Recap: Boisterous, energetic and normal 6-year-old Nathan Schwartz breaks his classroom door while under the supervision of a teacher, Miss Brown. Although Miss Brown repeatedly tells him to stop banging the door, Nathan continues slamming it, apparently delighting in the noise and commotion. At some point, the wooden door cracks, and the glass window shatters.
In a meeting with the school principal, Mrs. Schwartz is reminded that, according to school policy, she is liable to replace the door. Livid, she wonders where school responsibility begins and ends. Why didn’t Miss Brown prevent the damage?
A Peace Offering
I feel for you. My child, too, was not created in the “sit in your seat with your hands folded” mold, and I have been in your place more times than I care to remember. In fact, I can describe every nuance of the décor of our principal’s office. He should get a new paint job and replace that old-fashioned desk, but I digress.
That said, I offer you my 2 cents; bearing in mind inflation, perhaps my opinion is even worth a few dollars.
Legally, you are liable for the damage. You signed an agreement accepting the policy that parents must reimburse the school for unnecessary harm inflicted on the property. Unless you are prepared to wage a legal battle, the cost of which will far exceed the $300 value of the door, write a check and be done with the ordeal.
If you are worried about a recurrence with your adventurous little Nathan, perhaps you should omit your signature on that clause at the time of re-registration. Typically, this omission goes unnoticed as schools are inundated at registration and don’t have the time or manpower to pore over every page and signature.
Additionally, this conflict, if you choose to fan its flames, can cause negative ramifications for Nathan. How unhealthy for him to bear the brunt of this whole episode. Mr. Klein or Miss Brown could come down harder on him for his next infraction, and no child should be singled out as the bad boy.
Consider the money a peace offering — we all have unexpected expenses at some time — and move on.
— A Parent Who Has Been There
Take Out the Ammo
I was appalled to read your story. Miss Brown shirked her responsibility as an educator, and the school is trying to camouflage the incident and compel you to pay for her negligence and mismanagement.
I suggest you approach the school board and request an appeal for this situation. Considering Nathan’s age, Miss Brown should have stepped up and taken his hands off the door.
“We are not allowed to slam doors here,” she should have said, crouching to Nathan’s eye level. “It isn’t safe, and I want everyone in our classroom to be safe.”
She then should have redirected him, even praising him for listening as she helped him move to another activity.
Instead, Miss Brown was complicit in and even responsible for Nathan’s infraction. After all, who was the adult, and who was the child? She persisted in admonishing him ineffectively, watching as his final slam caused the door to shatter.
Does a lifeguard stay seated while someone flounders, shouting that he has ventured too far out? Or does he take immediate action and plunge into the depths?
If speaking to your school board doesn’t work, tell Mr. Klein that you are hiring an attorney. My gut feeling is that he will back down.
There is too much information available nowadays to allow unsuccessful educational techniques. Teachers and parents must conform to the highest standards to provide the best possible foundation for our children, our future.
— Alex White
Take a Chill Pill
Can’t life ever stay calm? Just for a day or three? Take a deep breath; this is just another curve ball. As an octogenarian, I’ve batted more than a few.
We are a stiff-necked people, we Jews, especially when someone tampers with our diamonds, our children. But we want to do the ethical thing. How can we know which path to take when our emotions are in turmoil and we feel victimized?
Never act in the heat of the moment. Take some time to breathe, discuss the situation and get objective advice — from a friend, an aunt, a sister, a rabbi or your mother-in-law.
Wishing you much Yiddishe nachas from your sweet, little Nathan.
— Betty Ostreicher
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