Jewish World Review August 20, 2002 / 12 Elul, 5762

Joanne Jacobs

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Consumer Reports

Fun with failure | These are crazy days in education.

This is just Freaky: An F-rated Orlando school is telling students that F stands for Fantastic; or Fun or Fatally Foolish Feel-good Fluff.

Okay, I made up that last one. But not the part about how it's Fantastic to go to an F school instead of requesting a voucher to Fund private school tuition. The Orlando Sentinel (via Education Weak) reports:

Clad in navy shirts with "F=Fantastic" printed on the back, Mollie Ray teachers said they plan to reinforce that message throughout the year as they work to improve test scores. The northwest Orlando school is among 10 statewide that received failing grades for the second time in four years.

They're going to teach that Failure is Fantastic and they're going to raise test scores. Oh yeah, that's going to happen. F stands for what these kids are going to be if they waste six years in the Fun with Failure Factory.


Robert K. Sites III showed up at Brentwood Middle School in Florida last year agitated and babbling. Teachers suspected he was coked to the gills; a blood test confirmed it. But Sites has a right to return to Brentwood, a judge ruled last week, confirming an arbitrator's ruling. Because he's a teacher.

An arbitrator ruled in March that Escambia County Schools had to rehire Sites with full pay and benefits once he completed a nine-week rehab program. Superintendent Jim Paul was upset:

"We are expelling kids for taking aspirin or No-Doz. Now we are talking about someone taking cocaine, and that's OK," Paul said.

The teacher's union supported Sites' return to his job as technology coordinator, said executive director, Bob Husbands.

"There is nowhere in board policy, law or contract where zero tolerance for employees is referenced," Husbands said.

So, if zero tolerance isn't the rule there must be total tolerance? No use of judgment at all?

Facing an expensive court battle, Escambia County cut a deal with Sites, Education Intelligence Agency reports. He'll resign but the reason won't appear on his record, allowing him to seek work in other Florida school districts.

In El Paso, however, the police chief believes in zero tolerance for Officer C. O'Kane. Drugs do make people stupid, don't they?


Honor student Taylor Hess was expelled from his Texas high school when his grandmother's bread knife was spotted in the bed of his pick-up.

The principal believed the student's story: He'd helped drop off a box of his grandmother's belongings; the bread knife had fallen out. But it was easier to do the wrong thing -- expel a good kid for doing a good deed -- than to risk a discrimination charge on some future knife case. This LA Times story gives the principal's point of view, but still makes him sound gutless.

By applying consistency instead of subjective judgment, you had support for your actions rather than claims of discrimination. If (Principal) Jim Short disregarded the Taylor Hess case and six months later a different principal responded another way with, say, a Latino student, you would surely hear cries about prejudice.

That, above all, was why Short's supervisors wanted firm formulas. Their school district was in transition, undergoing "a change in demographics." It was one-third minority now, mostly Latino. There was a distinct and growing gap between poorer and more affluent students. For people to have faith in the school system, they had to believe everyone was being treated equally.

Deep down, despite his unease, Jim Short agreed. He had to admit: He derived a certain comfort in not having discretion.

Michael Lopez of Highered Intelligence, who's a lawyer, says the principal and his higher-ups misread "reckless." It means choosing to take a risk. Dropping off grandma's stuff is not a reckless act.


Britain's school inspectors will ask students -- including pre-schoolers as young as three -- to evaluate their teachers. Pre-readers will circle a smiley, frowney or impassive face to indicate their views.


Sacre bleu! French kids who sass the teacher can get six months in jail under a new law.

Under the legislation approved by the National Assembly, the State Prosecution Service can begin proceedings against children who "attack the dignity or respect due" to their teachers -- or police and fire officers, gendarmes and railway guards.

Apparently, this is aimed at "verbal violence," not physical attacks, which already are punished.

The Europeans are crazy too.

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JWR contributor Joanne Jacobs, a former Knight-Ridder columnist and San Jose Mercury News editorial writer, blogs daily at She is currently finishing a book, Start-Up High, about a San Jose charter school. Comment by clicking here.

© 2002, Joanne Jacobs