This time last week, I was up in arms over the plight of Maia, the East High freshman who had been recommended for expulsion from school over an alcohol-related incident. By now, given the media coverage, many of you are familiar with her story. In a nod to peer pressure, on the morning of a field trip this past February, Maia foolishly bought two water bottles with a few ounces of bourbon in each to school. She kept one in her backpack and gave another to a friend. Then, based on an anonymous tip that she might have pot in her possession (which she did not), Maia admitted to school authorities that she was harboring the booze. She was at first suspended, and then recommended for expulsion from the school district.
Finally, in humane and sane fashion, the Board of Education voted last Monday night to allow Maia to return to school on Tuesday.
That same evening, precisely to avoid the destructive nature of "zero tolerance" in the MMSD's current guide to school discipline, the Board also voted to adopt a new, hopefully more effective, Behavior Education Plan for elementary and middle/high school students for the 2014-15 school year. It's focused on a more contemporary understanding of student conduct and utilizes concepts like restorative justice. It also curtails the types of violations that can result in automatic suspension and expulsion, like Maia's.
So I want to say thank you to the Board for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story. Because before the Isthmus article broke online last Wednesday, I'd never thought for a second, despite having three kids in public schools, about the Code of Conduct for our district.
And I don't think I was the only one. Perhaps Maia's mom, Melissa Meyer, said it best last week, "We're fighting this not just for our daughter, but for all those who don't have a voice," she says. "I had no idea how focused on punishment the district's policies are."
Now I am not saying the MMSD was deliberately, in any way, trying to keep their former "zero tolerance"-based Code of Conduct from us parents. I have no doubt that the Lord-knows-how-many-page-long document was free and accessible on the MMSD website. If I'd taken the time I could have easily learned to distinguish what was a level one infraction from a level four offense. But I didn't. And I'm pretty sure I never would have without last week's media attention on a real story, about a real kid, who did something really wrong and really got screwed in a screwed-up process.
If you look at this week's news though, you'd think a trip to the Final Four, as big a deal as it may be, is the only thing happening of importance in town. But this couldn't possibly be true. There have to be more stories like Maia's out there, and not just of injustices, but of fantastic things as well, that no one knows about. So I want to take this moment to ask parents to keep Melissa Meyer, Maia's mom, in mind when wondering whether or not to share your stories with the media.
Because, right or wrong, the rest of us parents can be pretty clueless to issues and policies out there that affect all kids. And your willingness to go public with your accounts and opinion helps to inform the rest of us.
I, for one, am always willing to get up-in-arms about stuff. But I am very dependent on the insight and experiences of other parents to let me know just what it is I need to get up-in-arms about.comments powered by Disqus
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.