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Copyright (c) 2009 Ginny Maziarka. All rights reserved.

Friday, January 22, 2010

West Bend School District Locks in Students, Locks out Taxpayers for Challenge Day

New on the West Bend School District website is an announcement that hasn't been seen or heard of on any other venue that I know.  I have spent time calling around and asking parents of high schoolers, but nobody has heard of the recently announced "Challenge Day" our school district is offering from February 16 through February 19.

Mind you, it all sounds wonderful.  Teaching kids how to be nicey-nice to each other.  The CHALLENGE DAY HANDBOOK, which I read in its entirety, mentions tears, counseling and "finally identifying" certain students who need to break down and release, but is this the job of our local public schools to purport psychosocial disorders and psychiatric problems?  

The Challenge Day vision statement is:

"Challenge Day successfully addresses some common issues seen at most schools during our school programs including cliques, gossip, rumors, negative judgments, teasing, harassment, isolation, stereotypes, intolerance, racism, sexism, bullying, violence, homophobia, hopelessness, apathy, and hidden pressures to create an image, achieve or live up to the expectations of others."

I would think that HOMOPHOBIA is a pretty SUBJECTIVE TERM for a program like this.  Is our school district supporting the reinforcement that kids with a core belief system that opposes homosexuality go against it? 

But wait, that's not all.  According to the page that lists the costs to employ the service of this California-based program, taxpayers in the West Bend School District will be sucking this cry-fest to the tune of $16,000 to $18,000.  Here is their breakdown:

EVENT COST:  $3200 per day x 4 days:  $13,200
HOTEL ROOM:  $300 per day x 3 days (maybe 4):   $900
TRANSPORTATION:  $100 to $150 per day x 4 days:  $500
AIR FARE:  $600 - $2500
MISC SUPPLIES:  $100 - $150

Total potential cost:  $16,000 - $18,000

It gets worse.

Under the "PRIVACY GUIDELINES" for the day:

Anyone NOT fully participating the entire day should not have access to the room. (Members of the media are required to be there the full day as participants or can show up at the end of the day only.)


· You are able to control access to the room. Put up “Do Not Disturb” signs or lock the doors from
the inside
to control access.


The room requirement is at least 50’ x 50’ (for 100 youth participants plus 25-35 adults).


· Windows below eye level in the room must be covered to avoid any distractions such as people
walking by, looking in windows, etc.


The handbook states that this group expects a 1:4 ratio of adults to students, and these adults are acting in a capacity as a "counselor/facilitator."  What is our public school doing here?  This is a waste of taxpayer money.  What can we expect of these counselors who "counsel"???  They get no training.  They HAVE no training.  They get 30 mins or so before the event.  That's it.  With an enormous adult to student ratio such as this, one would have expected to see the open invite in a more public place such as, oh, the West Bend Daily News, or perhaps broadcast on our local radio station, WBKV.  

This event handbook further requires that no more than 100 students attend the event session.  With four days of sessions, that's 400 students, meaning 100 adult volunteers are required.

Who are these people?  Who invited them?  

Lots of questions here.

Inquiring minds want to know.

By the way, here is a VIDEO that makes one wonder what our school district is going to do with the emotionally drained students they are left with at the end of the "Challenge."

It’s not only the cost of the implementation, and the “transformational”, New Age, PC/homophobia implications, it’s the explosive cost of school/teacher liability. See extract below.
I’ve discovered one so far in Jersey, too.

http://www.nj.com/gloucester-county/index.ssf/2010/01/c hallenge_day_comes_to_orchard.html (Orchard Valley School, Washington Township, NJ)

Here are other very key links:
http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/? date=20020412&slug=skuled12

Extract: Board member Teri Lynn Shaw, who for years has mentored teenage girls, said to Smith, “I (so) support you that I’m like choking over here because I have to say this: Just like me having my organization, I’m held accountable when certain information comes out. In a case like that, you may have a child that it just becomes word vomit; they just start purging. Names can come about; family members can be implicated. We are liable once we have this information.“That’s a true statement because once a teacher becomes aware of a situation, they are liable,” agreed Smith.




Call Me Mom said...

What do West Bend's parents think about this? Are they invited?
Why are members of the media being invited?
Seems to me like this is just an open invitation to more bullying or ostracization for those children who do open up in these ...sessions. Unless West Bend's children are a lot different than I remember my classmates being. but in that case why would they need such a thing?

Unknown said...

Congratulations Ginny, you have successfully eliminated another oppurtunity for people to connect with eachother and learn about the differences in our society with a level of respect and acceptance. You complain about costs of the program but I can't imagine you'd be complaining if it was facilitated by the Catholic Church or some other Christian sect. You may not even have had a problem had one of the goals of the program not been meant to combat homophobia. Are you seriously going to shoot down any and every attempt by West Bend's GSA or any other LGBT friendly group to help encourage an atmosphere of acceptance? You mention in your article students with anti-homosexual value systems, and the fact they need to be accomadated. Need I remind you that values against homosexuality DO NOT merit harassment of gays and these homophobic people need to gain at least a level of respect for homosexuals as they are not just going to disappear. They live in a society that is overall, accepting of homosexuality and despite their values, they need to come to terms with that fact. So good job, you just deprived West Bend from an honest attempt to build a safer environment for ALL teens.

West Bend Citizen Advocate said...

Sorry for taking so long to get to this. Life's been busy.

I am really feeling flattered that you attribute me single-handedly to the demise of this destructive (intrusive, inappropriate, wasteful) program. I only wish I had that much authority. :-)

Oh,and you stated, "Are you seriously going to shoot down any and every attempt by West Bend's GSA or any other LGBT friendly group to help encourage an atmosphere of acceptance?"

I truly did not know this was a GSA event or, at the very least, promoted by the GSA and being used to support gay and lesbian students. Since your comment I have read this on other student blogs as well. Thanks for clarifying.