Today, I received an email from parents of a six years old primary school girl. I shocked on what a school administration did to the little soul. Adding further concerns to the worrying education system in America. Below is the full letter.
A Terrible Thing Happened at the Dutch Neck School
A terrible thing happened to our daughter few weeks ago. She is six and a half years old and a first grader at the Dutch Neck School in West Windsor. We send this email to you because we don't want the same thing to happen to your kids as well.
On Tuesday, March 29, our daughter took two bottles of water (Poland Spring 8oz) to school. She had been taken water to school since the first day she joined the Dutch Neck school. She used to take a large bottle (16oz). On that Tuesday, we asked her to take two small bottles. One is for snack time at classroom, and one is for lunch time because we did not want her to always drink juice or cold milk during lunch time. On that day, our daughter went into the school cafeteria with one bottle of water, and put it under her arm while holding a tray to pick up her lunch. The cafeteria manager stopped her before she checked out and said she stole the water from school. Our daughter explained that she brought the water from home, but the cafeteria staff did not believe her and insisted that she was lying. As a result, our daughter was brought down to crying and pressured to admit that she was stealing. This is not the end: she was then taken to the Principal’s office and forced to write a confession/I am sorry letter and draw a picture to show the stealing process! When my daughter met the Principal and the Assistant of the Principal, she told them again that she did not steal the water and the water was brought from home, but neither believed her.
They made the decision without any further investigation. They did not check with the parents, and they did not check with our daughter's classmates to see if anyone had seen my daughter with the water bottle on her way from the classroom to the cafeteria. The assistant principal called us two hours later and left a message saying that our daughter stole the water from the school cafeteria and they wanted to talk to us about the consequences.
We found the message at about 9:00pm in the evening. Our daughter was so shocked and scared by the whole experience that she didn’t mention anything after school. We sent two emails to the school immediately and explained that we did ask our daughter to take the water to school since we did not want her drink juice or cold milk during lunch. The next morning (Wednesday), we visited the Principal’s office, explained everything in detail, and requested that the principal check with my daughter's classmates. The principal refused to do so, and insisted that cafeteria manager saw my daughter taking the water from the cafeteria shelf. What the Principal told us was totally different as the cafeteria manager told the superintendent in the following investigation. The cafe manager only saw my daughter putting the water bottle under her arm when she was holding a tray to pick up her lunch. What was more, the Principal told us that they would let my daughter write another sorry letter and there was no recess time for her after lunch at that day.
We left the school with determination to prove our daughter's innocent by ourselves. We emailed to the superintendent and called the Mayor of West Windsor. We checked with the parents of our daughter’s classmates and easily found an eye witness: one of the classmates SAW our daughter taking a water bottle from the classroom to the cafeteria on that day.
On that Thursday afternoon, after the superintendent investigated the issue, we received an email from the principal simply letting us know that this incident was dismissed and the stealing record was withdrawn from our daughter's school report. There is no any word of apology in the email.
We cannot accept this email as the end of the issue. The Principal did not admit to any mistake in the way they had handled the whole thing. They even educated us that our daughter should learn to protect herself at the school! How would we expect a six-year-old girl to clearly articulate her own defense when confronted by the principal and the other figures of authority? Isn’t it fearful to know that the “stealing” report would have followed our daughter’s school record everywhere if we had done nothing? Somebody should say sorry for the wrong-doing.
On the first day of this event, the Principal did not check with either the student’s parents or the classmates, two things that were quite easy to do to find out the truth. On the contrary, they forced a six-year-old girl to admit a false accusation in words, in writing and even in drawing!
On the second day, the Principal took no heed of the parents’ explanation and refused even to do a simple investigation among the students. What was worse, they lied that cafeteria manager saw our daughter taking the water from cafeteria shelf. As mentioned above, the cafeteria manager only saw our daughter putting the water bottle under her arm.
In the whole process of the issue, we did not see the vital responsibility from the Principal to students and parents, we only saw negligence, by which a student’s innocence and future could be easily smeared. It is so easy for them to punish their students, but it is so hard for them to acknowledge their mistakes.
After this event, our daughter kept saying she did not want go to the Dutch Neck School anymore, so we had to transfer her to another school. Isn’t it sad that we cannot even trust the school we are paying tax money for to do the right thing to the kids?
All the parents in our daughter's class feel that the school needs to apologize for what it did to our daughter. We write this email to you and wish to get your support. We did this for our daughter, and for all the Dutch Neck students. Please forward this email to any other parents you know. We truly appreciate all the participation in the attached poll. http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/VPR8BGV