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May 06, 2005


Principal makes an unprincipled decision.

When my son deployed to Iraq, first in early 2003, and then again in August 2004 - my cell phone was never out of my sight - or hearing. I slept with it on my pillow. My students knew that if my son called, we took a class break until he was done talking. He often stood in line for hours for a ten minute phone call and I took no chances on missing that precious chance to connect with my son.

How much more important must it be for a son whose mother is deployed?

Read this and be outraged:

Kevin Francois gave up his lunch break to talk to his mother, but it ended up costing him the rest of the school year.

Francois, a junior at Spencer High School in Columbus, was suspended for disorderly conduct Wednesday after he was told to give up his cell phone at lunch while talking to his mother who is deployed in Iraq, he said.

His mother, Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, left in January for a one-year tour and serves with the 203rd Forward Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division.

"This is our first time separated like this," said Francois, 17, on Thursday.

Bates came to Fort Benning with her son from Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Ga. She enrolled him at Spencer in August. Since her deployment overseas, Francois, whose father was killed when he was 5 years old, lives with a guardian who has five children in Columbus.

The incident happened when Francois received a call from his mother at 12:30 p.m., which he said was his lunch break. Francois said he went outside the school building to get a better reception when his mother called. A teacher who saw Francois on his phone told him to get off the phone. But he didn't.

According to the Muscogee County School District Board of Education's policy, students are allowed to have cell phones in school, but cannot use them during school hours.

"They are really allowed to have those cell phones so that after band or after chorus or after the debate and practices are over they have to coordinate with the parents," said Alfred Parham, assistant principal at Spencer. "They're not supposed to use them for conversating back and forth during school because if they were allowed to do that, they could be text messaging each other for test questions."

Francois said he told the teacher, "This is my mom in Iraq. I'm not about to hang up on my mom."

Francois said the teacher tried to take the phone, causing it to hang up.

The student said he then went with the teacher to the school's office where he surrendered his phone. His mother called again at 12:37 p.m. and left a message scolding her son about hanging up and telling him to answer the phone when she calls.

Control issue

Parham said the teen's suspension was based on his reaction when he was asked to give up the cell phone and told about the school's cell phone policy.

"Kevin got defiant and disorderly with Mr. Turner and another assistant principal," Parham said Thursday. "He got defiant with me. He refused to leave Mr. Turner's office. When a kid becomes out of control like that they can either be arrested or suspended for 10 days. Now being that his mother is in Iraq, we're not trying to cause her any undue hardship; he was suspended for 10 days."

Wendall Turner is another assistant principal at Spencer.

Parham said the student used profanity when he was taken into the office. He said he tried to work out something with the student. But Francois said he was too frustrated he couldn't answer the phone when his mother called him the second time.

"I even asked Kevin, 'You know we can try to work something out to where if your mother wants to call you she can call you at the school,'" Parham said. "So we've tried to work with Kevin and we're going to continue to try to work with Kevin and his mother and his relatives. In the course of good order and discipline, we have to abide by our policy."

Francois admitted he was partially at fault for his behavior but said he should have been allowed to talk to his mother.

"I was mad at the time, but I feel now maybe I should've went about it differently," he said. "Maybe I should've just waited outside to pick up the phone. But I don't I feel I should've changed any of my actions. I feel I was right by not hanging up the phone."

For Francois, he said he gets to hear from his mother once a month, and phone calls vary depending on when she can use the phone in Iraq. Francois said his mother calls as late as 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. and tries to catch him during hours he's awake. He said the phone call Wednesday was the first time she called him while he was at school.

Francois, who said he's been struggling with his grades in school, wants to go back to school and finish the rest of his year. He fears he may have pay for summer school because of his punishment.

"My grades had been low, but I was bringing them up. My grades were coming back up. On one of my report cards I had like a 'F' in one of my classes, but I brought it back up to a low 'C.' This just brought me all the way down."

Marine moms across the country are livid. Tammie Greene and Nicole Markel sent this link minutes after it hit the wires. I'm wondering how the school administrators at Spencer High School would feel if they were serving in a war zone and during a rare opportunity to talk with their child, an authority figure took the phone away and hung up that connection. And I plan to share my opinion with the principal and two assistant principals.

Here's the contact information for the school and the administrative staff if you'd like to do the same:

Spencer High School 4340 Victory Drive Columbus, GA 31903

Phone: 706-685-7652
Fax: 706-685-7708

Principal:
Olivia Rutledge: orutledge@mcsdga.net

Assistant Principals:
Alfred Parham: aparham@mcsdga.net
Wendell Turner: wturner@mcsdga.net

Please share your opinion with them - be courteous but get your point across. Supporting our troops means supporting the families of our troops as well. And consider sharing your e-mail by either copying us at info@marinecorpsmoms.com or pasting it into the comments section of this thread.

Here's one worth reading:

Dear Ms. Rutledge,

As a father of a Navy Corpsman serving in Iraq, I am appalled at the lack of compassion for your student, Kevin Francois.

I understand your school policy on Cell Phone usage but this seems to be a travesty. His mother is serving her and your country in a very dangerous place and a chance to call home and speak to a loved one is pure heaven. To have this Mother disconnected from her child can only be VERY painful for both parties. Yes, Kevin may have acted outside of his usual training but the stress of the situation should have been taken into account. Give him detention if you must but allow him to complete his school year.

I understand his attitude, when my son calls me, everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING comes second. To hear his voice is the sweetest sound in the world and nothing will be allowed to interrupt that.

Leo Flood

Other bloggers voice their opinion:

Michelle Malkin

The Moderate Voice

Citizen Smash

Outside The Beltway

Daily Pundit

Iowa Voice

Jack Army

Don Singleton

The Jump Blog

Posted by Deb at May 6, 2005 01:53 PM

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» Student Suspended For Talking To Military Mother In Iraq from The Moderate Voice
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Tracked on May 6, 2005 08:10 PM

» Suspension Penalty Sliced For Student Penalized For Talking To Military Mom from The Moderate Voice
Following a firestorm of negative national reaction, a 17-year-old Georgia high school student will be alllowed to return to class after being banned from the school for three days for refusing to hang up his cell phone on his military Mom who was call... [Read More]

Tracked on May 7, 2005 10:19 AM

Comments

Here's my e-mail:
Dear Principal Rutledge, and Asst. Principals Parham and Turner;

I am writing to express my displeasure at your decision to suspend a Spencer High School student because he answered a phone call from his mother who is currently deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. He has not seen his mother for months. And she will not be home for at least a year.

I understand the need for rules regarding cell phone use at school. However, this case is different than students who will see their mother when they step off the school bus or when she picks them up after school. Calls from a deployed parent or son should fall under different guidelines. This soldier may have stood in line for hours for a few minutes of connection with her son.

I speak from experience. My son has been deployed twice. Each time, my cell phone is my link to him and it is always close at hand. When he calls, I take it. My students understand that if he calls while I'm in class, we take a break until he's done talking. Any other calls are returned later.
I understand that his response to you, according to the news story, did not meet your need for authority and control. I can tell you that if someone had tried to take my cell phone away from me during one of those precious phone calls from my son, that I would have used profanity too. It's not a tool I normally use when speaking to others, but I would not have regretted it.

Supporting our troops means supporting their families who are making a tremendous sacrifice so that you can live in peace. You've suspended this young man for ten days because he broke your rule. What do you think he will learn from this suspension? My guess is that it's not the lesson that you think he needs to learn. Please reconsider his suspension and find a way to accommodate his need to maintain a connection with his mother. The news article mentioned that you'd offered to have her call the school. The problem is that phone banks at military bases in Iraq have time limits to accommodate the troops who stand in line for hours to use them. If she has a ten or fifteen minute limit, she shouldn't have to wait for her son to be called to the office. Her chance could be up by the time he gets that message and reaches the office.

Deb Conrad
Proud Marine Mom
www.marinecorpsmoms.com

Posted by: Deb at May 6, 2005 02:53 PM

The emails I sent were returned as all of their email boxes are full. I think it's a total disgrace.

Posted by: Maggie at May 6, 2005 09:11 PM

I posted THIS one today:

Posted 12:16 AM by Howard
Time for all you patriotic liberals to rally behind that poor teacher in Georgia who prevented an obviously rebellious child from flouting the rules of Academia by calling his mom in Iraq. Below is the email address of that courageous teacher so you can write to her. Sample letters to send to the principal in Georgia who seized the cell phone from the kid talking to his mother in Iraq and then kicked him out of school can be found below. This great American deserves our support. Send email to: orutledge@mcsdga.net
Sample letters:

I want to congratulate you and your fine staff for preventing that kid from talking with his baby killing bitch mother in Iraq. I hope she gets killed and I hope that kid cries for a month.
Again, thanx a lot. Somebody has to teach these soldiers a lesson and hopefully, cause our defeat in Iraq. Many of us will join you in your drive to end the fascist rule of George Bush, destroy the military, and make this country humble.
Keep it up.

I can’t think of a more compassionate way to destroy our military and their families than through your actions. I wish I had thought of it first. I am looking for kids on cell phones this weekend who may be talking to their moms or dads in Iraq so I can act.

Cell phones cause cancer and the kid should have been turned over to the Medical people for testing and then charged with disrupting classes. All criminals start with small things and punishing them early will stop that kid from a life of crime. Talking to his “mom” in Iraq is a pathetic excuse for breaking the rules. The fact that she had the gall to be angry is a typical fascist military response. Don’t let it get to you.

Great to be a liberal, ain't it?

Posted by: Howard Veit at May 7, 2005 08:40 AM

I posted THIS one today:

Posted 12:16 AM by Howard
Time for all you patriotic liberals to rally behind that poor teacher in Georgia who prevented an obviously rebellious child from flouting the rules of Academia by calling his mom in Iraq. Below is the email address of that courageous teacher so you can write to her. Sample letters to send to the principal in Georgia who seized the cell phone from the kid talking to his mother in Iraq and then kicked him out of school can be found below. This great American deserves our support. Send email to: orutledge@mcsdga.net
Sample letters:

I want to congratulate you and your fine staff for preventing that kid from talking with his baby killing bitch mother in Iraq. I hope she gets killed and I hope that kid cries for a month.
Again, thanx a lot. Somebody has to teach these soldiers a lesson and hopefully, cause our defeat in Iraq. Many of us will join you in your drive to end the fascist rule of George Bush, destroy the military, and make this country humble.
Keep it up.

I can’t think of a more compassionate way to destroy our military and their families than through your actions. I wish I had thought of it first. I am looking for kids on cell phones this weekend who may be talking to their moms or dads in Iraq so I can act.

Cell phones cause cancer and the kid should have been turned over to the Medical people for testing and then charged with disrupting classes. All criminals start with small things and punishing them early will stop that kid from a life of crime. Talking to his “mom” in Iraq is a pathetic excuse for breaking the rules. The fact that she had the gall to be angry is a typical fascist military response. Don’t let it get to you.

Great to be a liberal, ain't it?

Posted by: Howard Veit at May 7, 2005 08:54 AM

Saturday, May 7, 2005

To: Olivia Rutledge, Principal:
CC: Assistant Principals: Alfred Parham: Wendell Turner:

From: William G. Drew, Retired Teacher and Administrator. New Castle, NH

Running and administering a high school in these times is a difficult task indeed. A successful program SETS THE TONE of treating people as though you would want them, and expect them, to treat you, WITH RESPECT.

It’s obvious at the beginning of the current situation there was a breakdown and lack of sensitivity and it escalated the INTENSITY OF EACH PARTICIPANT, to exhibit conduct unbecoming of acceptable adult behavior.

Possible scenario:
Teacher: “You there... You know it’s against the rules to use a cell phone during school hours. GIVE IT TO ME.”
ACCEPTABLE behavior and request

Student: "This is my mom in Iraq. I'm not about to hang up on my mom."
This could be a plausible story .. but it certainly needs to be checked out.
Possibly ..an ACCEPTABLE answer.

Teacher:
(Kevin) “the teacher tried to take the phone, causing it to hang up”
UNACCEPTABLE behavior on the part of the teacher.

PHYSICAL actions to accomplish dealing with “challenging” situations is UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR on the part of mentors, teachers, administrators and ALL adults, unless their lives or the lives of others are in jeopardy.

I’m sure you saw in the news recently, the 5 year old child totally out of control in the school room setting. The adult teacher’s aid .. or teacher ... used RESTRAINT in NOT PHYSICALLY FORCING the child in any way, other than to ‘FEND HER OFF” as the child began to beat on her. SHE USED ACCEPTABLE ACTIONS in trying to handle a difficult situation. Unfortunately, when the police arrived ... THEY did not. THEY USED TACTICS COMMENSURATE with their training of controlling “OUT OF CONTROL ADULTS,” and plainly were not SENSITIVE to the situation at hand.

BACK OFF...ASSESS THE SITUATION (not in Anger) .. Then Decide upon an ACTION.

Teacher:
“Upon finishing your phone call, come with me to my office.”
ACCEPTABLE request and behavior

Admonishing him during or immediately after the phone call, and administrating punishment “on the spot,” in front of other students, is UNACCEPTABLE adult behavior. Time is needed to ‘CALM’ things down on both parts and sort out the true nature of the situation. Sometimes, just the amount of time needed to walk to the office and a short wait is enough. THEN, appropriate analysis of the situation and punishment, if necessary, can be determined and administered.

Right From the beginning. this is a clear case where BOTH PARTIES were at fault ..... and had each handled it differently, it would have avoided the subsequent actions of BOTH PARTIES which NOW LOOK totally appalling in light of the situation.

The instruction to a fellow student by Kevin, to go to the Adult Supervisor(s) and tell them you are now on an incoming phone call from your mother in Iraq and will be talking on your cell phone .. knowing it is against the rules. This action may have kept Kevin out of serious trouble.

Knowing some of the elements of the situation BEFORE confronting Kevin about his cell phone use, would have saved some embarrassment on the part of the Adult Supervisor(s) and avoided REACTION vs. REACTION. A similar situation where usually accidental vehicle movement or an “expression” escalates to ROAD RAGE.

To the current ADMINISTRATION:

NOW IS THE TIME TO DEAL WITH IT...AGAIN.

ADMIT MISTAKES. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. SHOW YOUR ARE AN ADULT(S). SHOW YOU CAN ADMINISTER FAIR “ACTIONS” IN AND ARE CAPABLE OF HANDLING CHALLENGING AND DIFFICULT SITUATIONS.

EXHIBIT CHARACTER and RESPECT....
Along with some humility (not arrogant or prideful)

Respectfully,

William G. Drew
Retired Teacher and Administrator
P.O. Box 366
New Castle, NH 03854-0366
603-436-3739
billdrew@alum.mit.edu

Posted by: William Drew at May 7, 2005 11:58 AM

I read with interest the story suspending Kevin Francois for refusing to hang up on a telephone call with his mother who is serving in Iraq. According to the article Mr. Francois was defiant and may have used profanity. While I agree this is not appropriate behavior I am in strong disagreement that the school administration could not find another solution besides arrest or 10-day suspension to this problem. Put yourself in his shoes. This could be the last telephone conversation he ever had with his mother... is your response the right one for the the nuances of this situation? I think not.


Roberta SoloRio
robertasolorio@earthlink.net

Posted by: Roberta SoloRio at May 7, 2005 12:18 PM

I have a slightly different take on the situation.
http://informedsources.blogspot.com/2005/05/suspended-cell-phone-students-behavior.html#comments

For the record, I think you have a great site and a great mission. God Bless.

Posted by: Insider at May 8, 2005 10:22 PM

Hello? The Army needs to allow parents to schedule regular appointments with their children so as not to disrupt the school day. While soldiers are busy securing Iraq, teachers are busy creating functional adults. Don't become too one sided here. You don't want to set the wrong precedent where any punk can invoke Iraq to undermine the authority of a teacher. Let's see this kid do that in the Army! Heh, heh!

Best,
MATTSON

Posted by: Mattson at May 8, 2005 11:08 PM

I was an armybrat in a Georgia high school during the Vietnam War, and I had hoped that things had changed.....It is interesting to me that an educator of teenagers cannot understand the quite normal reaction of a child of that age being threatened with disconnection from a parent who might be killed at any time....it would seem to me that a person with your educational credentials could have found a solution better suited to reinforcing the needs of this child instead of "the policy"....however, as I said, I was a military child in the Georgia school system during a time of war.....I was hoping things had changed, evidently they have not....after all it is the sacrifice of this child and his family that has allowed peoiple like you to enjoy the freedoms that you do....Jane W. Lolachi

Posted by: Jane Lolachi at May 9, 2005 07:54 AM

Alfred Parham wouldn't even pay his own Child Support. Alfred Parham put his 2 month pregnant wife out. The White House Staff said that Alfred Parham stated to the Courts that he has a non-taxable income. Alfred Parham is a state employee. Alfred Parham won't even see his little girl.
Read about it in my book, "From Welfare Program to Ph.D. Program".

Posted by: Jackie Kane Parham at May 9, 2005 12:55 PM

I only have a couple of comments, but I think they are relevant. My husband was in Iraq for 13 months, and two weeks after he returned, my Marine Son left for Al Anbar Province. I cannot describe the emotions behind the calls that are so few and far between. I cannot tell you how I would have bit off someone's hand if they had tried to take my phone away from me.
I am a professional working woman, and am in meetings at least twice a day. I have been known to leave a meeting mid-sentence if I see the call is coming from "unknown" or "out of area".
This 17 year old boy is less than 2 years younger than my Marine, and a man in his own right. He is allowed to be emotional when his mother calls. I would have dared anyone to dismiss me for taking my husband's or my son's phone calls, and am standing behind this young man!

Jennifer
Proud Wife and Mother of Military Men

Posted by: Jennifer at May 9, 2005 02:09 PM

Thank you for reinstating the young man whose only sin was receiving a call from his mother, a patriot, stationed in Iraq. Providing him counseling rather than punishment for cursing is certainly useful. Please apply the same suspension and counseling to all students and teachers who curse at your school. What a nice place your school would be and that would only be fair. Right? The world would certainly be a better place without foul language.

My understanding of the affair comes from many news reports, television, the newspaper, and several websites with comments regarding responses received and explanations delivered regarding this incident. If I am in error, then please correct me.

Perhaps the teacher did NOT deserve a cursing IF such cursing actually occurred.

However, was the teacher behaving properly? Might the teacher have also lost control? Is the teacher mature and understanding? Or perhaps a bureaucrat, just enforcing the rules, without any thought or compassion? Or is the teacher anti-American and taking out his/her hate out on this emotionally upset student? At least the student doesn’t appear to have been handcuffed, as has unfortunately become common in our public schools. But you and I both know it takes two to tango. The teacher is an adult. A teacher is supposed to have skills to manage such situations. This child is likely under a great deal of stress. Anyone who has ever been deployed (combat or not) and their family recognize this stress. Too bad most teachers are not veterans.

How did this whole affair help the student to grow? To deal with the stress? To become a better person? Isn’t that your job, and that of your faculty? Perhaps your institution has taken away any remaining hope he has. Is that what you are hired to do? I cannot believe that is the level of “professionalism” that has become the norm for educators.

The teacher who interrupted his call appears to have no understanding of teenagers, or the feelings of those brave service people who are deployed and their families. Such a person likely should not be employed anywhere near a military base, though with so many reservists serving, the teacher likely should not be employed in our nation. Please tell me you don’t believe that this was handled in a proper manner by your teachers. I expect you will likely have to tell it to a judge before long. Sad, isn’t it?

How hard would it be to support this student with compassion and understanding? Have the government-employed teachers now become so anti-American and anti-Bush that they cannot exercise control on their emotions? They can express that emotion in the polling place or the court of public opinion. Why tolerate behavior that takes a parent’s choice to serve our nation out on the students who are entrusted to teachers for education? Have the teachers forgotten how to deal with emotionally charged students? Or does the unthinking Orwellian application of Bureaucratic rules trump common sense? [The Nuremberg defense: “only doing my job and following the rules”]. Perhaps we citizens trust the education of our children to the wrong people?

I think you will agree things could have been handled better by your faculty. It would have served this student and the citizens better. We all know the unfortunate infamous “reputation” that Columbus and Middle Georgia gained nationally after the mismanaged Taylor County Comprehensive High School “prom affair” just two years ago this week.

I hope you take the time to teach the teacher how to put hate for our country behind (along with other personal concerns) and to act as a professional in managing student behavior (or misbehavior). While the student may need correction and counseling, the entire school system and its employees appear to be in dire need of assistance. This student should not suffer permanent consequences, but receive proper guidance and assistance… but certainly not from an uncaring, under trained faculty member… but from a proper mental health professional. The cursing was, perhaps, a cry for help in a very tough time… and the faculty and your administration missed the boat. One needn’t look far to find other schools where a student’s cry for help went unanswered and ended in bloody disaster. It is time to teach your teachers how to manage things a bit better.

The public expects you will do your best as “Principal [teacher]” to be more than a mid-level administrator. True leadership requires that you assist, correct and direct the behaviors of those teachers under your guidance. I pray you will deliver on this expectation.

Sincerely,

Robert W. Smith, AB, MD, MBA, FAAFP

CAPT, MC, USNR (Inactive)

Pennsylvania

Posted by: Robert W. Smith at May 9, 2005 07:09 PM

Hi, I am one of Kevin's teachers. I sympathize with Kevin, if that was his mother that called. Unfortunately, nearly every student has a cell phone in class and half of our students here at Spencer have parents in the military. Many of those parents are in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have a hard enough time preparing them for life as an adult without my students answering cell phones in class, lunch or on campus, regardless of who it might be. I would think a reasonable adult could understand this. I support my administration and their decisions. If his mother wants to talk to Kevin during school hours she can call the office so we know it's a legitimate call. Kevin can be called into the office very quickly and efficiently.

To the best of my knowledge (which is better than the general public's in this situation), Kevin was disciplined because of his uncontrolled behavior afterwards, not because of his phone call. Kevin was suspended 3 days instead of 10. And, he was back in class today where I agree he is supposed to be. We all have situations from time to time that require special attention. Kevin, along with the rest of us, needs to make sure to keep a calm attitude and be constructive. That's what we're hoping to teach our students.

Sincerely, Kevin's Science Teacher

Posted by: Mike at May 9, 2005 08:17 PM

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