$175. Cheap at half the price.
When I first heard about the teacher in Milwaukee who cut a student’s hair and mocked her in front of her class, I didn’t believe it was real, thought it was maybe something like the balloon boy foolishness. But no, it seems to be real.
The idea that a first grade teacher would behave in this way is almost impossible for my brain to process. The part of the story that is truly freakish, however, is that every news report I’ve seen focuses on how teachers are under so much pressure these days, how teachers are all stressed out, how budget cuts are making times really hard for teachers.
Yes? … and? I don’t deny that any of those things are true. Teachers are under all kinds of due and undue pressure these days. Budget cuts are making teachers’ work lives more difficult. No argument from me.
But if you are sufficiently stressed that you see abusing a 7-year-old child as a viable outlet for your stress, you shouldn’t be in the classroom. You shouldn’t be anywhere near anyone’s child, not even your own.
Some basic rules that I would have thought could go without saying:
– Teachers shouldn’t assault students — verbally, physically, any-kind-of-ly.
– No adult should come at a child in anger … with scissors.
Set aside for a moment how painfully charged hair is. It’s charged for most people, but certainly for black girls, and the victim in this story was a black girl. So much of our self esteem / self image / identity gets wrapped into our twists, braids, weaves, perms, waves, fros and locks. That’s heavy enough for this act to be more than a $175 fine’s worth of bad teacher behavior.
That she called the child up to the front of the room and encouraged the class to watch as she cut her hair, that she taunted the crying child after cutting her hair … these things are so ugly, so wrong as to indicate something more than ‘stress’ going on with that teacher.
When I first read this story, the one thing that repeated in my head about a thousand times was, “Oh hell no!” The mother of the little girl is angry. The little girl is lucky that woman is her mother. If I were her mother, she’d be dealing with the trauma of her teacher’s actions and with the loss of her mother to the criminal justice system because I just don’t see me using my words in this situation.
A commenter on one write-up of this story said: “Well, maybe this will teach her to listen to what the teacher says.”
Really? Really? That’s your response? You think this story was about teaching a child a lesson? And what is that lesson, exactly? If you unconsciously flick your braids adults have the right to frighten you, make fun of you, turn your classmates against you and put their hands on you? As another commenter said, if the little girl had been making a vocal noise, would it have been ok for the teacher to cut her throat?
And what’s the lesson that the other students in the class are learning? The child with the cut hair was transferred to a different teacher, but her former classmates are still in the room with a woman they know is capable of doing them harm … and who has done harm and received no. punishment. from. the. school. How safe do they feel in that classroom today?
And speaking of lessons, what lesson is the teacher learning here? That it’s ok for her to assault a child and say, “I was frustrated,” when that child’s parent complains? Or maybe the lesson is I can abuse my students and the school won’t take action against me. Sure, I’ll have to pony up the $175 disorderly conduct fine the police will slap on me, but that’s no problem. So it’s ok, then, for me to cut a child’s hair and humiliate her. What other ways can I express my frustration without getting in trouble? Can I spank a child? Would that be ok, too? Can I smack a child? Call a child names? What if I just encourage the rest of the class to shun the troublemaker? That would surely be ok, right?
I’m sick. My brain really hurts with this one. I can’t imagine what that casual cruelty has done to the little girl who was set on by her teacher, can’t imagine how the school administration isn’t taking this any more seriously.
I hate to always go in the same direction, but I can’t help but imagine that, had a silky little blond braid been cut off a child’s head, this story would be getting a lot more press. I want to be wrong about this, want to believe that we can all see the harm in this incident whether that braid is kinky or not.