Sunday, May 10, 2009

Kid wants the protection of oldfashioned Christian values without having to abide by them

There's nothing stopping him from finding a school more to his liking

A student at a fundamentalist Baptist school that forbids dancing, rock music, hand-holding and kissing will be suspended if he takes his girlfriend to her public high school prom, his principal said. Despite the warning, 17-year-old Tyler Frost, who has never been to a dance before, said he plans to attend Findlay High School's prom Saturday.

Frost, a senior at Heritage Christian School in northwest Ohio, agreed to the school's rules when he signed a statement of cooperation at the beginning of the year, principal Tim England said.

The teen, who is scheduled to receive his diploma May 24, would be suspended from classes and receive an "incomplete" on remaining assignments, England said. Frost also would not be permitted to attend graduation but would get a diploma once he completes final exams. If Frost is involved with alcohol or sex at the prom, he will be expelled, England said.

Frost's stepfather Stephan Johnson said the school's rules should not apply outside the classroom. "He deserves to wear that cap and gown," Johnson said.

Frost said he thought he had handled the situation properly. Findlay requires students from other schools attending the prom to get a signature from their principal, which Frost did. "I expected a short lecture about making the right decisions and not doing something stupid," Frost said. "I thought I would get his signature and that would be the end."

England acknowledged signing the form but warned Frost there would be consequences if he attended the dance. England then took the issue to a school committee made up of church members, who decided to threaten Frost with suspension. "In life, we constantly make decisions whether we are going to please self or please God. (Frost) chose one path, and the school committee chose the other," England said.

The handbook for the 84-student Christian school says rock music "is part of the counterculture which seeks to implant seeds of rebellion in young people's hearts and minds."

England said Frost's family should not be surprised by the school's position. "For the parents to claim any injustice regarding this issue is at best forgetful and at worst disingenuous," he said. "It is our hope that the student and his parents will abide by the policies they have already agreed to."

The principal at Findlay High School, whose graduates include Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, said he respects, but does not agree with, Heritage Christian School's view of prom. "I don't see (dancing and rock music) as immoral acts," Craig Kupferberg said.



Three current articles below

Rural school ignores bully reports

That great government education again. It makes a mockery of the claim that schools act "in loco parentis"

BULLYING is so out of control at a small rural school that parents are threatening to pull their children out while some have already done so. One child was so badly terrorised at Mt Tarampa State School, about 40km north-west of Ipswich, that after years of bullying his mother pulled him out of the school. Kathrine Rodgers said she was so concerned about her nine-year-old son being abused that she reported the incidents to the school repeatedly - but his ordeal continued for two years. “He was being bullied and harassed constantly,” Ms Rodgers said. “One time he even got hit with a star picket in the middle of his back.”

The turning point for Ms Rodgers was when her son, who was in year four at the time, was punched repeatedly. Ms Rodgers said she reported the incidents but little was done. After witnessing more students being bullied at the school she has gained the courage to support other parents in their fight to stop the bullying.

A teacher, who cannot be named, worked at the school for more than a year and described the classrooms as “out of control”. The teacher said she left after a year because her concerns fell on “deaf ears”. “Some of the students should be expelled or suspended because they are out of control,” she said. “There are students at that school who shouldn't be there because their behaviour is unacceptable and disruptive to other children and they need more support than is available.”

Another parent, who asked not to be named, said her two sons aged 10 and 8 were constantly being bullied and victimised at the school. “They are getting beaten up on a regular basis and they are absolutely petrified of going to school,” she said. “They get their hair pulled, stomach punched and kicked and it doesn't matter how many times I tell the school nothing changes.”

But she is confident with a bit of help she can make the school a safer environment for her children. “I have them crying and pleading with me every day to not make them go to school but my only hope is that things will change,” she said.

No one from Education Queensland was available to comment yesterday.


School invaders menace students and teachers

VIOLENT intruders, including some armed with weapons, are attacking and hurling abuse at teachers and students almost daily in Queensland schools. The Courier-Mail can report parents as well as complete strangers last year invaded schools at least four times a week on average. Documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation show some intruders waved knives and axes. In one shocking incident, an intruder told teachers at a Brisbane school that he was a terrorist and threatened to wreak vengeance with an AK-47 assault rifle, which fires 600 rounds a minute.

In other cases of school violence, intruders have assaulted girls outside school toilets and teachers have been kicked and headbutted. The documents detail at least 152 school invasions during the 2008 school year but Education Queensland issued only brief letters to parents for some cases and little more than a dozen media releases for the entire year.

Parents also are taking matters into their own hands, picking fights on behalf of their children and storming classrooms. One parent tried to kick in the door of a principal's office. In another incident last May at Runcorn State High School, in Brisbane's south, a person terrorised staff and students after entering without permission during the lunch break. "The male went back to his bike and came back with an axe, which he held up in a menacing way," an internal report said.

In one high-profile case, not detailed under FOI, several teenage gang members last July allegedly armed themselves with a meat cleaver and hunted students at Brisbane's prestigious private boys school St Laurence's College. Two 15-year-old students underwent surgery after the alleged attack.

While most cases occurred on Brisbane's southside and the Gold Coast, one case at Indooroopilly State High School, in which an male intruder was reported wandering around the school on four occasions, received special attention by top bureaucrats "given that there are some high-profile media parents of the school". Just a month later, the school faced an even graver threat when a Year 11 girl received a text message stating an intruder planned to "come to the school with a gun". "I'm going to come and shoot up your school," the SMS read.

Education Minister Geoff Wilson yesterday insisted schools had systems in place to deal with intruders, calling police for criminal behaviour, while angry parents faced bans. However, he conceded schools were hard to protect given their size. "I don't believe anyone wants to send their child to school behind barbed wire," he said. "All schools have lockdown procedures in place, which are practised on a regular basis each year to ensure students and staff are prepared for any potential incidents."

However, teachers at Brisbane bayside schools experiencing a spate of intrusions in February last year were told to catch the female intruder themselves. "Should she attempt to leave the grounds, follow at a discreet distance," an internal report said.

Students at Yeronga State High School last year "displayed signs of trauma" for days after a stranger attacked two staffers in front of children and claimed to be a terrorist with an AK-47 assault rifle. "It has been stressful as many students report not seeing such level of violence before in our school community and it has led to them to question the safety of our school," a teacher said in an incident report.

Queensland Teachers Union state secretary Steve Ryan yesterday blamed society for school invasions, saying he was surprised only 152 had been reported. "It's another example of the unnecessary and unwanted pressures that are forced upon schools as a result of societal changes," Mr Ryan said.

Education Queensland has admitted it keeps no record of intrusion statistics, while many of the FOI documents have been blacked out beyond personal details – with some cases completely censored.


Curriculum reform looking hopeful

DURING her time as Minister for Education, Julia Gillard has made her stance, and that of the Government, very clear on school curriculum. Mirroring concerns about falling standards and state and territory dumbed-down curriculums, Gillard describes herself as a traditionalist and argues for a back-to-basics approach to learning, where the subject disciplines are centre stage. As such, it should not surprise that the most recent round of national curriculum documents, released yesterday by the National Curriculum Board (appointed by the Rudd Government), embody a conservative approach.

When outlining the principles and guidelines on which the national curriculum will be built, the board argues that all students, regardless of socioeconomic background and perceived ability, must be taught "the knowledge and understandings on which major disciplines are based".

While nodding in the direction of cross-disciplinary learning and teaching generic skills, such as problem solving and working in teams, the paper, The Shape of the Australian Curriculum, states that each discipline is unique and that schools must provide students with a "systematic engagement with a discipline-based curriculum". Thankfully, after years of curriculum frameworks being full of vague and generalised statements that drown teachers in useless detail, the national board argues that frameworks must be concise, manageable, free of jargon and explicit.

After years of curriculum development being based on no more than ideological bent, personal preference and whatever is the most recent educational fad, it is also good that the National Curriculum Board states there must be a "strong evidence base" for any new curriculum, both in terms of theory and what works in the classroom.

Additional evidence that Australia's national curriculum is on the right track relates to its assessment and reporting regime. During his period as the education minister under the Howard government, Brendan Nelson mandated A-to-E reports (or equivalent), detailing student performance. Not only does the board also argue for A-to-E reports, but in opposition to the current practice of grouping curriculum into key stages (such as kindergarten to year two, or years five and six) states that so-called achievement standards, detailing standards of learning students should demonstrate, will be year-level specific.

No longer will students move from year to year with vague and confusing comments such as "consolidating" and "not yet established'. Parents and teachers will have a clear standard at each year to evaluate each student's level of performance, with a D or E signifying cause for concern.

The first stage of the national curriculum, to be implemented at the start of 2011, involves English, mathematics, history and science. The document Shape of the Australian Curriculum: English (to be used as a guide when writing the English curriculum K-12) provides further evidence of a conservative bent.

Readers who have followed debates in The Australian will appreciate how English teaching has been adversely affected by whole language (where children are taught to read by looking and guessing) and the failure to teach grammar and more formal aspects of language use, such as spelling, punctuation and syntax. Not only does the English document call for teaching the "fundamentals, like phonological and phonemic awareness", it also states that grammar should be taught "across all the years of schooling" and that "explicit teaching and consolidation of the fundamentals of spoken and written English are important aspects of the national English curriculum".

While the definition of literature is weakened by the inclusion of multimodal texts (can watching a film or posting an entry on Facebook ever replace the type of engagement demanded by the printed word?), specific mention of the need to teach those works associated with "Australia's literary heritage" should be commended. When detailing the importance of literature, the board's paper, in opposition to texts being analysed in terms of power relationships and the rights of victim groups, states that literary texts are significant because of their cultural value and that students should explore the "aesthetic and ethical aspects of literary texts".

Since the personal-growth model became prevalent during the early 1970s, and more recently with the advent of discovery learning, where teachers become facilitators and students self-directed knowledge navigators, more formal approaches to teaching have been shunned. Thankfully, the English document argues for a proper balance between curriculum content and process - both are essential and how they are employed depends on the task at hand - and between explicit teaching and more student-centred approaches.

While the curriculum frameworks to be implemented in 2011 have yet to be written, and the devil will be in the detail, based on the two documents discussed above, there is cause for optimism.


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