Friday, December 02, 2005

A Different Standard For Evacuees

As is typical with Houston elementary schools, our children's school has welcomed many Hurricane Katrina evacuees. We have purchased school supplies for the children, they are given free meals, and their families are given free housing. We're blessed to live in a neighborhood where our elementary school is rated "Exemplary" by the state of Texas.

Unfortunately, several of the New Orleans children are either incapable of expressing gratitude, or incapable of acting in a decent manner. We recognized the problem early on, when our son in 5th grade came home saying one of the new kids from New Orleans cussed quite a bit. We'd heard this before in years past, but when we got down to it the worse our son heard was "crap", or something similar. But this day, we discovered there was a boy saying "F*** You", and calling kids "d***head". We were of course disappointed, but understood that at some point our son was bound to hear some real cussing.

But a few days later, our son was pushed to the ground and choked by one of the New Orleans kids. One of our good friend's sons was punched. We've heard similar stories from other families. Unfortunately, we heard nothing from the school about this mini wave of violence, and we received no responses to our emails. A few days later, our friend's son was attacked again, this time he had a large bump on his head when he came home from school. During a meeting to discuss the matter, the principal stated the boy was simply "misunderstood".

So not only is the red carpet laid out for evacuees, but our school districts are now ignoring long-held policies that call for suspensions in cases of violence. Fortunately, the boy in my son's class was pulled out of the class for a couple weeks, but he was not suspended nor has he been sent to the alternative school. So if you're just an average Houstonian, you have one discipline policy. But if you're a New Orleans evacuee, in addition to the red carpet, you also are exempt from the disctrict's discipline policy.

There's no doubting that evacuee families are suffering, and I'm very proud of my city for all the hard work and generosity displayed over the past few months. But we'd be foolish to set up a different set of standards for evacuee children and their parents. It's not fair to Houston children being terrorized, and in the long run it will do more harm than good to the evacuees.

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