o we really want to know the truth about what is actually going on in this big old world of ours? Maybe it's better to just put our personal energy into what's for dinner, who gets to use the car on Saturday night, and how can I get my new boss to like me? On the other hand, some of us lie awake at night contemplating the acts of the thong checker. We'll get to that!
I was raised in a family in which current events usually referred to a church potluck supper or the next fishing trip. Now, these were very good things to talk about and little controversies developed about bait and potato salad. We rarely talked about things governmental unless there was an upcoming election. Even after my father was elected to the local school board, the only thing I remember him saying about board matters was an occasional complaint that one of his fellow trustees was pretty ornery!
If you're a person who wants to know what the FBI, the CIA, and the executive branch knew, and when they knew it, I would assume that you are also a person who wants to know what your local public officials are up to!
I started to become that sort of person in college. Being estranged from the potlucks and the fishing trips, I fell in with a group who conducted study sessions regarding the war in Vietnam. At the University of Redlands, I became aware of and peripherally involved with student activism movements.
The many graduation ceremonies that I have recently attended as a school board trustee have brought to my mind the changing awareness levels that higher education brings to our children. Will they learn to question authority? Will they learn to seek the truth? Will they dive deeply into political and social issues to determine cause and effect?
Their journey in higher education will surely bring them into contact with new influences. Things that we forgot to teach them maybe some things that we never knew ourselves will come to their attention.
My personal journey towards awareness and knowledge about the real workings of our government has been a slow process interrupted repeatedly by the nuts and bolts of living, raising children and yes, other interests. The journey has carried me to the point of having been elected into service in the educational community.
When I reflect on school boards, politics, and the behavior and judgements of elected officials, I am awed by the responsibility of the voters who put these people into a seat of power. Isn't what we want of these officials that they use good judgement and wisdom in their decisions?
Here's a little story relating to what sort of judgements elected officials make affecting school children. You are probably aware of this incident to some degree, but perhaps you have not heard the current update. An assistant principal in a southern California school flipped up girls' skirts in a public underwear check prior to admitting them to a school dance. Yes, there were male students present who were allowed to watch this spectacle.
"We were in front of the entire class, officials were around, and even two on-campus cops," one of the young victims told Good Morning America. Beyond that, how humiliating is it for girls to have their underwear checked even by a female, for goodness sakes. The perpetrator is referred to in the news as the "thong checker".
This school administrator's behavior is nothing short of outrageous. Parents demanded this woman's dismissal. Yet the outcome ordained by the local elected public officials the school board was to demote the thong checker to the job of dare I say teacher! My, my, my! Some would say, "Jeepers!" Surely the school board could have found a job for this person which requires less common sense, decency and wisdom than the job of teacher.
Students, no matter how scantily clad, deserve at least some modicum of human decency. Demoting this person to a teaching post puts her in closer contact with the children.
You've perhaps heard of "pass the trash", the tactic of sending a problem administrator on to other school districts with gleaming recommendations, so that they don't have to be dealt with anymore. Who's protecting the children? I am offended by the behavior of the thong checker and the decision to put her in the classroom.
Is there a moral to this short story? I would say yes! Be careful whom you vote for! School boards make decisions that affect the children of this country every day.
And please don't tell me "It's just the school board," when you're excusing people from following high standards of ethical behavior. I submit that if any agency or public board requires ethical behavior and good judgement, it's the school board.
Sandra Nichols is a Speech and Language Specialist with Santa Cruz City Schools in Santa Cruz, California and sits on the Governing Board of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties. This essay was first published in the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, June 22, 2002. The opinions expressed are those of Sandra Nichols and do not necessarily represent those of any school district, print publication or web site.
© Sandra Nichols 2002