Wednesday, April 23, 2014

In the Best Interest of the Kids

Small towns. They are amazing. They are the best and the worst of America. They are the best because of the kinship and feeling of community and the worst because you can put your shoes on the wrong feet at 8 a.m. and the entire town knows about your faux pas by 8:45. It is just the way small towns go.

My small town is a wonderful place and I have called it home for well over 40 years. We have four schools, a grocery store, three restaurants, fast food joints, umpteen churches of different denominations and an honest to goodness main street that runs through the center of town. If you live here for more than five minutes, then you know that everyone either knows everyone else or is related to at least one other person in town. Yep, folks...this is small town America.

Not to be outdone by the big city though, we are not without our issues and sometimes we become infamous for things other than our high school sports teams or our yearly Old Settlers Days. We are currently dealing with one of those infamous moments right now. A few years back, we built a grade school which resides next to one of the main thoroughfares connecting our small town to the city. On the back side of that school is the old junior high school which has been made into district offices and a recreation center. As rec centers go, it is small by most standards, but it does serve its purpose. Then a bond issue was passed and in that bond issue, a huge gymnasium was put into the works. The gym sits directly between the grade school and the rec center. It's purpose was to be shared by both the school for PE classes and as a early morning gathering spot for students and then also by the rec center, as the gym has a walking track that goes around the upper level of the gym. When this gym was being voted on, some voted for it without doing any research, some researched it and did not vote for it, and people like me asked how this would work having a shared gym and were told that it would be used by the rec center in the early mornings before school and in the afternoons and evenings after school and then during the summer. I was told that it would not be used by the rec center during the school day as that would be too distracting for the kids using the gym. Great! However, I did not vote for it because I felt that the money could be better used elsewhere. After all hadn't we just refurbished the football field complete with new bleachers, changing area for visiting teams and a brand new entrance to the field? I was thinking that perhaps we could actually use some money for....I don't maybe. 

Jump ahead to the last couple of months. The long awaited gym is finished and now parents are not happy that both the rec center and the kids are sharing the space at the same time. Yep, I and others were misinformed about when the rec center would use the facility. Now there seem to be a lot of parents very upset about this. Some are the parents who originally objected to the gyms use and others are arriving late to the party and just now realizing what they voted for. I have one word for these folks....EDUCATION! Don't vote on something if you don't have all the facts. It is because of this kind of uninformed voting that the American people keep getting scr@wed. But I digress....... 

So now we have a big beautiful gym, with senior citizens (apparently they are the only ones allowed to use the new facility) walking the track at the same time kids are in there during school. Parents are not happy about this. Some parents are up in arms because it makes their kids feel uncomfortable having people "watch" them while they are in PE and others are upset because of the safety issue. Now in my opinion the safety issue is two fold. One is the fact that in order to get into any school in this town, you have to ring a bell, give your name, explain why you are there and I think give a urine sample in order to be allowed into a building where your child spends 7 hours a day/ five days per week. The school is crazy about their privacy issues and will not let teachers or anyone else take pictures of a student or breathe a word about a student outside the confines of the school, however.......they are fine with complete strangers watching everything these kids are doing in the gym. Double standard you ask? Ummm....yeah! Now the rec centers position on this is that their walkers have no access to the kids. They get to the track through a door that never allows them physical contact with the kids and when they are finished walking the track, as they leave, the door locks behind them so that they cannot re-enter. Great. That for the most part solves the issue of one of the walkers just grabbing a kid and walking off school grounds with them, however, I find there to be a much bigger problem that I don't think the district in their infinite wisdom thought about.

I hate to say this but as much as I would like to deny it, my town, small though it not Mayberry. We have crime, death and the word that sends a chill down every parents offenders. If you check out the sex offender list, there are a number that live all over this town and scarily enough, some that live within a block from my house. Now, I am not some crazed over reactive person. I am semi-educated, after all I graduated from here, so I do realize that being labeled a "sex offender" does not mean that someone is automatically a pedophile. Sometimes the label is put on a 16 year old for having sex with his 15 year old girl friend. Back in my day that was called growing up, now a days its a felony. However, some of those sex offenders are the real deal. They are predators that prey on kids and have earned their title again and again. These are the individuals that parents fear and have every right to worry about. Predators don't usually just grab a kid, they do their homework. They watch, research and then act. What better way to pick a child than to simply watch them and what better cover to do that than a "harmless" daily walk around the track? From that vantage point a predator can watch and learn what kids are shy, what kids are friendly and from there, choose their prey. It is also dangerous as kids like adults can get familiar with seeing the same faces walk everyday. What was once a stranger is now a familiar face. All it takes is for a parent to be late once or a child to be alone for just a few seconds and suddenly the unthinkable happens. It is a real possibility and in my opinion, the real concern about this gym being shared.

Some parents became so concerned over this issue, that a facebook page was started. At first it was parents airing their opinion and sharing information, but like always seems to happen, it went from civil to heated in the midst of all the posting. Some parents are angry because other parents who voted for the gym are suddenly just realizing the reality of it all. Other parents are angry because they feel that people are worrying for nothing and thus making a big deal out of it. People are trying to call the schools and the district and they are learning where the real power in the district lies. Sadly there are many complaints of parents calls and concerns being ignored and dismissed, and the heat is rising on the subject.

Last night one of the local news stations (undoubtedly called by a concerned parent), did a story on our new gym. A couple of parents were interviewed as well as someone from the district office. Of course the districts position is that they are in the right, but if parents voices are respected, the district maybe forced to reconsider this position. It has been my experience though, that the district likes to talk a good game about respecting the parents voice but when it comes down to it, not so much. Of course, maybe that is just my experience.

This morning someone who chose not to use their own identity made up a fake facebook profile just so they could post an opinion in the facebook group. It basically stated that parents were over protecting their kids and over reacting to this situation. He called himself Joe Commons and portrayed his comment as the voice of the average person in our town. It had condescending overtones which obviously stirred an already boiling pot and it struck a lot of people the wrong way. Truthfully, I found the sentiment behind the fake persona to be quite nice. It was about people walking, adults among kids, people not living in fear and kids having a real childhood, not constantly having to be hovered over or their actions constantly second guessed. Ahhhh yes. I think that was my childhood he was referring to. What a wonderful world that was. And yes, we all want that for our kids.

I remember growing up in this town and walking all over it both day and night unsupervised. I remember walking to the pool, on my own or in a group of friends, spending hours swimming, again....unsupervised and then walking home. My neighborhood was my boundary and no one called for me until it was meal time or the street light came on. I had no cell phone to tie me to my parents and my parents never gave my whereabouts a second thought. I was always somewhere around and usually within yelling distance. Parents walked freely in and out of our schools and no school would have ever gone on lock down over a grandparent walking onto the playground. Kids on the playground rushed to the fence to wave at their parents if they drove by and if you needed to leave school, with a quick call to your parents, you could actually walk home on your own. No one would have given a multipurpose gym shared by town folk and school kids a second thought and the school district actually used to listen to what the parents had to say. However, all of this was before Jonesboro, Columbine and Sandyhook. This was before crazy divorced parents would try to steal their kids off the playground and before we got daily Amber Alerts on our cell phones, computers and tv's. This was before bullying was a no tolerance policy that no one follows and when kids could actually have a fight, be pulled apart, shake hands and go back to class. This was when both parents and teachers had a right to discipline our kids and our kids spent time playing baseball, kickball and playing outside instead of being doped up on ADHD meds and spending their time glued to video games. This was when people said what they thought and didn't hide behind political correctness or call everything they didn't agree with "hate speech." This was before the newspaper, the internet and the nightly news was full of horrible things happening to innocent children in a world much different than when I grew up. That was when we actually were Mayberry.

Are parents over reacting to this gym situation? I don't know. Shall we ask the parents of the Derby kids who were playing on their own front porch last week and the person tried to abduct them? How about if we ask the Columbine parents or perhaps the parents of the latest child gone missing in our area? In this day and age, society and life dictate that we must be vigilant with our children. If we allow our kids to go walk on their own, their safety is on us, but when our kids are in school.....then our kids safety is on the teachers, the administration and the district. Do I think these powers that be are making a decision based on the best interest of the kids and their ultimate safety? Not really. I think they are inadvertently setting our kids up to be victims and it is time the district listens to our concerns.

Yes, it is a shame, that like Joe Commons pointed out, that we can't let our kids be kids. It makes me sad that my child can't roam the neighborhood, play out all day and come in tired, dirty and happy at the end of the day. However, my kids look to me as their parent to take care of them and protect them from the things they understand and know about and the things they don't. If my child gets hurt because I didn't do everything in my power to keep them safe, then where does the blame lie?

We do live in small town America, but just like anywhere else in the world, we have good people, bad people and yes, even evil people. Our Mayberry days and ideals are long gone. They have been replaced by the knowledge that even in our own front yard our kids can be in danger. I think the district needs to listen to our concerns and respect that we as parents have the right to speak up for the safety of our kids, and even more than that, the district needs to act in the best interest of the kids. 


Anonymous said...

The community rec center was poorly conceived by city planners and the voters were clearly not informed when they cast their feel-good ballots. This plan should have never gone to the voters in the first place.

But people voted for it. And now are paying for it and will for a long time to come. This is just another example of how elections matter.

Where I live, a similar plan is being considered. There is no reasonable way to pay for this "shared" facility. And like Mulvane, I have a feeling in the end the community will not be happy with it should it be constructed.

Sadly, the world is a different place than it was just 20 years. Sharing and security are now a regular part of our lives.

Anonymous said...

Voters need to do their research and educate themselves!

Anonymous said...

Some of us voters did our research, and were flat out lied to.

Meagan Lodge said...

This blog is articulate and thoughtful. Well said.
We do live in a world frought with fear due to heinous events that have taken the lives of our precious children. Some of these events were also at the hands of people whom had "clearance" to be on school property. I am not for or against the idea of shared gym time at this point. I am waiting this one out to become clearly advised on the issue of hearing "both" sides.
However I am completely for a civilized discussion about the issue of safety for our children.
Wouldn't it be grand to live in "Mayberry" once again. You nailed it on the head. We must do what is best and safe for our children.
Small towns are thick and carry a big stick to protect what is rightfully theirs and their heritage.
However the complete disregard for disagreement is unacceptable. Everyone pays their taxes just like their neighbors. A civilized discussion is now taking foreground.

Anonymous said...

I have to say wow! You brought up some things I had not thought of such as kids getting used to faces and no longer considering them strangers. I had also not thought of predators watching our kids and taking notes on what kid might be easiest to prey on outside of school. This blog actually had some really good points and I think everyone in the district should read it.

Anonymous said...

You need to take this blog word for word to the school board!

Anonymous said...

Why would the school guard the kids privacy so closely in all other instances and then let them be on display to complete strangers? What is this school district thinking and what is the rec center thinking? Aren't they afraid of the inevitable lawsuit that will result from all of this when someone gets hurt?

Anonymous said...

No disrespect to the blogger as you stated that you did not vote for this gym but many of those who are now so outraged did vote for it. What is happening is the consequences of their vote. One person in particular I tried to talk with several times about this issue before the vote and I was told that I was being an alarmist and didn't have all my facts. Now here we stand and she is yelling louder than anyone when she and her husband both voted for the darn gym. This is ridiculous. It is because of people like them that we are now stuck and legally I don't think the district or the MRC have to listen to anyone. The fact that they have called a special BOE mtg is nothing more than a show and in the end we are stuck. Come on people and pay attention to what you are voting for. You know who you are!

Anonymous said...

I have three children in the Mulvane School District, one at the Munson Primary, the Grade School, and the Middle School. Yes, to access the building you are required to be buzzed in most of the time. However, there are times that people exit the building and hold the door open for others to enter. I have never been required to state my name or why I am needing to enter the schools at either the Grade School or the Munson Primary School. I have lived in Mulvane all my life and yes maybe they can see me out a window and recognize me, but if they have procedures they should follow them for everyone. As Lisa said “people become just another friendly face.” We are no longer a “Mayberry” community. However, growing up here things did happen we just didn't have it slapped in our faces on social media website. Parents have every right to be angry about this issue but instead of broadcasting to the public in the future, I wish they facts straight and trust our administration enough to let them address it first. I agree that education and training is the key point when it comes to the safety of our children. But as a parent I am a bit embarrassed when my community ends up in the news for reasons that have not been fully researched and addressed.

Anonymous said...

To the above commenter, you say "trust the administration." That is hard to do when the administration is not trustworthy. I have been lied to or caught both staff and administration in lies on numerous occasions. They are really good at passing the buck and playing the blame game, but when caught in someones cross hairs, they lie out their butts. In regards to school security, I don't know how you have been just "buzzed" into the school when others, myself included have had to answer 20 questions before being allowed in the school. If this administration wants the respect of the parents then they need to reciprocate that respect and listen to the concerns of the parents. Maybe the media should have been the last line of defense, but for some parents who have dealt with this administration on other issues in the past, they likely knew they were dealing with a brick wall opposition and preferred to cut out the middle man and go straight for the media. I might not have taken that route but I don't blame the ones who did.

Anonymous said...

I keep hearing how people should have been informed before they voted on this issue. What about the parents who are new to the district. They did not vote for this. Does that mean they should have no say in the issue? It effects every child, whether their parents blindly voted for it, or didn't vote at all.

Anonymous said...

I am embarrassed about the way these parents have gone about addressing this so called "issue" should have voiced your concern 2 years ago when the plans were made. We voted this in you had your chance. I feel horrible for the senior citizens of our community that have to listen to this nonsense. The only thing different in our world today is that back then when kids played outside "safely" compared to today is that things were possibly just as scary but you didn't here it because it was not publicized like it is today. Most of our news and social media streams are nothing but bad things happening. If you noticed KSN and KAKE news only interviewed people with negative opinions and not once did they interview a parent with a positive aspect to the gym. And I know for a fact there are many out there that are for the grade school/MRC gym the way it is because I saw their posts on your forum before you took it down. Hmmmmmm… I find that sad, but these few parents making a big stink about our senior citizens walking an elevated track, with locked doors to the grade school are looking for their 40 seconds of fame!! Well congratulations you have achieved your goal!! Now mark that off you bucket list of things to do. If you don't like something in our community or you feel our administrators are not keeping your children's safety first on their list then go search for another district, but leave ours alone!! I did not grow up here but I have been here for 14 years and specifically picked Mulvane for my children. My kids have never been in any danger in these schools and the administrators have always put the children first!! It is just beyond my understanding why these parents would take this to the media before talking with the board members and if you say that they have lied from the beginning then you are blind. We can only protect our kids to a certain extent so that they may grow and have memorable childhoods as most of us did, but the rest is up to our God. This is getting way off the subject but the parents responsible for starting a “discussion” on facebook, opening a forum and closing it when they didn’t like what the other side had to say, and then creating a blog, to me has way too much time on their hands. Take all that time and energy you are putting into making up false accusations and lies about nothing you really don’t have all the facts about and go outside and play with your children that you keep in a safe bubble. Not trying to be rude but if you fear for the safety of your children in your neighbor hood then I am assuming they stay inside all day and never go out nor do they attend any type of school field trip and I bet none of them ride the school bus ever. Just saying, our school district along with the MRC does everything possible to put the safety of our children first. Now stop making a mountain out of a mole hill and let’s go on about enjoying our new facility/grade school gym without the media coming in.

Cmom said...

I rarely comment on my own blog, but for the above comment, I will make an exception. The fact that you have such blatantly "attacking" opinions and yet hide under "anonymous" speaks volumes about you and your character. I did not start the facebook page, but I did join it. My blog has nothing to do with the admins of the page other than the fact that I do understand their concerns and voiced my own. In fact I can honestly say I have never even met the admins of the page. I however, like the admins of the page voiced my opinions openly and used my name both here and on the page. I stand behind my opinions and therefore I don't feel the need to hide behind "anonymous" to express them. Of course I wasn't attacking anyone for believing different than myself. I was simply saying that parents have valid reasons to be concerned and their voices should be listened to by the district. As for claiming someone wants their 40 seconds of fame by doing this, then I assume if there is ever anything you feel strongly about and you need to be heard on, then you too would be looking for nothing more than 40 seconds of fame and not merely standing up for what you believe is right. Of course it doesn't appear that you have the integrity to openly stand up for your beliefs. That takes someone who is confident enough in what they believe in to actually make their voice known and brave enough to let others know just who they are. You have proved that is not you. May I suggest that you also do your homework before you make assumptions about people and their reasons for doing things. You have no idea what my reasons are for speaking out nor do I believe that you know the reasons the admins of the page decided to speak out. All you knew is that you disagreed and therefore everyone else was wrong and your opinion is the only one that matters. My suggestion to you would be that in the future if you have an opinion on a subject and actually want to be taken seriously then don't hide behind anonymity. Quit judging other peoples motives, parenting styles or actions, pull up your big kid pants and work as part of this community that you claim to like being a part of and help to find a compromise that works for everyone. Until then, perhaps you should ask yourself just how firmly you feel you are right if you must hide behind anonymous? Sincerely.....Lisa Elam

Anonymous said...

Wow so you all are insane enough to assume people will always to bad when possible. News flash this is the school gym so in order for kids to be in there then there has to be a teacher or school member in there with them. So what is the issue other then your afraid of people looking at your child. News flash that happens when they are outside playing by people driving by or by people living in the homes behind there. If your are that crazy and insane to assume people will always do bad then just home school your child.

Anonymous said...

"Insane"? Really? So parents have concerns and they are insane? Nice. Yes our kids are at risk out in the world, but in the school when the BOE states that our kids safety is their #1 priority and then they let non staff and non parent individuals in the school with them then any parent who doesn't have a concern is just plain lazy, ignorant and uncaring! See that whole judgmental name calling thing can go both ways. When on the school grounds, parents have the right to expect complete safety for their children especially when the school says that is what they are getting. What if after all of this no compromise is reached and it all stays as it is? What if a child is hurt or worse because of this very situation? What if it is your child? Then will a little compromise on both sides seem like such a big of a deal?