Patriarchy

This past week has been a stunning display of patriarchy in America. Like many people, I’ve felt personally sucker punched by its acute audacity and cruelty. At the same time, I’ve been thinking about things like the nearly 500 immigrant and refugee children who are still separated from their parents – a stain on our conscience from which we should never recover.

The most accurate description of patriarchy is not men vs. women. It is those with power vs. those with less or without. This is one of the reasons that my upbringing in the Christian faith was the original force behind my deep commitment to push back on patriarchy. Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first. Jesus sided with those with less power.

When we resist patriarchy, we do so for women, and for our babies, including all the babies in tent cities in Texas and those separated from their mothers and fathers, because all children are our children. We do so for the differently abled and those without access to living wage jobs. We do so for all those with less power.

In her book Memories of God, Roberti Bondi wrote that for the ancient Christian teachers, “humility was about slipping underneath the whole hierarchical social web of judgments by which we limit ourselves and one another in order to love and act fearlessly with power and authority.”

We slip out from patriarchy, we claim power through acts of love, and with that power we bend the arc of the moral universe to justice.

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I Believe Dr. Ford

I lit a candle for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford this morning. 

Two Scriptures come to mind today: “The world does not know you, but I know you.”

We know you, Dr. Ford. Your sisters, daughters, mothers, those with less power but with truth – we know you, and we see you. You tell our ancient story. Of bearing, of surviving.

The second is one of my favorites: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.”

Whatever happens today, Dr. Ford, I pray that your heart is strengthened by the witness of millions of women. I know truth and love and grace will win and heal; I pray that they win in your lifetime. I pray that you see, if not today, then tomorrow, the justice your truth secures. If not for you, then for our daughters or for our granddaughters.

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” (Muriel Rukeyser)

There’s a broken immigration system and then there’s tearing children from parents. We can fix one NOW.

The US’ immigration system has been broken for a long time. Good people can disagree on how to fix it. Personally, I will always promote welcoming the stranger. However, I’ve studied immigration policy, and I know there are a variety of factors to be considered – including, yes, the safety and livelihoods of the people already living in a country – when creating policy, so that it is hopefully done in a way that does the most good for the most people. We can disagree on the best way to do that.

But even when we disagree on other immigration issues, we can agree that we must do all we can to not separate children from their parents, a new policy of the US government. Laura Bush says it well in her recent article in the Washington Post:

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

Please call your congressperson and senators and ask them to sign onto the Keep Families Together Act. Or, if you don’t like how that bill is written, ask them to sponsor their own bill. Ask them to make sure children are not separated from their parents. NOW – not in 6 months or 6 years or whenever our government can finally get it together to fix our overall immigration system. And remember, even families seeking asylum – which means they are *not* coming illegally; asylum is a legal right – are being separated.

Find your representative’s number here: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

Find your senators’ numbers here: https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

This article links to several organizations that are supporting separated families, if you would like to make a donation: https://mashable.com/2018/06/18/child-separation-immigration-charities-donate/#PR1QwOwooqqd

March for Our Lives

I had been planning on taking my girls to the March for Our Lives in Charlottesville yesterday. On Friday night, I talked with them about what the march was about. I told the little one that there were too many guns, and we want people to not have so many guns, especially the kind that can hurt people the most. I told the older one that the right to bear arms is in the Bill of Rights, but in the context of a well-regulated militia and arms that fired at much slower speeds than arms today. I told her that her right to be alive is far more sacred. We talked about how we are asking for better regulations of guns and enforcement of regulations. Extensive and ongoing training and practice should be required for every gun owner, and we discussed that.

As we talked, my nine-year-old’s eyes were growing wider. “Mom, what if there are people with guns at the march? This is going to make them mad. What if they start shooting?”

My oldest is generally fearless. She was the toddler that made all the other moms at the playground hold their breath with how high she would climb. She has, of her own initiative, asked strangers if they will please donate to the SPCA or Dancers for Dance.

Guns can take our children’s lives in more than one way.

What I didn’t tell Emma was that I felt safer taking her to the march than I did dropping her off at school. Instead, I listened, and I told her that we didn’t have to go. That I’m glad she’s listening to her inner self and how she feels. There are times to teach children to do things that feel scary, but at age 9 when their life really is on the line, isn’t one of them, at least not for us.

I am in awe of and encouraged by the young people who led and participated in the March for Our Lives yesterday, across the country. And I am sad that they have to march at all. I wonder how many children would like to march but are, justifiably, too afraid to do so. We certainly can’t tell them their fears are unfounded. We want them to live to be old enough to vote out of office anyone who thinks the right to bear arms is an unfettered right triumphant over all others.

The girls and I still made signs, and we hung them on our front door. We talked about other things we can do to support common sense gun reform, such as donating to groups like Everytown and Americans for a Responsible Solutions, which are able to research, produce information about good policy, and lobby for it.

Because kids are more important than guns. Life is more important than guns, and with the current lack of sufficient regulation and requirements for training and practice, guns are far more likely to kill us than keep us safe.

March for Our Lives

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More on this topic
Guns in America: A Mother’s Terror

Cville Schools Support Student Responses to Shootings

Charlottesville City Schools should be praised for their support of student-led responses to school shootings. On March 1, CCS Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins emailed parents with information about upcoming dates when student activism would take place (National School Walkout Day on March 14, March for Our Lives on March 24, and a possible walkout on April 20: see copies of the emails at the bottom of this post). Additionally, she notified parents that a community forum on school safety will be held at Charlottesville High School at 7 pm on March 15.

A reminder email was sent this past Monday, March 12, and this afternoon parents received an email summarizing today’s events. My heart is filled with pride that my school district sees the value in, as Dr. Atkins states in her March 1 email, using “occasions such as [these] as ‘teachable moments’ so our students – regardless of their political beliefs – can continue to learn how to engage in our community and world to make a positive impact.”

Thank you, Dr. Atkins, for your strong support of our students’ civic engagement.

From Dr. Atkins’ email today:

“As you know, today there was a national call for student-led school walk-outs.Thanks to our students’ leadership, maturity, thoughtfulness, organizational skills, and respect for others, today’s events went peacefully. At Walker, Buford, and CHS, students freely chose whether to stay in class or join the walk-out. The students leading the events presented statements, shared original poetry, and read the names of  the victims in Parkland, Florida. The students attending the events were respectful and returned to class promptly. The students who chose not to leave class were also cooperative as they continued their studies or participated in alternate community-building activities and discussions. Whether they chose to remain indoors or go outdoors, we are proud of our students and how they are learning to address complex situations.

We also want to thank our schools’ administrators and teachers for their support of all of our students. We respect both the rights of our students to advocate for causes that are important to them and their right to learn in an environment that includes diverse viewpoints.

Through the leadership of our students, today we accomplished both.”

March 1 email from Dr. Atkins

March 12 email from Dr. Atkins

March 14 email from Dr. Atkins

CCS School Board to Vote Thursday on Weighing Students, Taking Away Recess

Now’s the Time: Tell the School Board You Care About Weigh-ins & Recess!
Please consider coming out to the CCS School Board this Thursday, September 7, when the School Board will be voting on the issues of weighing students and of taking away recess as punishment, as part of an updated district Wellness Policy.

The School Board meeting begins at 5:00 at Charlottesville High School, 1400 Melbourne Road. Every member of the public is entitled to speak for three minutes. The public comment period will be towards the beginning of the agenda. You do not have to stay for the entire board meeting!

If you are not able to attend the meeting on Thursday, you can still email them. Click here for sample text that you could use in an email to the school board and for all of the school board members’ email addresses.

Two things I will be asking the School Board to do and would encourage you to consider asking for, as well:
1) Approve the updated Wellness Policy.
2) Given the persistent use of recess as punishment and the confusion about the legitimacy of the practice, send communication to ALL CCS stakeholders – parents, teachers, and administrators – announcing that recess is not to be taken away from students.

To read the updated Wellness Policy here, click this link, then select the third hyperlink on the page, under File Attachment (see screenshot below): http://esbpublic.ccs.k12.va.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=6241&mtgId=605
Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 1.50.32 PM

If you have any questions at all about speaking to or emailing the school board, please email me at christa.v.bennett@gmail.com

For more information on the updated policy, keep reading….

The Updated Wellness Policy
The Wellness Policy has been updated by the School Health Advisory Board. It contains numerous changes to the existing policy. The two issues that my petition has been focused regard student weigh-ins and taking away recess as punishment.

The changes to the policy of weighing students include the following:

  • Students will be weighed in third through tenth grades (whereas they used to be weighed beginning in kindergarten).
  • Parents have the option to opt out their child from being weighed AND students have the option to opt out themselves.
    • PE teachers’ training in conducting the weigh-ins will include how to talk to students about opting out and their right to do so.
  • PE teachers will be trained in how to conduct the weigh-ins, using modules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • An additional teacher will be assigned to the PE class while the PE teacher is weighing students.
  • Students’ weights will not be recorded with their name or other identifying information.
    • The purpose of the weigh-ins are for “surveillance” instead of “screening.” In this case, surveillance means collecting data, without identifying information attached. The data will be used in application for grants that will benefit Charlottesville students.
  • Students will not be told their weight, even if they ask what it is. (This is not yet in the Wellness Policy, but Patrick Johnson, CCS Coordinator of Health and Physical Education, indicated that he intends to include it in the final draft of the Wellness Policy.)

The change to the policy of taking away recess as punishment includes the following:

  • It can’t happen!

In a very clear statement, the Wellness policy says that taking away recess, PE, or other physical activity as punishment is not permitted. Additionally, the use of physical activity as punishment is not permitted.

My Take
I am very pleased with the changes to the Wellness Policy.

Regarding the practice of weighing students, my original preference was that it wouldn’t happen at all. However, I am intrigued by one of the changes that is really innovative and could be a powerful experience for a student: that they can opt themselves out. There is a shift towards teaching kids in school about consent, that they get to decide what happens to their bodies. Being able to say no to being weighed could be an empowering experience for students. I will be watching how this plays out.

Regarding recess, I am very happy to have such a clear statement against taking it away as punishment.

I was surprised that at the school board meeting last month, no one pushed back on the second prohibition, i.e., the use of physical activity as punishment not being allowed. I am sensitive to the limited resources teachers often face, and I am concerned that they have adequate alternatives to respond to disruptive behavior in their classrooms. Some teachers do have kids walk laps at the beginning of recess, as a consequence for poor choices. While this is not ideal if it is happening every day – the numerous studies indicating the importance of recess in child development highlight its utility in social development as well as physical and academic – I wouldn’t necessarily balk at a teacher using it occasionally.

Weigh-ins and Recess Excerpts from the updated Wellness Policy

(p4)

  • Reducing or eliminating time for recess, physical education or physical activity as a punishment is not permitted.
  • The use of physical activity as a punishment is not permitted.

(p5)

  • BMI (height and weight)assessments surveillance will be conducted collected for students in K3-10 yearly, however, parents and students will have the option of opting out. An opt-out form will be provided to all parents prior to the start of the BMI assessment. BMI assessment will be taken without using student’s names and will be done in a private area. PE teachers will be trained and provided with an additional adult to assist with the PE class while assessments are being taken. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/BMI/BMI_measurement_schools.htm

*****

Read evidence supporting our request to end weigh-ins and taking away recess here and here.
Sign the petition to end weigh-ins and taking away recess here.
Read my May 4 statement to the CCS School Board here.
Read my June 1 statement to the CCS School Board here.
Read all posts related to this issue here.
Read about media coverage of our campaign here.

Sample Email Text to Write the CCS School Board

If you are unable to attend the September 7 CCS school board meeting but would still like to let the board know how important it is that they pass the updated Wellness Policy, you may email them. Below, I have pasted sample text that you could use to write board members an email. I have also posted the email addresses for all board members.

If you have any questions, you may email me at christa.v.bennett@gmail.com.

Sample Email Text to the School Board
Dear School Board Member,
Please vote to pass the updated Wellness Policy at the school board meeting on September 7.

Parents and children in our school district should be informed that students will be weighed during PE class and that they have a right to opt out.

Taking away recess should not be used as punishment. Numerous organizations, including the US National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have released studies emphasizing the crucial importance of physical activity in our students’ academic, physical, and social development.

Please communicate the updated Wellness Policy in a way that will ensure all parents, teachers, and administrators are aware of these changes.

Thank you for your support of our students.

Best,
[Your Name]
[Your Charlottesville address]

School Board Email Addresses
School Board           SchoolBoard@charlottesvilleschools.org

Dr. Adam Hastings hastina1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Dr. Sherry Kraft        krafts1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Amy Laufer   laufea1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Jennifer McKeever mckeevj1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Ned Michie   michien1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Leah Puryear           puryeal1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Juandiego Wade wadej1@charlottesvilleschools.org

Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins Rosa.Atkins@charlottesvilleschools.org