Hey Student, Sign This Contract That Says You Will Be A Student, Or You Can't Come

My son started high school this year. He's a freshman. He loves it and is doing very well. I have mentioned in the past that he was a member of the leadership team at his middle school and is on the board at his temple's religious school (don't ask). My kid is awesome.

On the way to school this morning he told me he was getting out early today because there is an assembly or rally and there was a permission slip that needed to be turned in and he neglected to do it. He took full responsibility for not having turned it in yesterday when it was due. We parents aren't informed of things that come home, so it is entirely up to the students to get this kind of thing done.

The permission slip is not really a permission slip. The fact that my son considers it a permission slip is itself interesting; it speaks to his naivety and to the school's actual basis for requiring the "permission slip."

I have it right next to me, and it is called a Student Activities Contract. What? It talks about requirements students must meet in order to attend certain functions. It is a copy of something we all had to sign in the beginning of the year. And it is non-binding, because these children don't have any standing to sign contracts. But that's a whole other issue.

The contract talks about maintaining a 1.5 GPA or higher (really?), no suspensions, and an attendance record "deemed passable by the Dean of Attendance." So, the requirements are inherently unclear if one is decided in the vacuum of the Dean's head.

Why would a school demand that students sign a contract promising to be students? I'll tell you why.

It's to keep out the riffraff. If you make participation in activities contingent upon parent signatures --the signatures themselves contingent upon a teenager remembering to have mommy sign the silly thing-- then you are precluding many kids from participating, especially in a Title 1 district, like the one my son attends. Why? Inner city families often have more difficult work hours, or lack of interest, or who knows what that might prevent them from getting a silly form signed just so their kid can go to the school their tax dollars pay for.

It also precludes great, interested, competent, well-prepared kids from coming if they forget to get the stupid thing signed.

It's like giving someone a contract that says they will be human, and if they don't sign it, then, well, what? You're no longer human? These students are being asked to sign a contract that says they will be students. Why this stupid thing has to be turned in in order to attend the school and functions at the school is nonsense, and it's a ploy to limit attendance to the "good" kids.

The kids that need the adults the most are the ones who are precluded, as are the ones who are a good example to other kids, like my son, who don't get to go because they forgot to turn in what is a useless and manipulative form designed without him in mind (or, with only kids like him in mind--the point is to limit attendance).

This kind of policy invented by school administrators is what gives public schools a bad name.

It's calling everyone guilty before they even show up. It basically says, We know your fucked up kids who do drugs and are violent and get shitty grades, and if you bring that shit here, well, we won't let you in, fuckers!

It's like Nancy Reagan when she told everyone to just say no. It's easy when you're a coddled millionaire, isn't it? Not so easy when you are surrounded by it and it is the economy your hood runs on.

Students are not treated with the respect they deserve. As kids, they react poorly and act out. Think about that the next time you as principal decide to call everyone into question by making them sign some shit that makes them promise not to be drug-addled killers.

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