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Friday, April 17, 2009

Ninja Mom Formulates a Big Plan.

I'm a thinker. When problems arise, I like to sit back and think logically about all the different angles - why someone would act the way they do, what the consequences would be of various actions, etc. I am about as far from impulsive as one can get, but of course I have the wherewithal to make split-second decision when the need arises. I just really don't like to do anything without approaching all the scientific sides first, which is why it has taken me two days to update you on the school issue. (Look, I even left you a link in case you didn't get a chance read the first part. Aren't I great?)

So. The principal called me late in the day on Wednesday, all stealthy-like from his cell phone. I wasn't thrilled with his timing, because The Babe had just woken up from a nap - prematurely - and was being Mr. Crabby Pants, and Beastie was screaming about watching Gabba (which wasn't on and wasn't coming on for 22 more hours) and EJ was just getting off the bus. And ever since the murder of Sandra Cantu in California, I am hyper-vigilant about watching EJ walk up the driveway. I don't remember where Four was during all of this, but knowing my Four, she was somewhere in the house making a gigantic mess with something that doesn't even belong to her.

So my thoughts were scattered when I was able to talk to the principal. I did manage to only call him by his first name, and he hates that. (Score one for Ninja Mom.) I was very calm when I spoke with him, because I have learned that approaching difficult situations when you are irate accomplishes absolutely nothing, except maybe to elevate your blood pressure, and that's usually a bad thing.

I am normally uncanny about remembering conversations word for word, but since it was so crazy here, I forgot some of the things. I remember the points though, so here goes. In which Ninja Mom gets totally peeved at the weird no-social-skills-principal:

(After the formalities of "thanks for returning my call, blah blah blah.)

Me: I called because I have some concerns about Mike Flynt coming to speak to the students next week.

Chris (principal): Really?

Me: Yes. I went to his website and saw that he speaks primarily about his Christian faith, and I'm not really sure that's appropriate for a public school setting.

Chris: Well, we haven't had any complaints from other parents.

Me: That's fine, and I'm not complaining, I just wanted to clear this up with you. What exactly is Mr. Flynt going to be saying to the kids?

Chris: I don't know what his speech contains word for word, but he'll be spending the first half talking about his life, and the second half demonstrating his Power Base equipment. We can put EJ in the office with a book if you're opposed.

Me: No, that won't be necessary. I just want to make it clear that I am very particular about what my children learn, religiously, and I don't want Mr. Flynt talking about religion flippantly. This is a very big deal for me, Chris. All the testimonials on his website highlight his Christian faith, as I'm sure you noticed when you decided to book him to speak at the school.

Chris: Well, he is a Christian, and I can't guarantee that he won't talk about that. Like I said, we can send EJ to the office during the assembly. Or you can keep her home, and we won't mark her as truant.

Me: I said that won't be necessary. She'll be attending the assembly. Just so we're clear: this is a public school, and we both know that having a speaker talk about faith is not only inappropriate, but against the law.

Chris: That's at my discretion. Like I said, I cannot guarantee that he won't focus on his faith. EJ does not have to attend.

(then a bunch of "ok, thanks for your time, blah blah blah.")

Here is the problem. Yes, they excused EJ from attending the speech, but they did not offer a comparable alternative, which it is my understanding they must do. And I want to reiterate, it's not the speaker or his Christian faith that's the problem here - it's the fact that it's planned for a public school. Even our forefathers understood that federal government has no place in religion, and it was so important they they made it the very first line of the constitution. Since the school receives federal funding, it is against constitutional law for the school to allow a religious speech to take place.

So, like I said, I'm a thinker. I think way too much about a lot of things, and over-analyze the hell out of everything, but I think it might have come in handy this time.

My first impulse was to contact the ACLU after this conversation with the principal. I was annoyed that he basically dismissed my concerns. I mean, yes. We are in a district with a very high median income, 98% white, and I know for a fact that in the last election, only 400 of us voted for Obama. (I know this because my mom is an election worker.) I am willing to bet that the incredibly vast majority of these rich white people are also conservative Christians. (Thank God I'm not a rich white person. Thank you thank you thank you God for making me a poor bleeding heart liberal. I truly mean that.)

The point is, it doesn't matter if everyone in the school district except me is okay with having a Christian speaker, which is what I got from the conversation. What matters is that it's against the law. It is as against the law as whacking a mailbox with a baseball bat (which is the only other federal offense I can think of right now. I mean I guess there's capitol murder, but that, in my opinion, is in a class by itself.)

So anyway, I was going to call the ACLU, but then I was like, wait. This thing hasn't even taken place yet. I'm getting all worried about something that might happen, which isn't my style at all. I'm just not the type to get all worked up over nothing, but look at me. I am freaking out over something that hasn't even happened!

So instead of calling the ACLU, I decided to take this one step at a time, and play my cards, and hope that nothing even comes out of it, because really, who in their right mind wants to fight a large school district? Not me, that's for sure.

And that brings me to The Plan.

The Plan is this. I am going to allow EJ to attend the assembly. And I am going to attend too, armed with my video camera. I do not plan on taking the camera out of the bag. It's the audio I need, not the video, and I think having a big obvious video camera would definitely raise some red flags.

I am going to tape the entire audio of the speech and hope that nothing inappropriate is said or done. However, if something is said or done, I will be armed not with hearsay and first person account, but with actual physical proof.

Then, I am going to draft a letter to the school board. The only outcome I want from this shenanigans - if it becomes shenanigans, that is - is an apology and a written statement to go on file, recognizing the federal law and assuring that nothing like this would happen again.

And then, if nothing comes of that, or if I am not taken seriously, only then will I contact the ACLU. I feel that I really should exhaust all possibilities myself before calling in The Big Guns.

I really don't want a fight. But I have always been taught to stand up for what is right, to stand up for what you believe in, and to work not just to better yourself, but to better the greater good. And I am fully prepared to do just that.


Anonymous said...

Great Plan!

Anonymous said...

I'm dying to find out what happens next...

Momma Bear said...

too many people jump to conclusions. i feel your plan makes sense and gives them the benefit of the doubt. however i find it strange that he wasn't entirely sure what the speaker was going to share about? that also concerns me.

iMommy said...

Good for you.

The part about that conversation that I thought was the most ridiculous was that he stated that putting the speaker at the school was "at his discretion" -- which is all fine and good, as long as he's not breaking laws by doing so.. Which was your point. Idiot.

Lisa said...

Ummmmmmm still don't understand why elementary schoolers need a demonstration about Power Base equipment either- WTF? (You can buy a small tape recorder at Wal-Mart or Target too if you'd rather not mess with the video camera). This from the same prinicpal who thinks it's OK for a teacher to dump out a kids desk in front of the class and make her go to detention in first grade?? These people are insane.

Masasa said...

Please post as soooooon as you have an update!