Parents Busted For Not Having an iPad?

Sep 23, 2020 by

Talk about adding insult to injury!

It’s frustrating enough for parents having to struggle at home to help their kids with “remote learning”, which, to no fault of them or their teachers, has for the most part been a disaster.  

But to have their concentration interrupted while in the midst of troubleshooting non-functioning software programs, glitch-ridden learning “sites” and broken Internet connections, in order to open the door to child welfare authorities who then accuse the parents of educational neglect is just too damned brassy and obtrusive. 

And yet in the last couple of months before summer, almost 1000 such investigations were triggered by alerts from educators who were zealously honing their informant skills as “mandated reporters”.

Most of their notifications were likely done in good-faith.  They were nonetheless ill-considered and traumatic to the parents, whose official files may be closed but not deleted.

Does the Department of Education’s failure to provide to indigent families the promised technology necessary for participation in classroom online activities constitute parental abuse?   

When a browser fails, or an error message appears, or the child’s picture doesn’t appear on Zoom as required to verify virtual attendance, is that proof of that child’s guardian’s unfitness?

Yeah sure, the fast guns of the bureaucracy’s public relations department will draw out of their holster of excuses a rationalization such as “In an abundance of caution we must err on the side of safety”.

Actually it’s just “CYA” .  But it’s not entirely the fault of city agencies, because state law requires them to take all allegations seriously and follow up on them. 

Despite this, we all know there is wiggle room for creative discretion that would not entail non-compliance or defiance of the law.  Fairness and common sense could allow judgement calls and the vetting of referrals without constituting evasion of responsibility.

When published investigative reports put the Department of Education on the defensive, they reverted to damage-control mode and pledged to drop any probes that were launched due to a child’s home not having sophisticated electronic devices.

How sporting of the DOE!

According to Chalkbeat, teachers and parents are still waiting for the update information on remote-learning attendance regulations that the DOE pledged to send them 5 months ago.

Although their history of service is far from pristine, The Administration For Children’s Services has made some improvements in their standard operating procedures in recent years.  They referred more than 15% of reported cases to “Family Assessment Response”, which prioritizes the provision of social services rather than the imposition of punishments. And only around 10% were ultimately deemed “indicated”, which is their euphemism for “merited”.

Despite the DOE’s claim that remote learning devices are now available for free to all public school students and their parents upon request, credible doubts have been voiced. 

Mismanagement at the DOE is old news. They still have countless highly talented and motivated staff members, most of them in the classroom.  These true professionals are struggling against impossible odds and in many cases have succeeded in reversing that impossibility.

But let’s not ignore the question under the assumption that it has already been answered.  The question remains:  Why is a mother busted and her worthiness potentially impugned  for not having an iPad? 

Life has become complicated enough.  This shouldn’t be.

Ron Isaac

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