TACONIC MOM’S LETTER TO THE EDITOR TOO STRONG FOR BB, BUT PLANET DARES TO SHARE IT WITH THE COMMUNITY … ‘ZERO-TOLERANCE’ DRUG POLICY A JOKE … TOBACCO, TRANSPORTATION, AND DRESS CODES ALSO ARE NOTHING MORE THAN MEANINGLESS WORDS ON PAPER … $PPS a $90MM JOKE, BUT WHO’S LAUGHING?
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, FEB. 21, 2013) — Do you think the situation in the Pittsfield Public Schools is what they lead you to believe? For example, here’s the PPS official drug policy:
G. POLICY ON DRUGS
For the purposes of this handbook, the term drug includes a controlled drug, a look-alike drug, prescription medicines, volatile substances, and alcoholic beverages. Any student who uses, possesses, distributes, sells, or otherwise furnishes alcoholic beverages, drugs, or drug paraphernalia in any of the following circumstances: while on school property, on a school-provided transportation vehicle, at a designated school transportation stop, at a school-sponsored activity which is not on school property, or any activity under the jurisdiction of the school department, shall be referred to the appropriate school administrator for disciplinary action. Such an offense can range from short-term suspension to expulsion. Violations may also constitute a criminal act. All cases where drugs or suspected materials are seized will be reported to law enforcement authorities.
The school system and the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse shall provide alcohol and drug abuse prevention education for students in grades 6 though 12. The school system will extend to students and their families the opportunity to utilize community-based substance abuse treatment programs or counseling services.
THE PLANET asks you: How does that square up with this letter, sent to us from the parent of a Taconic High School student. The student is a 15-year-old freshman.
“My daughter and I recently had a talk about drugs. She’s 15 and at that age where she’s starting to “act 15.” She’s a good girl, hasn’t partaken of drugs, and only recently did I find out she tasted her first beer. During our talk, she told me about intense peer pressure to drink and to “do drugs.” I told her that she could come to me with any problems and that she could go to the school, teachers, principals, etc. She laughed at that. When I asked her, she said that not a day goes by that she doesn’t witness a sale or exchange of drugs in front of the locker rooms (usually) or in another place such as a bathroom or locker room. I asked her about the literalness of her statement: “not a day goes by”?
She said, yes, literally, she sees at least one drug deal a day. When I asked her about the school’s zero tolerance policy, she said, “Ma, every kid I know is either [doing drugs] or drinking or both.” She said this activity is conducted on the school grounds and off, at parties. She also says that students routinely smoke on the school grounds, in back of THS, in the open. Teachers, administrators, police all know about this activity but nothing is done. As my daughter puts it, “What are they going to do? Expel everyone?”
I am heartsick and so frustrated over this situation. I don’t know how to protect her. I have gone to the administration and reported this to the school board. They were condescending and did not really have time to take me seriously. I know that nothing will be done. You [THE PLANET] are the only one who dares report the truth about what’s happening in the schools. That’s why I’m sending you this letter. The Eagle did not publish a similar one I recently sent. I guess it doesn’t fit in with the school department, the school board, the teachers, and the mayor want us to believe. Well too bad. I know I speak for a lot of other concerned parents. Thank you for letting me vent.
(signed) A Concerned Taconic Mom
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For the $90 million that taxpayers sent each year to the PPS, you think Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski would at least get truth in advertising. For too long, the PPS has been allowed to operate “outside the law,” with little or no accountability.
WANTED IN THE NEW PPS SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: An end to the B.S.!
Is it in the cards? We have learned long ago not to raise any such false hopes with this imminent hiring. We only have history as a guide, which strongly suggests the school board will not dare hire a true reformer. It will likely look for someone who can do the old razzle-dazzle in public but behind the scenes not rock the boat. If this happens, the current malignancy, which has been present for some years, will continue to metastasize.
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While were at it, look at this section of the student handbook:
D. SUSPENSION OR LOSS OF TRANSPORTATION RIGHTS
The following acts may result in denial of the privilege to ride the bus:
• Profanity on school buses • Fighting or other aggressive physical behavior • Smoking on school buses • Lewd or lascivious conduct • Unnecessary distraction of the driver • Destruction of any bus property [restitution will be the parents’ or guardians’ financial responsibility] • Violation of rules for safety on school buses • Any act which interferes with the safe and orderly transportation of students • Possession of weapons or drugs.
This week during school vacation, THE PLANET had a chance to speak with students from both high school and middle schools in Pittsfield. When we read the above policy to them, we heard snickers and hoots. The kids know this printed policy is a joke, and when we asked for examples, each one of these violations was mentioned. All of these violations have occurred. Many have been reported. Yet not one student, that we know of, has had to deal with the consequences. Most students on busses are well-behaved, but the few who aren’t are raising havoc, with immunity.
Finally, here’s the section on student attire:
N. INAPPROPRIATE STUDENT ATTIRE
Personal appearance is an individual matter. No one, however, has the privilege of disregarding the norms of reasonable dress. Attire that could interfere with the learning process is not allowed. Students will be counseled on an individual basis if their attire is improper. Parents will be contacted if there is a question regarding a student’s attire. Clothing must always conform to safety standards of the particular class. The following dress code was drawn up by a committee of parents, teachers, administrators, and students:
• Hooded jackets or sweatshirts with drawstrings cannot be worn on or around play or work equipment. • Clothing is to be clean and neat without holes or tears. • The bottom of the top overlaps the top of the bottoms. • Spandex and Lycra are acceptable only when worn over or under less revealing garments.
• Obscene, vulgar, racist, sexist or other offensive pictures, words, or slogans are prohibited. • Hemlines of skirts or shorts must fall below fingertips when arms are relaxed at sides. • Shoes/sandals must be worn at all times. • Hats (caps, berets, scarves) of a non-religious nature may not be worn in the school.
• Undergarments should not be visible. • Any other dress that distracts, disrupts, intimidates or provokes can be deemed inappropriate by the principal or designee. Coats/jackets should be kept in student lockers unless conditions warrant otherwise.
Having been many times inside both high schools for meetings or to do TV/radio shows, and having seen PHS students traipsing about off campus during lunch time, again, we have seen every one of these offending items violated. Again, we are not aware of one case where a student faced serious consequences.
For “drug and tobacco,” the “transportation,” and “dress,” in the Pittsfield Public Schools has neat-sounding policies. The codes, though, are ignored. The pretense toward discipline and control makes PPS a $90 million joke.
We “get it,” but few of us are laughing.
“We cannot know how much we learn / From those who never will return, / Until a flash of unforseen / Remembrance falls upon what has been.” — E. A. Robinson
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.