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Commentary: Send unruly parents to time-out chair

by on May 23, 2014 10:39 AM

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — News item: A fight in the Poinciana Elementary school cafeteria broke out between two parents who were there for a student play, prompting the brief lockdown of the Boynton Beach school, the Palm Beach County School District reported.

The school went into a “code red” lockdown due to the fight between parents during Friday’s performance of kindergarten students.

o o o

Dear Parents:

In light of a recent event in the district, I want to take the opportunity as your child’s elementary school principal to announce some changes in the general rules of decorum should you decide to attend a student performance at the school.

We spend part of every day stressing to your sons and daughters just how important it is to respect one another in our language and actions.

We don’t push. We don’t cut in line.

And when we have a conflict, we seek to resolve it using “I care” language instead of physical confrontation.

With all the emphasis we put on anti-bullying behavior throughout the year, it would be a shame to have it undermined by the crude actions of a few unruly parents at a school event. I won’t let that happen.

So the next time you come to school to attend a performance of your elementary school child, you will discover a new set of rules have been put in place.

Rule No. 1: Showing up on time

All parents must arrive at least 10 minutes prior to the start of the performance.

Rule No. 2: Waiting in line

When you arrive, you will stand in a single-file line with the other parents outside the door of the cafeteria. No talking. No texting.

And no pulling the hair of the parent standing in front of you. Just stand there quietly.

Your kids stand like this every day. You can do it, and what a great sight it will be for your children when they see all of you modeling such good behavior as you wait to be allowed into their performance space.

Rule No. 3: Seating

When you are let into the cafeteria, quickly find a seat. When I say “quickly” that doesn’t mean you are allowed to run. No running.

Just find an open seat and take it. And don’t bother trying to save seats for people who are not there, because it won’t be necessary (See Rule No. 1).

Rule No. 4: Questions

If you have a question about anything, please raise your hand and quietly wait to be recognized. If you shout out a question, school staffers have been instructed to ignore you.

Rule No. 5: Conflict resolution

If you have a problem with another parent in the audience, you must use language that demonstrates respect.

Wrong way: “Hey, pal. That video camera of yours is blocking my view. How about putting it down for a while, because if you’re waiting for your kid to sing a note on key, it’s not going to happen.”

Right way: “Your child is wonderful, and you’re so rightly proud. But do you think it would be possible to move your camera just a smidgen so I can see my child on stage?”

Rule No. 6: Consequences for fighting

The minute school staffers detect a confrontational situation developing between two parents, the parties in the disagreement will be asked to quietly stand up and walk to the back of the cafeteria, where they will be subject to Rule No. 7.

Rule No. 7: The time-out chair

Misbehaving parents will be seated separately in time-out chairs facing the corner walls of the room for the remainder of the performance.

When in a time-out chair, the parent is asked to reflect on his or her conduct that led to this disciplinary action.

Rule No. 8: The corrective essay

Parents who’ve been sent to the time-out chair will not be allowed to attend future school performances until they write an essay that explains what they have learned from their misbehavior and what they can do to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The essay will be read to a class of kindergarten students, who will have the final say — through an up or down vote — on whether to allow the adults to attend future elementary school performances.



Frank Cerabino writes for The Palm Beach Post. His column is distrubuted by Cox Newspapers. Write to him at Frank_cerabino@pbpost.com.
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