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A Pointed Story

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Here’s one to think about. Eric Walker, a high school chemistry teacher in Livingston County, Mich., was recently suspended for three days for allegedly striking a student with a pointer. The girl’s mother, in addition to wanting Walker terminated, reported the incident the police but, to her dismay, the county prosecutor decided not to press charges because he determined Walker did not show criminal intent.

In fact, Walker—though he acknowledges poor judgment—claims he was merely trying to wake the student up. “It was certainly not to inflict any pain whatsoever,” he said in a written statement. “I used the pointer to wake the student because it allows me to reach across the large desks in the room that have minimal space between them. I also feel very uncomfortable making contact with a student with my hands; especially if the student is female.”

The girl claimed the contact gave her a lump on her head and that she was ill later that night. Another student said Walker “tapped” him with the pointer that day, while others said the teacher routinely used physical contact or threw small objects (like candy wrappers) at them to get their attention.

While calling the action “inappropriate,” the school’s principal said the district would not fire Walker, because it, too, found he had no intent to harm the student.

Hat tip: Nancy Flanagan, who offers a provocative interpretation.

8 Comments

This Mom needs help a lot more than the teacher needs discipline.

Kids are drama kings and queens. Perhaps its part of them being hormonal, but as adults, we should be able to tell the difference between someone tring to do a hard job and a kid who was "annoyed" at his efforts.

I'm old enough to remember teacher inservice meetings where we were told to touch, hug, etc. children because it would make them feel more secure, wanted, etc. I don;t think we would get that advice any more. I used to toss balls of paper toward a student that was not listening, etc. NO more. Today, I call there name, and repeat (with more volume), repeat, etc.
Physicians practice defensive medicine, we must practice defensive teaching. It may not be the best for students, but it is better for us.

It amazes me at times to read about some very petty things that some parents make a big argument about, some of which I consider nonsensical.If parents were spending more time educating their children about proper behavior, and respect, then we would have less young people in prisons. It is really pathetic to know that teachers are trying to help their students and they get very minimal support from some parents. "What kind of society are we preparing for the future generation?"

How students react to different types of communication many times reflects the relationship the student has with the teacher. If a teacher doesn't enjoy a positive relationship with a student, it would not be wise to tap the student with a stick or with a hand.

The teacher was suspended for three days, what consequence did the student get? Too bad the teacher can't file a frivolous intent against the student and parent for making such an accusation. Then he should be able to contact Child Protective Services for the parent's failure to supervise her daughter's home life so that the child got enough sleep to stay awake in school. As a teacher, I walk over and stand over the student and talk very loudly so that they can't sleep anymore or stop talking and stare at the sleeping beauty until another student wakes them up or until they wake up because the whole class is laughing at how long I have been waiting. They are given a warning and if it happens again they stand for 10 minutes to shake it off. Repeat offenders also get to write a five-paragraph essay on the benefits of sufficent rest. In addition to their regular assignment they have now given themselves additional work that must be done. They must present the finished product with an outline, rough draft and final draft. If it is not turned in when due, two days of after school detention to write it in my classroom are assigned. I remember not daring to fall asleep in school. We got the switch. Today's kids don't have any consequences because they can call CPS or their parents curse out the teachers. What a sad state of affairs that we have to read about incidents such as this in the classroom. Vianne

I no longer wake students. Anyone old enough to drive and hold down a job is old enough to take the responsibility of staying awake in class. (I teach high school.) Also, the last time I woke a student up, he leaped out of his desk. The desk went flying one way, the student's books another - and others told me later I was lucky because the young man regularly carried a knife in his shoe.

It is interesting that after Vianne describes a laundry list of consequences that she uses she goes on to comment that today's kids don't have any consequences.

I would also add that if the teacher in question has some question about the adequacy of the child's parents (failure to supervise the child's homelife so that she gets enough sleep to not fall asleep in school), they not only have the right, they have the legal obligation to make a report to the local Child Protective Services.

I don't really know if the parent was inappropriate in this instance--there is always more than meets the eye. I do know that as a parent, it is very difficult to have responsible relationships with teachers in an environment that regards parents as stupid or incompetent.

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  • Tomi Evans: I no longer wake students. Anyone old enough to drive read more
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  • Bonnie Roane: How students react to different types of communication many times read more
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