2012 in education: 'Dumbass' stuff, but also examples of true heroism

Ryan Bartolotta, 17, right, and Ray Massi, 18, light up candles that were put out by rain at a makeshift memorial in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., as the town mourns victims killed in a school shooting, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. On Friday, authorities say a gunman killed his mother at their home and then opened fire inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before taking his own life. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Ryan Bartolotta, 17, right, and Ray Massi, 18, light up candles that were put out by rain at a makeshift memorial in the Sandy Hook village of Newtown, Conn., as the town mourns victims killed in a school shooting, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. On Friday, authorities say a gunman killed his mother at their home and then opened fire inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before taking his own life. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (AP)
Posted: January 03, 2013

2012 WAS a big year in the areas of parenting, education and schools. Probably the biggest and most important story occurred very late in the year. The senseless slaughter of 20 young children and six heroic teachers and administrators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Connecticut, was the event that made us want to hug our kids more but also search for answers.

Before we get to one of the answers that I favor, a moment to recognize the teachers and administrators who literally tried to save kids by blocking the shooter with their bodies. They all are an inspiration to anyone who has ever taught.

However I wished this bravery had been backed by someone in the school with a firearm and the ability to delay the shooter until the police arrived. I'm open to conversations on gun-show loopholes, ammo clips and types of weapons. But I will not shut down on the idea of the necessity of arming someone in schools just because people like Mayor Nutter so eloquently call it a "dumbass idea."

I taught in various high schools for 18 years and I realize that schools are a very difficult place to lock down. I recently interviewed David Thweatt, Superintendent of the Harrold Independent School District, in Texas, and his district has allowed teachers and administrators with concealed-carry permits to carry their weapons in their schools for the last four years without incident.

Probably the worst form of attaching an agenda to the Sandy Hook massacre was the open letter sent to President Obama from Wendy Lecker, of Parents Across America, a major national parents group. Lecker wanted President Obama to reduce the tremendous pressures in schools due to standardized testing. She actually linked her mania over standardized tests to violence in schools. And you thought only Wayne La Pierre, of the NRA, looked and sounded delusional.

Although not as life-altering as the issues involving Sandy Hook, the Philadelphia public schools, as always in my yearly review, are a major contributor to the bad ideas of the year. Their plan to allow kids as young as 14 to get condoms free from clear plastic dispensers in selected public schools is very flawed. What about the parents who don't want their kids getting condoms at schools? What messages are they sending by this laissez faire system?

Every year I award an "Edu-crat of the Year" award. An edu-crat is my word for a teacher or administrator who makes silly or harmful decisions or actions that harm kids. The clear winner this year is Philadelphia public-school geometry teacher Lynette Gaymon. She teaches at Charles Carroll High School and is the subject of a lawsuit from her former student Samantha Pawlucy.

Gaymon allegedly told Pawlucy, who was wearing a pink Romney-Ryan t-shirt on a dress-down day in September, that Carroll was a "Democratic" school and that her shirt was similar to wearing a KKK logo. According to an Inquirer account, the allegation is also that the teacher ordered her to remove the shirt, then enlisted an aide, who then tried to draw an X through the names of the candidates. Gaymon belongs in the Edu-crat Hall of Fame.

There were several developments that I really liked this year. I loved the fact that through her petition a New Jersey teen was able to get the makers of the Easy Bake Oven to go gender-neutral in some of their products in order to encourage people to buy the ovens for young boys who might grow up to be the Guy Fieri or Bobby Flay of their day. By the way, the Easy Bake Oven made it to my Mount Rushmore of toys along with Barbie, the bike and video games.

I also like the fact that very late in December Pennsylvania toughened up our Meagan's Law by now mandating that convicted offenders must register as soon as they are convicted in county court rather than waiting for an offender to register once they serve their sentence. The object is to prevent offenders from falling between the cracks. The revised state law also closes loopholes for offenders who are homeless and those offenders coming to Pennsylvania from other states.

I also like the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its policy on circumcision in August and said that insurance companies should cover the procedure because it helps reduce the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Hopefully, their stance will trump much of the emotion around this procedure.

So I will try to remember 2012 as the year of the heroes of Sandy Hook. I hope that their inspiration will override the everyday pettiness and incompetence of the edu-crats.


Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard on WPHT (1210 AM) Radio. Contact Dom at www.domgiordano.com.

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