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Tardy Policy: Sacrificing Education for Punishment?

July 17, 1994

How can any responsible parent or educator approve of tardy policies that result in students missing more classroom time ("Crenshaw High Praised for Tardy Policy," June 19)?

Does it make sense to sacrifice 45 remaining minutes of classroom education to punish five to 10 minutes of tardiness?

As a parent, I have a long history of making sure my children are punctual at school. My son, who was one of the few students to graduate with honors from Crenshaw in 1992, received an award for perfect attendance in both the 10th and 11th grades.

My daughter Megan, who has just entered our family through my recent marriage, comes from Compton schools with serious confidence problems and learning needs. Yet Crenshaw has chosen to unfairly punish her in a very degrading, unhealthy and unsanitary way, denying her access to classrooms she had trouble finding, classrooms where teachers deliberately ignored the fact that she can't read.

Her first year in high school has been an educational disaster, yet it need not have been, had the teachers contacted us as we requested when we enrolled her. Why did Crenshaw fail to report her reading and tardy problems to us in a timely fashion so that both home and school could address and correct them?

Why are school personnel now trying to get us to bring Megan in for a reading evaluation, so she can be placed in a special program, when this should have been done in the second week of September, 1993?

In keeping Megan home as a protest to the way she has been treated, God sent us a blessing. Megan somehow felt enough confidence in my concern for her life to come to me and say, "I want to tell you something that I have kept secret for a long time, that I don't think my mama even knows.

"When I sit in the classroom I feel so bad because all the other kids can read and I can't."

Her mother was cruelly passed from grade to grade without being taught to read and function beyond a third-grade level. She was never in a position to properly monitor her daughter's special educational needs. Her only recourse was to trust her daughter to the same system that had miseducated her.

Megan told me she thought it would hurt her mother if she knew she could not read.

This is happening to far too many people, especially African Americans, and it must be stopped.

Miseducation is the enemy that we all need to be concerned about, for it is placing a blot on American life that is coming back to haunt us. We continually feed the crime and drug zones of our nation with those who can't function.

Ask any student--magnet, regular or so-called learning disabled--how it feels to be locked out of the classroom for being late and told to pick up trash with no gloves on.

Ask children if being treated this way makes them appreciate the school, classroom and education more, or if they feel degraded and humiliated.

Students need mandatory subjects on the universal healing power of good nutrition, cultural awareness and self-respect to promote cross-cultural love and understanding. For as we continue to leave these basic living values out of education, we are creating more trouble for human relations and for the nation.

To fail or pass one child untaught hurts everyone. Parents who feel the same way can call (213) 294-3024.

JACINTO RHINES JR.

South-Central

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