Monday, April 26, 2010
Help Me Howard: Five-year-old's hair cut at school
What would you say if a 5-year-old got their hair cut by another 5-year-old in a classroom with a teacher sitting there. That is bad, but a South Florida family is fuming because the school say the teacher did nothing wrong. What can they do? That's why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you have ever dropped a child off at school, odds are you have had the same feeling as every other parent.
Silvana Zabaleta: "Every mom has that little worrying every time you drop off your son or your kid somewhere else when they are not at home."
Silvana has two small children and after dropping Danny off at Devonaire Elementary one morning she got that dreaded call.
Silvana Zabaleta: "And she said Ms. Zabaleta, the reason I am calling you is because another kid cut your son's hair."
That's right take a look at this, a five year old classmate had cut Danny's hair with a pair of scissors.
Silvana Zabaleta: "I counted 39 as you can see in the pictures. They are like straight lines."
Thirty-nine scissors marks on the top of his head, the sides, the back of his head, Silvana was stunned.
Silvana Zabaleta: "To be honest the first two nights I couldn't stop crying at night, I felt so impotent."
And where was the teacher while a five-year-old cut Danny's hair? She told Silvana she was right in the classroom.
Silvana Zabaleta: "The teacher told me two different stories. She was first giving papers out, then she remembers she was being on the computer for a little bit."
But, whatever she was doing she didn't see this, so Silvana and her husband filed a formal complaint with the Miami-Dade School District who told them they investigated and concluded the teacher did nothing wrong.
Silvana Zabaleta: "Fortunately nothing happened to your son, so you got to understand that. We don't find any fault on the teacher at this point."
In fact, the school officials pointed out to Silvana that her son took the scissors and cut the other boys hair in a couple of places.
Silvana Zabaleta: "And that made me even more furious, that means all this time they were having a scissors war in the classroom and where was the teacher, she was not around, she didn't notice the kids were doing all this."
Silvana was dumbfounded that a teacher could be in a classroom while two five year olds were cutting each others hair, didn't see it and wasn't going to be disciplined.
Silvana Zabaleta: "We asked him that we wanted some type of writing reprimand to the teacher to stay in her file, at that point he said no we can't do that, it wasn't that severe for her to be written up."
Well Howard, Silvana and her husband don't want the teacher fired, but they want their complaint put in her personnel file. Can they demand that?
Howard Finkelstein: "Yes, because they filed a formal complaint, even though the school found the teacher did nothing wrong, that complaint from the parents by law must be in the teacher's personnel file and by law, it is open to the public to read."
On March 26th, I filed a public information request to see the teachers file, it has still not been given to me.
A Miami-Dade School spokesman said this incident happened because the students went under a desk and cut their hair, this is an excellent teacher with no history of any problems.
When I asked why the complaint was not in the file as required by law, I was told because according to the union contract, no derogatory information can be put in the file unless it becomes disciplinary. Howard says a contract can't override state law.
Howard Finkelstein: "It does not matter what the teacher's contract says, they have to follow state law and if that complaint by the parents is not in the teacher's personnel file somebody is breaking state law. If the school won't put the complaint in the file, the parents need to contact their school board members."
Needless to say, Silvana has been left disappointed. First, it was by the teacher, now by the School District.
Silvana Zabaleta: "First of all, I feel very ignored, sad and worried, because every day I drop him off, I'm even more concerned about what can happen now."
And why do legislators think the complaints should be in the teacher's file even if the teacher did nothing wrong? Because it's the only way a pattern of inappropriate behavior can emerge. We are going to keep an eye on this school complaint issue.
Been taught a lesson you didn't want to learn? Ready to file it with someone? Let us cut through things. We are hair today and hopefully will be hair tomorrow.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com