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Beating Our Children

Although I’m proud of Xy for being a good teacher in the public schools, it’s also a source of frustration for both of us. She so often comes home worn out, angry and overwhelmed. Every school day is an exhausting drama. Not only that, but most of her evenings and weekends are full of homework, and she has to pay for many supplies out of her own pocket. But I digress.

We’ve got a teacher shortage in New Orleans, and as a result the two other teachers at Xy’s grade level are older folks who’ve come out of retirement. Good for them, in theory. But in point of fact these teachers are not really able to cope with the reality of today’s school. One is at least trying, but the other doesn’t seem to care. In fact, it’s worse than that. He’s abusive to the children and harasses his fellow workers.

Most recently this teacher punished his students by handing out a bunch of failing grades, on a seemingly arbitrary basis.

At least one child was beaten as a result. Xy discovered this yesterday when she noticed the child had a sore arm. When she rolled up her sleeve Xy saw a huge welt. As it turned out she had severe bruises all over her body. She confessed that her father had beaten her severely when he discovered she’d gotten an F.

Xy reported this to the school’s social workers, and they had her call Child Protective Services. Xy had a lot of trepidation and misgivings about that. She didn’t want to make things worse for this child. But she really had no choice.

CPS was supposed to visit the child’s home last night and photograph her injuries. I wonder how that went.

What a terrible situation. Of course the parent bears the full responsibility for his actions. But Xy is also angry at the teacher who handed out failing grades without rhyme or reason, simply to punish the children, whom he can’t seem to manage except through fear and intimidation. Later in the day, when Xy came back down to the office on an unrelated matter, she overheard a visiting parent exclaim that her child would be receiving a beating for bring home an F from the same teacher.

Xy’s also angry at the school administration, because they haven’t taken the appropriate steps to reign in this rogue teacher. But she figures that child would have received a beating on another pretext eventually.

A teacher can’t solve everything, but it weighs heavily on Xy nonetheless.

It’s easy to despise the abusive parent and put ourselves above him. But that’s a dangerous moral trap. If we don’t provide a decent education for all our children, we’re effectively beating them down. And I’m sorry to say that’s still the case in New Orleans today, despite the big rhetoric about transforming our schools.

Yeah, I said it. Our current school system is a form of child abuse.

Update: The events described above took place on Thursday. On Monday, Xy learned that CPS still hadn’t visited the child’s house. In fact, CPS has no record of Xy’s call on Thursday. Supposedly they are rescheduling. Meanwhile the child’s bruises have steadily faded.

Published inLife with XyNew OrleansThe Ed Biz


  1. Wow. That’s one of those fine charter schools too! Strange though, I remember that there were thousands (am I right?) of applicants for Xy’s job.

    You’re right. Subjecting children to poor education in any form is a violent act. Unfortunately, most don’t realize that. Tell Xy I see her hard work and appreciate it.

  2. Howie, you remember right, almost… There were hundreds of teachers who applied for 60-odd positions. However, that was last year, when there weren’t many schools open. Back then there were more teachers than jobs. Now the situation is reversed.

  3. Man, that’s so tough. I’ve always had such admiration for people who have the grit to teach middle and high school; I’m sure I couldn’t hack it. FWIW, I don’t think she had a legal choice in reporting it, regardless of the dilemma. If she didn’t, she may not be able to stick around to be a positive force in the other students’ lives.

    I’m sure she has her moments, but clearly Xy is more able than some colleagues to get the job done keep her students relatively in line. Maybe it just hasn’t come up, but if she’s able to do it, is there any way good teachers like her could conduct workshops or something with guys like this one? I don’t mean to sound like I know anything (and lord knows she has enough to do), but I hate thinking that teachers are not going to look for a more positive solution to the issue.

    That said, it’s tough enough when parents are uninvolved, but when they’re negatively involved, jeez.

  4. Float his name out. Not here — there are other places. Make it known. If the administration won’t do anything about him, take it outside.

    Just like our friends in DC. When it comes to the safety of children, I’ll be happy to raise the black flag.

  5. An ineffective and abusive teacher is worse than no teacher at all.

    I hear similar stories from my college students. I asked them to write about the development of their argument style. A good 50% of them said their style was consensual because in their homes, what mother/father/parents/grandmother said was law. Right and wrong or fairness vis-a-vis an authority figure was unthinkable. For many, it still is and they come to NO from CA, WA, Chicago, etc. to get away from home for at least a little while. About 10% mentioned beatings over disagreements and, yes, grades in elementary, middle and high school. I can’t imagine hearing about or knowing such working with younger ones. It would break my heart daily.

    I just know Xy is an excellent teacher and a bright spot in the lives she’s intersecting with. Some days, I know that’s not enough.

  6. When our society decides kids are important and we can pay teachers what they are worth, this sort of thing will probably happen less. Lots of teachers just become jaded and angry for being devalued and take it out on the students. I know several college friends who said they’d be teachers, but when you’re graduating with $30K in student loans, you look for a job where you will make enough to pay them back and feel respected for your talent. Many capable people would teach but just don’t feel it’s worth the hassle.

  7. I was skeptical when the Charter System and Recovery System were being touted as the Next New Best Thing. Although much of Orleans Parish was broken not all of it was. We will now have to figure a way to reinstate True Public Education back into out recovery Plan.

  8. rickngentilly rickngentilly

    xy and bart thank you for dealing with this shit that is not of your making.

    all the hand wringing in the world is not gonna change a godamn thing. you cats are soldiers on the front line of new orleans future.

    god bless you for your sacrifices as well as all the other folks who are in the same boat as yourselves.

    it’s gonna take several generations to change what has been wrought .

    but with out people who are willing to take up the fight and dig their feet into the sand it will never happen.

    again thank you for being able to see the potintal of future reward as apposed to instant gratification.

  9. Michael Michael

    I think I’m going to give out some arbitrary F’s tomorrow and see what happens–see if it is a trend and all.

  10. Tim Tim

    Your Xy is clearly a dedicated teacher, one who worries about the welfare of children even after they go home.

    A big part of the problem too is that nobody gets parenting training. You can’t buy a gun without a permit, you can’t practice law without a license, but there’s no test or training to become a parent. It’s insane.



  11. Kathy. O. Kathy. O.

    I feel for XY. I am a part-time teacher at an arts school in Maryland that serves a lot of inner-city kids. One of my students is slowly self destructing because she lives with a mentally ill father who flies into rages that he does not always remember. This summer, she was hospitalized for panic attacks. After talking to her the other day, I am now afraid that she has disassociated herself so much to survive at home that she is now losing her grip on reality. The school is aware of the situation now and it is supposedly “going through the process,” but to what end? Will she get the mental help she needs even if she is taken out of her home?

    My other students are dealing with fathers who were recently released from jail, parents who have told them that they will be disowned should they choose “alternative lifestyles,” and parents who simply are not there and don’t care. Most of them have no health insurance.

    I can’t save them. All I can do is do my best to help them develop their talents and hope that it becomes their ticket into college far away from home. But it’s there. It’s always there. The schools can’t save them either. I am starting to think that we don’t have an education problem in this country. We have an undervaluing of teachers, sure. The amount of time I spend on my students for crappy pay and no benefits is ridiculous and borders on self-destructive.

    We have a parenting problem in this country. Whether it’s that parent that you know who drives their children to a thousand extra-curricular events until the children are so tired that they cannot do anything but act out the next day in class, or the parent who doesn’t bother to make sure their children are growing up in a safe environment with any kind of proper nutrition, we have a epidemic of children growing up in unhealthy situations. And the teachers are just supposed to clean it all up for the parents and make all of these children into productive members of society.

    Hang in there Xy. I’ll try to hang in there too.

  12. More child abuse, different source. And some religious folks think God was judging us for Southern Decadence? Please. If this doesn’t tick God off nothing will.

  13. misscrutch misscrutch

    I used to teach in Louisiana – way out in Opelousas.

    First, you do realize corporal punishment is still legal in much of the South, including, LA, yes? Even my high school students were occasionally paddled. Sadly, having grown up in this system, there were a few for whom it was the only form of discipline to which they would respond.

    Second, this happened to me. A parent called me because I had given her daughter a zero on her test “and she said all she did was try to get a pen out of her backpack”. I had to explain to the parent that, once tests were out, students were not allowed to go in their backpack for anything – they knew I would provide them a pen if their’s ran out and that her daughter did not get out a pen, but got out her nailpolish and proceeded to do her nails during the test.

    A week later her dad came back from off-shore and beat her senseless. The vice principal informed me – apparently Social Services isn’t usually called in the South for this type of stuff when it’s an isolated incident. She was out of school for a week she was beaten so badly and when she came back her bruises were just fading.

    Her grades went from F’s to A’s. I never called a parent again, took 2 years off from teaching, and was reluctant to call parents now that I’ve started in the Baltimore City system. It kills you inside, but you have to feel, at some point, that you are doing more good by being in the classroom than harm.

  14. Garvey Garvey

    “If this doesn’t tick God off nothing will.”

    That’s a nice graven image you made, Howie. Congrats!

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