Last week I compared the situation in Los Angeles Unified School District to the Satanic Child Care Abuse hysteria of the 1980s and 90s, suggesting that a few high profile abuse cases could lead to excessive and absurd responses by the district. Of course the most obvious and egregious example of this was the mass firing of all staff at Miramonte Elementary School, even though there was only evidence linking two of the teachers to abuse.
|Banned in L.A. (Image from Flickr, by edenpictures)
Now LAUSD is banning the blindfolding of students, the Los Angeles Times reported this week. The reason for this new rule is that it "may be perceived negatively," Deputy Sup. of Instruction Jaime Aquino wrote in a Feb. 23 memo to principals, in light of the accusation that one of the accused teachers, Berndt, blindfolded his students before feeding them his semen.
The image of blindfolded children being spoon fed semen is certainly disturbing and one that the district would understandably want to go away. It could also reasonably be argued that blindfolding children, particularly younger children, is unnecessary, risky and inappropriate. Yet the district’s new rule seems rather superficial and silly in light of the fact that it allowed a supposed monster to slip through its fingers for years and was incapable of dismissing him despite at least four prior abuse accusations. The new rule does nothing to improve the districts’ ability to monitor or discipline abusive teachers, nor does it make schools any safer for children.
One might ask what justification could there be for blindfolding students in the first place? There are, however, numerous situations in which a “blind” test would be reasonable and appropriate, including for K-5 children. Most of these can be done simply by asking students to close their eyes. For example, during a unit on the nervous system, I have students taste jicama and apple with their eyes closed and noses plugged, to demonstrate how other senses, like olfaction, contribute to our sense of taste. Apparently a fourth-grade reading activity that is part of the new California Treasures curriculum also involves making sensory observations and suggests that students be blindfolded. This would be forbidden under the new rule.
|This, Too, Banned in L.A. (Image from Flickr, by Nomadic Lass)
While many “blind” activities can be done without blindfolds, LAUSD’s response to the hysteria goes so far as to entirely ban the consumption of foods prepared in class, even without blindfolds. The Times says that substitute teacher Prentiss Moore teaches elementary-school students how to make butter, which they later eat on crackers. According to Moore, "It is a standards-based lesson with elements of science, social studies, language arts and art." However, in the wake of allegations that Miramonte’s Berndt served students tainted cookies, Moore’s butter lesson is now prohibited.
Keeping children safe should be the first priority of schools. This is not what LAUSD is doing. They are looking for cheap PR victories to mollify anxious and frightened parents and cover up their own incompetence.