After reading about a five year old child forced to sign a no-suicide contract, Scotty Schrier worries about the world his son will grow up in.
Hit the deck! She’s packing a crayon!
So, I was reading a story the other day about a 5 year old girl who was forced to sign a ‘no suicide’ contract at her school. I had to check to make sure the article wasn’t from The Onion. The Onion, to the uninitiated, is a satirical website/paper that prints outrageous news articles. And, while most of America knows that The Onion is humor-based, you will still see countless times that someone has taken an Onion article as the real deal and raged against the machine.
When I read the headline: “5-year-old forced to sign ‘no suicide’ contract at school” I immediately turned my B.S. sensor up on high before clicking the link.
It was a network affiliate news-site. No satire. Then I googled the headline to be sure it wasn’t just a niche article being passed off as legit. Nope. Several news sites all had different stories about it. Long story short: A 5 year old girl drew a picture that looked ‘gun-like’ and pointed her crayon at another student and said ‘pew pew’.
Now, the school district did what any normal, rational human being would do: they had her sign a contract that said she wouldn’t kill herself or anyone else. Oh, and they made sure that her parents weren’t in the room when they did it. Also, they had her fill out a questionnaire to determine if she had suicidal thoughts, and they requested she see a psychiatrist.
Oh wait…no normal, rational human being does that!
It is stuff like this that makes me not want to send my kids to public schools. Don’t get me started on Common Core, or the fact that some schools in Florida are so busy teaching to the standardized tests that even 1st graders don’t get a recess anymore. No, this goes deeper than that.
It’s fear. We live in a near constant state of fear. School administrators are so afraid of being sued because they didn’t catch something, that they get hyper-vigilant and suddenly everything is an issue. It drives sane people to do insane things!
The reason this resonates with me is that my son is 5 years old. It wasn’t until he was 4 that he started asking about death. His grandpa passed away, then a couple of months later, the family dog. We discussed things with him, but nothing too in-depth. I’m a big fan of letting him initiate the conversation, then take it only as far as he’s willing. I don’t want to give him more than he can process.
One day, we were driving to preschool. The topic for the day was: “What did you see on the way to school?” It’s a harmless enough topic. By that point, we had been driving that same path every other morning for a couple of months. Because of the topic, though, he was being very observant. We pass a cemetery we’ve driven by many times, but on this morning, he says, “daddy, what are all of those rocks sticking out of the ground for?” Oh crap! I explained that those were headstones for people who had died. We then had a long discussion about how sometimes doctors can’t save people (or dogs), and that the people who ‘got dead’ weren’t bad people, and that his mom and I weren’t old, so he didn’t have to worry about us dying.
Then, he let it go – until the next day. And the day after. And a few days later. It’s been awhile, but he still brings it up on occasion. He’s just trying to wrap his little mind around what death is, and whether or not he should be worried about it.
Why am I telling you this story?
Because a school system forced a 5 year old girl to answer questions about a topic she probably doesn’t have the mental or emotional maturity to imagine. Then, they asked her to sign a contract. All 5 year olds understand a contract and the ramifications thereof, right? There is absolutely nothing about this story that isn’t just batsh*t crazy.
It’s one thing to ask a minor to commit to something. But a contract? I mean, did the contract have an exit clause? Were there any paragraphs about remediation should one of the parties not live up to their end of the contract? What were the penalties if she decided she absolutely had to kill some little boy by giving him all of the cooties? I mean, seriously – we’re talking about a kid who, if she’s normal (and I haven’t seen anything in this story that would indicate otherwise), she probably still believes in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and gets legitimately upset if her stuffed animal gets mistreated because it might get hurt (I know my son does).
I signed a contract once. And I fully intended on breaking it as soon as I could. Why? Because, I was in high school and they passed around an abstinence contract (or was it a virginity contract?). I can’t remember. All I remember was that it was something I had to take home, sign with my parents, and then live up to it. I took it home. I signed it. My mom signed it. She hung it on the refrigerator, to remind me to “always keep your pecker in your pocket.” Those were her words, not mine. Yeah, my mom was pretty awesome.
As a 16 year old, I at least had the mental capacity to understand what the contract stated, and what its ramifications were. And, as a 16 year old, I fully intended to have all the sex as soon as humanly possible. And, hopefully, with the contract up on the fridge I could maintain a level of subterfuge under the auspices of being ‘a good boy’. Kids + Contracts = Stupid.
But seriously, my sons are getting older, and the oldest is going to preschool this year and will be going to kindergarten next year, and this is the type of thing I have to worry about? Is he violent and wants to kill people? Nope. But he does like ninja turtles and he likes to pretend he’s Spider-Man or The Hulk on a regular basis and he acts those things out. When he gets too rough, little brother lets him know and we have a discussion about hurting people even if it’s an accident. Why? Because sometimes, when kids play, they get hurt.
How many of us growing up, played cowboys and Indians, or war, or any various numbers of games that required someone to shoot and/or get shot? I’m guessing the older you get, the higher the chances are. At any rate, as a kid, we ran around with machine guns, pistols, grenades, rpgs, bazookas, tanks, jets, missiles, lazers, phazers, blasters, photon torpedoes. Well, you get the point. We were highly armed kids. And only the coolest of the cool kids actually had a toy gun. The rest of us made do with what we had. With the right amount of imagination, pretty much anything can be made into a gun. Or crossbow. Or bow and arrow. Or knife. Or sword. Or lightsaber. Well, you get the point.
My point being that kids use their imaginations to make all sorts of things out of other things. This isn’t just limited to boys making guns out of everything either. Girls do it too. I ought to know, I have so many sisters it would make your head spin. Also, for balance, my boys put a brick in the swing the other day. When I asked what they were doing, my son said: “that’s our baby and he wanted to swing!”
“Why don’t you go inside and get your actual baby, then?”
“Because I don’t want to get him dirty.” Oft from the mouths of babes…
No one flinches when a kid makes a baby out of a stick. But if they make a possible weapon of sorts? Everyone loses their minds. In Florida, we expelled a kid for biting into a poptart and making it look like a gun. This was followed up by a kid being expelled because, while looking at a picture of a cowboy with a gun, he told another student that he had a cap gun at home that looked like the one being held by the cowboy. Expelled for talking about a toy gun at home! Seriously, we even have a Pop Tart Gun Law in Florida now. Why is all this going on?
We’re living in a fear based world. It’s true. Everyone is terrified of something. When is the ‘next big attack’ coming? Who is out to get us? There’s predators everywhere! It’s enough to make us weary, wary, paranoid, and anxious – all of the time.
The school who forced a 5 year old to sign a ‘no suicide’ contract was just trying to cover their butts. You know, in case she went Full Metal Jacket with an entire 64 Count box of crayons! And, yes, I’m trying to mask a serious issue with humor. It is a serious issue. Schools, churches, corporations – well, basically anyone who could get sued, are all up in arms trying to protect themselves from a wrongful death suit because they couldn’t predict when someone will go off the rails. So, that fear results in seemingly stupid behavior.
Why do you think schools all over the US are taking swing sets off of playgrounds? Or implementing ‘No Running’ policies during recess? Or starting ‘No Touching’ rules that prohibit kids from even high fiving one another on school property? Fear. Fear of getting sued. Hell, I almost lost an eye while playing raquetball in PE in high school. I wasn’t wearing eye protection, because the school didn’t have enough goggles for everyone, and the ones they did have were too small.
Could we have gone after the school with a lawsuit? Yes, yes we could have. Why didn’t we? Because I was on the court with three other guys playing a game we called Murder Ball. It’s like combat racquetball played with doubles and there were two balls in play at any given time. So, yeah, I was acting like a moron, and got hit in the eye and almost lost it. While the school didn’t provide proper eye wear, I was also culpable because I wasn’t playing in a safe and reasonable manner.
We didn’t have the money to pay for the doctor bills, but the school teachers all passed a hat around and paid my doctor bill. So, it all ended up okay in the end. They didn’t get the crap sued out of them, and I learned that you should never put yourself in a situation where someone could pop you in the face with a raquetball going like 900 miles an hour (at least, not without wearing body armor and a helmet first).
Yes, accidents happen. Yes, bad things happen. But when did we start living with so much fear of everything? I want to live in a world where my boys can be kids. I want to live in a world where they can run and play and fall down and get bumps and bruises and take adventures to the wild unknown. I don’t want them to become little robots under the auspices of something being for ‘their safety’ or ‘protection’. Where’s the contract and with whom do I sign to guarantee that?
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