korea. The difference: Virgil Mills Elementary is a school while North Korea is a sovereign nation. Once your child steps out of your vehicle and enters the gates of Virgil Mills Elementary your child has basically crossed from the United States into North Korea.
If you as a parent feel that your child is being mistreated or you question the quantity of schoolwork or quality of schoolwork you have the right to make an appointment to have a conference with your child’s teachers. Demand accountability not only from your child’s teachers but from the principal – after all, as a homeowner you are paying for public schools out of your tax dollars.
If you as a parent feel that you are getting nowhere with your child’s teachers as well as the principal, you have the right to put your child into another school.
Parents, you are a role model for your child. Don’t let the school district dictate your child’s life. Elementary school is not a rehearsal for middle and high school – instead, elementary school is where your child learns basic skills in order to prepare for what's ahead in middle school and high school. In middle school your child builds on these basic skills and in high school it’s the four-year bridge between elementary school and college. Besides, school is supposed to be the best years of your child’s life from the day your child enters Kindergarten to the day your child graduates from college.
I believe strongly in parental involvement in your child's education. The teachers and administrative staff are there to assist your child in getting the education he or she needs in order to face the challenges of tomorrow. Perhaps the Manatee County School District needs to replace Mike Rio with a principal that truly cares not only for students, the parents that have their children attend Virgil Mills Elementary as well. As I mentioned earlier, Mike Rio's decision to enforce a student pick up policy and at the same time dangle the threat of a trespass warning being issued against parents shows clearly that Mike Rio is out of touch with the parents.