Monday, July 14, 2008

When teachers lose their cool

I recently received an email that has been making its rounds for some time and is based on an incident that occurred in the Palisades Charter School group in California in 2002. As vetted by, which investigates urban legends, here's what happened:
"In 1998 the sole high school in the Palisades Charter School group, the 2,400-student Palisades Charter High School, instituted an attendance policy mandating that any student absent without a valid excuse ten or more days per semester be failed, regardless of academic achievements. One of the results of this policy was that in February 2002 forty Palisades High teachers assigned a total of 130 failing grades to students whose classwork would otherwise have merited passing grades, because those students recorded absences and tardiness in excess of the school's stated attendance policy."
Needless to say, all hell broke loose. Parents were irate, and, in turn, teachers were provoked tp rage.

The email claims that the school and teachers were being sued by parents who wanted their children's failing grades changed to passing grades even though those children were absent 15-30 times during the semester and did not complete enough school work to pass their classes.

Furthermore, it claims that the following message was "voted unanimously by the office staff as the actual answering machine message for the school":
"Hello! You have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist you in connecting with the right staff member, please listen to all your options before making a selection:

To lie about why your child is absent - Press 1

To make excuses for why your child did not do his/her work - Press 2

To complain about what we do - Press 3

To swear at staff members - Press 4

To ask why you didn't get information that was already enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers mailed to you - Press 5

If you want us to raise your child - Press 6

If you want to reach out and touch, slap or hit someone - Press 7

To request another teacher for the third time this year - Press 8

To complain about bus transportation - Press 9

To complain about school lunches - Press 0

If you realize this is the real world and your child must be accountable/responsible for his/her own behavior, class work, homework, and that it's not the teachers' fault for your child(ren)'s lack of effort, hang up and have a nice day!"
Snopes reports, however:
"The putative answering machine message for Palisades Charter High quoted above was concocted in part as a reaction to the brouhaha over the school's attendance policy, and in part as a sardonic expression of all the usual frustrations teachers experience in dealing with students and parents ... [The message] was not ever actually placed on the phone answering system at Palisades Charter High."
It should have been.

[Hat tip to Donegan Smith and "High School Confidential" (, April 13, 2007)]

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