A five-year-old girl at E.R. Dixon Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama was compelled to sign a “safety” contract after she allegedly drew a picture that resembled a gun.
By Carey Wedler @ The Anti Media
She reportedly also pointed a crayon at another student and said “pew pew,” and was sent home for the day. As her mother, Rebecca said:
“While I was in the lobby waiting, they had my five-year-old sign a contract about suicide and homicide.”
The “contract” stated the student would not harm herself or others. The girl was also made to fill out a survey to assess her “mental health” and evaluate her for suicidal thoughts. Rebecca said it was recommended she see a psychiatrist and the incident went on the student’s record.
The contract was technically non-binding because the girl was “fourteen years shy of the legal age,” according to NBC. However, the mother felt the school was out of bounds in attempting to have a young child sign such an agreement:
“My child interrupted us and said, ‘What is suicide? Mommy, Daddy, what is suicide?’…Most of these words on here, she’s never heard in her life.”
She went on:
“As a parent that’s not right. I’m the one who should be able to talk to my child and not have someone else mention words like this in front of her at all.”
This is not the first instance of public schools using controversial methods of punishment. Compared to other examples, this incident seems tame. Padded solitary confinement chambers have been used to “discourage” bad behavior in primary school children. It is becoming common practice for students to earn detention for sharing food with hungry classmates (with the stated goal of preventing students with allergies from eating foods they shouldn’t). Last year a boy was suspended for biting a pop-tart into the shape of a gun.
Irrespective of the fact that gun violence is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with (and that schools increasingly rely on violence via the militarization of learning institutions), using discipline rooted in coercion and force is not the answer. It is more likely that such punitive measures encourage further bad behavior. In the case of this five-year-old, having her sign a contract transcends her ability to comprehend why she is being reprimanded, let alone create a solution (not to mention the fact that if a child actually is violent, a flimsy paper agreement will not stop such behavior).
As Rebecca said:
“There should be a different way to handle this situation. If this is protocol it needs to be looked at again.”
The act of having an unaware child sign a “contract” to limit her behavior is not only ineffective, it fits in with the general tendencies of schools to pound conformity and obedience into students. From assigned seating to pledges of allegiance, permission to the use the bathroom, bells to regulate behavior and blind adherence to authority, schools are the first efforts to program children into cogs in the establishment.
They often reinforce the idea of rule and obedience by fear instead of rationality and understanding. This serves to create a highly manipulable population, bypassing parental judgment to directly instill fear of institutional authority, which is always backed up by the use or threat of force.
Regardless, Superintendent of Mobile County Schools, Martha Peek ,said the school counselor followed district protocol. As Peek said, it applies when:
“a student indicates they may be considering any actions such as hurting themselves or hurting someone else…Unfortunately, with this incident, the one size fits all.”
Though the school district plans to “re-work” this policy following the public relations disaster, the one size-fits all approach leads to often arbitrary punishment and futile attempts to control behavior. Still, it isn’t surprising, considering this same attitude of “one size fits all” permeates the foundation of public institutions and schools.