A five-year-old girl, known only as Elizabeth, has been made to sign a contract in which she promises not to kill anyone at school. Her mother Rebecca went to the press after discovering her daughter had been forced to sign the contract. She's furious at the school's heavy-handed approach.
The Metro reported that the incident kicked off in Mobile in Alabama, when the girl drew a picture of a gun, and then pointed her crayon at another child, pretending it was a weapon. The school then told her she had to sign a standard Mobile County Public Safety Contract, promising not to kill anyone while she was at school.
The contract, revealed by a local TV station, seems designed for teens who have exhibited concerning signs of violence. Students signing it have to answer questions such as whether they feel depressed. There are also numbers for agencies specialising in suicide counselling, which they pledge to call before taking any action.
Clearly something has gone awry here, where a school has tried to do the right thing, but ended up being ridiculously heavy-handed.
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Rebecca may take a small crumb of comfort from the fact that schools are notorious for this sort of slip up, and have a tendency to let well-meaning ideals morph into ridiculous bans. Here are five of our favourites.
1. In France last year the government issued an outright ban on ketchup in primary schools - as constituting a cultural threat to French food. Presumably they're still smarting from the fact that Americans call chips 'french fries'.
2. In 2012 a school in Kingston, Surrey, banned primary school children from having best friends. Psychologists said they were trying to spare them the pain of being separated from close friends over the years, so told children they had to play in larger groups.
3. In New York the Department of Education has issued a ban on mentioning birthdays, dinosaurs, Halloween, poverty and dancing. The idea was that discussions involving these words could create controversy and leave some students feeling left out.
4. A school in Boston tried to ban cake sales on the grounds that they promoted poor nutrition. However, although the state backed it, the governors eventually bowed to public pressure and didn't institute the ban.
5. In 2008 some schools banned marking in red ink, on the grounds it was 'confrontational.' One said that red pen was demotivating, and that teachers had been asked to mark in pencil. In others, two highlighters are used - one colour for great work and one colour where more work is needed. The highlighters are allowed in any colour but red.
But what do you think? Are the good intentions enough to make these sorts of rules worthwhile, or have schools got these things horribly wrong?
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