Saturday, August 24, 2013

Lightning Strikes

Nine years ago in Orange County, a 10-year-old girl was struck by lightning shortly after getting off her school bus at the end of the day. She died. This put the "30/30 rule" in place for the county's school district. The 30/30 rule states that if there are 30 seconds or less between the lightning flash and the thunder, then you must wait 30 minutes before leaving shelter. In Orange County schools, every time you see lightning or hear thunder, you have to reset the clock and wait another 30 minutes. During a 30/30 hold, children are not permitted to leave their classes. If it happens near dismissal time, kids are kept at school to prevent an unspeakable tragedy like the family of that 10-year-old girl experienced not long ago. However, parents can choose to come sign out their child and take responsibility for their well-being as they leave the protection of the building.

Yesterday, 10 minutes before dismissal, the lightning and thunder started. The principal called a 30/30 hold. I don't actually have a 7th period class so I could have left. Except that the parking lot is also the car rider loop. In other words, there was no way on earth I was getting out of that parking lot anytime in the foreseeable future. So, I stood outside the main office and helped direct parents to the line where they'd need to wait in order to sign out their child, then, when they had a pass, I directed them to their child's class so they could pick them up.

Parents waited in their cars for a chance to turn into the overcrowded parking lot. They double-parked, came inside, and waited in another line in order to sign out their child. Sometimes a parent would get in line and we'd shout out a reminder that they must have a photo ID in order to pick up their kid. Then they'd get mad and stomp back off to the car in order to get the wallet they'd left there. I understand how frustrating it was for them. I get it. Some of them had to get to work and didn't have time to wait around. Some of them were worried about getting their kid to football/gymnastics/guitar lessons/etc. It wasn't fun. I tried to be sympathetic.

Most of the parents, although frustrated, understood and accepted the procedures we had to follow. But some . . . Well, let's put it this way: after watching some of the parents in line, I understand why their children act the way they do.

There was the mom who stalked over to the line, then angrily proclaimed for all to hear, "My dad came to pick up my son and you wouldn't release him to him!"

"Was your dad on the list of approved people?"


"We can only release the students to people you've put on your list. This is to keep them safe."

"Well, I just drove 90 miles an hour to get here and they (apparently meaning every person who works at the school) don't even care if someone gets in an accident on the way here to get their kid!"

I my mind, I said, "You're right. We don't care if you drive like an idiot and get in an accident. We care about your son and keeping him safe. Tell you what, if you'd killed yourself driving like a moron, then we would've released your son to his grandfather. You know, because you'd be dead." In reality I said sympathetically, "I'm sorry. I know it's frustrating. Unfortunately, we have no control over the weather and we have to follow the district's rules in situations like this."

Then there was the dad who flashed his police badge at me and asked, "Will this get me to the front of the line?"

In my mind, I rolled my eyes, then held up my OCPS badge and asked, "Will this get me out of a speeding ticket?" In reality I said, "Nope, I'm sorry. There are 3 lines. Please have your photo ID with you."

And who could forget the mom who yelled, "This is ridiculous! You should all be fired! I have other kids I need to pick up, you know!"

I my mind, I shouted back, "Guess what! I have 6 kids of my own! Half the teachers here have their own kids to pick up! My daughter needed to be at work at 5:00 but I'm still not home to drive her! I have 2 kids at the YMCA that need to be picked up before 6:00 and that's not gonna happen. My 7th grader had to walk home in the rain. The principal's kid has been stuck, sitting on his bus for over an hour because his school called a 30/30 right after they started dismissing! And guess what! We're all stuck here, unable to take care of our OWN kids because we're caring for YOURS! So shut up!" In reality, I said, "I'm really sorry for the inconvenience. I know it's frustrating."

There were plenty of people who ranted and complained while in line. And as they walked out and I saw what kids were with them, a lightbulb went on and I thought, 'Ahhhhh, that makes so much sense now. I completely understand why your kid acts the way he does in school.'

So, if you happen to live in a district that institutes a 30/30 rule during inclement weather, please, please, please remember this: The parents of the little girl who died would give anything to navigate a busy parking lot, stand in line for 20 minutes, and miss their evening activities. But they can't do that. It's too late for them. For the rest of you, frustrating as it may be, it is NOT the end of the world. In the whole scheme of things, it is NOT a big deal. Choose to be happy that your kids have the chance to go to school at a place where people are looking out for their welfare, instead of choosing to dwell on the fact that your evening plans have been disrupted. 

If waiting in line to pick up your kid from school is your biggest problem (worthy of ranting and raving), then you have a pretty blessed life. Something I noticed was that the parents of the ESE (special needs) kids were the ones who were consistently calm and patient. I think they understand what is important and what really isn't.

And remember this. Your kids look to you for guidance. Think about the kind of example you want to provide them. You can tell them how you expect them to behave until you're blue in the face, but it won't make the slightest bit of difference unless you're modeling that behavior yourself.


Super Sub said...

I think your principal should post your "Why We Do This" in a newsletter sent home to all parents! Your words should be used. This should include the part about how you are taking care of their kids while yours are somewhere else. You should probably leave out some of your more personal opinions. Many of those people really should know they are being an ass but I'll bet your principal won't let you be the one to tell them.

Unknown said...

Well said!

grandmatomato said...

Thumbs up!

Unknown said...

When my school had to do their controlled release last fall, it was the 2nd time in a year we had to do one. We learned a lot from the 1st. The office printed the list of approved pick up people for all kids in that class and delivered them to us. Then, parents could go straight to their kids' classes (there was staff walking around with lists if parents didn't know what class that was). Teachers were to check ID at the classroom. If someone not on the list came, we were allowed to call the parent and confirm the child could leave with that person. It was SOOOO much better than the line we had at the office a year before. Kids got out faster, and except for the one parent who thought our code red was a waste of time, the parents felt that it was safe and that dismissal happened within a reasonable time. Both good things!

And, I'm jealous that you would have been allowed to leave. CA ed code says that we all have to stay in an emergency situation until all kids are picked up, or until the principal releases us.

Sharlyn said...


Mark said...

Hi Baby Sister! I HOPE that
your school system realizes
what an absolute GEM you are.
(If NOT, I'm sure a few of your faithful readers would be honored to remind them!)
Basically, this is just a note of appreciation for all that you!!

Mark in MASS

Lyndsay said...

I agree - this should be in a school newsletter or a letter to the editor or something!

Krys72599 said...

You have a terrific way of using humor to make a point without hiding the ugly truth (which sometimes makes the point as well).
I volunteer in a school twice a month, only for an hour at a time, and I can't tell you how many times I comment to the teacher, "Boy, I'd like to be a fly on the wall in THAT kid's house!" and she'll reply, "I've met the parents. Trust me, you would NOT want to see his/her parents!"
I agree with your readers who think this post should be sent to all parents in a PTO newsletter or posted on the school website... Hmmm...

AuntyM said...

Well said.

AuntyM said...

P.S. I read this story to my husband and he said "Well written." We live in Wyoming and have never heard of this 30/30 rule, but it makes a lot of sense.

You are absolutely right about parents. There are some people who feel "entitled" to special privileges for no particular reason. If my children were still school-age I would have them stay put.

Anonymous said...

I have worked parent pick up several times in my teaching career and am always floored by how mean the parents can be. These are usually the first parents in to complain about something happening to their child or threatening to sue. It's lose-lose. I have seen a parent end up being tazed by a police officer after going after an administrator at pick up time, police coming in the middle of the day to mediate custody disputes in the school, and heard some of the nastiest language ever in the name of "I am in a hurry and you are slowing me down"
Good for you keeping your calm! And to the person who said the principal should send out a "why we do this " letter....the parents who need to read it won't.

Who's Visiting My Blog Right Now?

Home About Dawn Blog Books News & Events Press Kit Contact

Dawn Meehan 2008-. All Rights Reserved.
Site Design by Jones House Creative