18 August 2013

Back to School and Your Parental Rights for 2013-2014

Well, it's that time of year again!
School will be back in session for the 2013-2014 school year in most school districts of the Tampa/St. Petersburg metropolitan area. For Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando, Polk and Manatee counties school gets underway on Monday, 19 August 2012 while Hillsborough county gets underway on Tuesday, 20 August 2012. As a parent, you're more than likely getting your children ready for the new school year, probably taking advantage of the tax free holiday that happened on 2-4 August 2013!
Unfortunately, if you live in Citrus County - home to communities such as Inverness, Crystal River, Lecanto, Hernando, Citrus Springs, and we can't forget Citrus County Speedway as well as Lake Rousseau and the Cross Florida Barge Canal and the Withlacoochee River - school started on Wednesday, 7 August 2013.  Why does the Citrus County School District start classes much sooner than the rest of the Tampa Bay region?
A year or so after the law was passed (Section 1001.42 (4) (f) of the Florida Statutes) restricting the school start date no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day, our lawmakers in Tallahassee wanted to reward (Section 1003.621 of the Florida Statutes) academically high performing school districts such as the Citrus County School District.  The reward?  Permit academically high performing school districts to start school much earlier, all in the name of the super high-stakes FCAT test!
Public schools in Florida are nothing more than drill and practice for the annual FCAT test.  If you want your child to get a meaningful education in Florida, consider enrolling your child in private school, that is, if you got the large sums of $$$$ or your child is lucky to get a private school scholarship.  Unless, of course, you live in Pinellas County and your child applies for and is selected to attend a fundamental school where parental involvement and mandatory homework is required among other things.
Our legislators need to go back and repeal Section 1003.621 of the Florida Statutes that allow these academically high performing school districts carte blanche on the school start date.  The school start date needs to be uniform throughout the State of Florida, no ifs, ands or buts.  And don't give me the FCAT as an excuse!
Now on to your parental rights as a parent of a child attending a public school in Florida.
The most important thing to remember is this:
Neither your school district nor your child's school principal own or have custody of your children.  You did not sign away any rights as a parent when you registered your child for school and signed on the dotted line on the registration form.
In fact, Bay News 9 has put together a page of your rights as a parent when it comes to your child's education in public school. A few of them, according to the Bay News 9 article, are as follows:

1. You, as a parent, have a right to look over your child's school records and see test results, teacher comments and any disciplinary action taken against your child. In the Pinellas County School District, you can log in to Parent Connect and see much of this information on your child; access requires a login which you can get from any school upon presentation of a government issued photo ID.

2. If your child's school is a Title I school - a school that receives federal funds for low income children to help them succeed in school - federal law requires that you as a parent be involved in programs and decisions that affect your child. Your child's school principal will tell you if the school is a Title I school.
3.  You have the right to ensure that your child is not physically punished for any violations of school rules whatsoever.  After all, paddling conveys a message to your child that it is OK to solve problems with violence.  In fact, I recommend that you make this your personal commitment to your child.

In fact, corporal punishment is prohibited in the Pinellas County School District per the Student Code of Conduct.  Pinellas County's prohibition also extends to parents and anyone else while on school district property.
4.  If your child is involved in any incident that can lead to disciplinary action, you have the right to review the action taken against your child with the principal.
More importantly, you are an active participant in your child's education.  You are not to be placed on the sidelines as far as your child's education is concerned.  After all, this is why you pay property taxes to your school district - demand better from your school officials.
While we're on the subject of parental rights as far as school is concerned, now that the 2013-2014 school year is on the horizon...
Florida's public school campuses are increasingly becoming nothing more than closed mini-North Koreas.  Why?  For this school year, closed campuses have a better meaning:  Just mention Sandy Hook Elementary - which was indeed a horrific tragedy - and school officials will use that as an excuse.
Remember, if you have to visit your child's school for any reason, be sure to report to the front office, sign in and present valid governmentally issued ID.
God knows what your child will be exposed to once your child enters the closed neverworld of a Florida public school campus.  Bullying?  Child abuse?  Physical abuse?  Emotional abuse?  The subject of your child's teacher's abusive comment on the teacher's Facebook page?

Seems like every time you turn on Bay News 9, 10 News (WTSP-TV), ABC Action News (WFTS-TV) or NewsChannel 8 (WFLA-TV) or you pick up a copy of the St. Petersburg Times (to this day, I still do not recognize the misnamed Tampa Bay Times) or The Tampa Tribune and find this:  School official arrested on child pornography related charges.  Now doesn't that sound scary?

Or, God knows, what your child could be bringing home from school?  Let's say your child comes home from school and you are going through your child's backpack.  You find something that is objectionable and you make your concerns known to your child's school principal.  Instead of taking the time to listen to your concerns, the principal contacts law enforcement and has you arrested for trespassing on school grounds!  In fact, there is a video out there on YouTube called Overruled:  Government Invasion of your Parental Rights which was produced by ParentalRights.org - I have it embedded into a blog entry I made right around August 2012 when the 2012-2013 school year started and you can read that blog entry as well as watch the video here.  The Overruled video speaks for itself when it comes to parental rights as far as school is concerned.
Just lately I paid an online visit to the website of Virgil Mills Elementary School in Palmetto, which is in Parrish in Manatee County and located basically at the southern terminus of Interstate 275.  A glance at Virgil Mills' arrival and dismissal procedures for the 2013-2014 school year is obvious:  Virgil Mills' principal, Mike Rio, intends to enforce his draconian policy - which is not written - of dangling the threat of a trespass warning on any parent that does not comply with the arrival and dismissal procedures and Principal Rio has made good on that promise by stationing off duty Manatee County Sheriff's Deputies in the student pickup line.

You can read the original story on why Virgil Mills Elementary parents have to wait an inordinate amount of time to pick up their children and the consequences of a trespass warning for the parents enforced by Virgil Mills Principal Mike Rio over at Bay News 9.  That was an excellent article by Bay News 9 reporter Summer Smith, by the way.

After all, as the 2013-2014 school year gets underway we can make our schools safer for our children and it can be done.  We do not need to turn our public schools into correctional facility fortresses or closed mini-North Koreas for that matter at the expense of keeping your child safe at school.

You as a parent play an important role in your child's education.  As such, you as a parent do not sit on the sidelines and let your child's school principal dictate what is appropriate for your child.  As I mentioned earlier, you pay taxes for public schools - demand better from your school officials.

With that said, onward with the 2013-2014 school year!

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