Rules above Dignity

I’m taking a break from my posting series to talk about a really disturbing story I read the other day. Unfortunately, it’s not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last as long as our educational system has its priorities upside down.

The story, which you can read here, is about a 6-year old kindergarten child who was not allowed to use the restroom during standardized testing (yes, there is standardized testing in kindergarten). So, in the middle of testing, the little girl, who was suffering from diarrhea, had no choice than to use the bathroom in her pants. Not only did she experience that embarrassment, but was then further humiliated by being made to SIT in it for the remainder of the test (about 15 minutes). It was only after that time that her mother was called, who then had to drive 20 minutes to the school. During this entire time, the little girl was never cleaned up. When her mother arrived, she was horrified to find her daughter sitting in poop, which was coming up out of her pants, and wrapped around her waist with a garbage bag.  I believe this experience will be a defining one in this little girl’s life. She had to be traumatized and humiliated. She will never forget that day, especially if the other kids choose to remind her.

In what world is it okay to treat any human being this way? Why would something as asinine as a standardized test come before the dignity and bodily needs of our youngest children?  Of course, the superintendent “wishes the school had handled it differently,” but the problem lies in our basic assumptions about children and education.

First, the teacher was being such a stickler for the rules because she was “preparing” the kids for the 3rd grade standardized tests, when they would not be allowed to use the bathroom during the test. This logic is baffling to me. They won’t be allowed to in three years, so we must prepare them now by using the same rules?  In fact, a lot of the decisions made in school are based on this type of logic. “You won’t be able to wear pajamas to work when you’re an adult, so you can’t wear them to school,” or “You won’t be able to play outside all day when you grow up, so you can’t do it now.” It seems to me, the opposite should be true: this is their chance to wear pajamas out and to play all day. They’re kids.  You don’t have to prepare someone for something restrictive by being restrictive. In fact, you should give them their freedom. If you knew you’d be going on a fast, wouldn’t you prepare by eating a lot of good food? Or, would you prepare by fasting? If you were going to go to jail, would you prepare by keeping yourself in your room all day?

Second, these rules, no matter what age, are an example of how our educational culture continues to place testing and assessment over the actual learning and needs of the individual child in the classroom.  Because of a fear of cheating on a test, which would thereby make the results of the test invalid, our children are confined to their desks for a long period of time. But, most educators would agree, this test measures very little in the first place. The results can change depending the kind of day the students are having, the weather outside, whether they ate breakfast or not, etc.  Yet our system places the outside chance of a child cheating on a test that measures very little over their basic human needs.

Of course, test time is not the only time that kids are restricted when it comes to bodily functions. They have to ask permission to drink water, go to a nurse, and use the restroom. Think about that. As an adult, what if your boss made you ask permission to the use the restroom? Not only that, but you had to ask in front of 30 of your peers, so that everyone knew what you were about to do. Furthermore, your boss may even tell you “no” and you would have to sit back down, with everyone around you knowing that you were holding your bladder.  Can you imagine working there? And, can you imagine trying to get your work done while having to pee but not being allowed? If an office like that existed, I would bet they wouldn’t keep their employees long, and the ones they had would hate it, feel resentful and frustrated, have low morale, and would not be very productive. And the employer would probably face lawsuits with those types of policies. But, if we do it to children, it’s okay.

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5 Comments on "Rules above Dignity"

  1. Dottie
    24/04/2012 at 10:09 am Permalink

    I had a first grade teacher that would not allow me to use the rest room except during the potty breaks even though she knew that I had bladder issues. I wet myself several times in that class and other times sat in pain trying not to wet myself. I was in that class an entire year and the only thing I remember learning that year was how evil that teacher was to me. She retired a year later and I was so very happy to see her go. At that point I was in a class where the teacher understood I would need a bit of leeway and helped me with that situation. I remember learning very much in that class. Some people are just cruel! that teacher at the least should be fired. At NO point is anything short of the safety of all more important then a child’s dignity.

  2. Cassi
    24/04/2012 at 2:54 pm Permalink

    Dottie, thanks for that story. I think there are thousands of people who have had similar experiences. I am so sorry you had to experience that.


  3. apaulinaria
    28/04/2012 at 1:04 am Permalink

    I love your blog. I’m hooked!

  4. Kelly
    05/05/2012 at 10:20 pm Permalink

    I just recently pulled my children from public school because I just couldn’t handle the situations they were in. You blog struck a cord with me because my oldest daughter told her Grandma that the one thing she was happiest about (speaking of being homeschooled) was that she could drink as much water as she wanted and go Pee whenever she needed to! I’ve had argument after argument with teachers and staff who told me she was “faking it” or that “she drinks too much water on purpose”. She used to go (in third grade) about every 20-30 minutes. At school, at home, and even when we went out…. but they didn’t care. One teacher even told me to restrict all liquid until after school hours. In August, in Central Florida. Um, NO! This was of course a grade A school with great test scores…. Ugh! I’ll never for the life of me understand why schools put these dumb tests ahead of the children actually forced to take them!!!

  5. Linni
    24/09/2012 at 7:06 am Permalink

    What a horrifying story. I’d be having serious words with that teacher were I that child’s mother. Yet another reason my daughter won’t be going to school.

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