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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Oversensitive parents, teachers detract from real education issues

    Daniel Lentini, a special education teacher, is on paid leave and under investigation after allegedly abusing his first through third-grade students. About 30 parents and two aides complained that he sat on, punched and emotionally tortured disabled children, reported the Orange County Register last week.

    Stories like this are horrifying, but they put teacher issues into perspective; people need to stop freaking out about petty problems like Facebook friending and start focusing on actual issues like this.

    If Lentini is found guilty, then he should never be allowed in a school. Any teacher who thinks it’s acceptable to physically hurt a student or tease them until they cry should not be near children. Even worse, the students in his classroom could not verbally communicate, so if they were abused, then they weren’t able to tell anyone. Their parents are right to be outraged.

    However, many teacher-student news stories are over non-issues, and detract from serious cases like Lentini’s. For example, Ryan Blackmon, an eighth grader in North Carolina, was suspended last week for hugging a teacher. The teacher described the encounter as “serious” and wrote a statement that he “hugged her with a tight grip,” which is apparently against school board rules.

    Ryan insists he was only showing gratitude, as she had just broken up a fight between him and another student. After the hug, the teacher allegedly grabbed Ryan’s arm so hard she left a mark. His family has filed a police report against the school and the teacher.

    There are certainly cases of inappropriate touching between students and teachers, and Lentini shows there are obviously cases of teachers physically abusing their students. However, the fact that Ryan is headline news is ridiculous. Teachers are hypersensitive to possible inappropriate behavior because of oversensitive parents. Ryan’s story shows how society overreacts to the smallest events and makes mountains out of molehills.

    Some other outrageous teacher-student controversies have inspired California legislators to write bills about teacher sexual misconduct, two of which passed key hurdles on April 18. Both bills state that local school boards should make the final decision about firing a teacher accused of misconduct, that evidence older than four years can still be used in court and that dismissal proceedings can take place outside the school year.

    These bills could be great for victims of abuse, but in truth, these victims are few and far between. Most teachers are not abusive.

    Out of the millions of teachers and students in the U.S., how many are truly involved in a serious case? These new bills just distract legislators from real education issues. For example, if Lentini is found guilty, does the school even have enough money to hire a replacement? Does the state have enough money to continue funding special education programs?

    School boards need to deal with abusive teachers. But schools shouldn’t use their resources to investigate hugs, and legislators should spend their time on bigger issues. Americans need to step back and stop overreacting to small issues, because they’re missing the big picture.

    — Lauren Shores is a journalism sophomore. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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