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Duveneck's thinking: Pa-the-tic

Original post made by Mimi Kugushev, Menlo Park, on May 14, 2007

One word, three syllables to describe Duveneck's thinking: Pa-the-tic. 

It seems that we are supposed to live in a complelely antisceptic world in every way. Human feelings, contacts are verbotten. What kind of society are we inculcating? How are children supposed to learn to differentiate between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors if everything is proscribed?

Even the oft-employed mandate that teachers are not allowed to comfort a child who has hurt him/herself? If a child feels left out because others are "touching" or some other inhumane, insensitive behavior, how do they learn about life and its unfortunate cruelties? 

It's in the same mode as giving every child a prize just for participating. Please, get real......and have some sense of life.  Life is NOT always fair. Learning to deal with it is fair.

Comments (15)

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Posted by I agree but
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 14, 2007 at 6:44 pm

I agree with what you said. That said, this whole affair probably happened because of the PARENTS there. I do not have any child at Duveneck, but I do have a child in elementary school in Palo Alto. I see the parents of elementary school age children on a daily basis.

My observation is that large numbers of those parents think that their child is god's gift to the world and that noone and nothing should ever so slightly bother their child or make him/her uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, they expect everybody to go out of their way to accomodate their "sensitive" children.

I have a boy who is an energetic, bouncy lad, as many boys that age are. He has never hurt anyone. Yet, some parents consider him a terrible being, just because of his energetic play...

I wouldn't be surprised if what I have observed at our school is happening at Duveneck too. I wouldn't be surprised if overly protective parents there complained to the principal about whatever energetic play was going on in the schoolyard. Hence the ridiculous happenings there. Just a guess...


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on May 14, 2007 at 8:27 pm

"I Agree But" –

Like you, I don't know Duveneck school. But here's a report in the May 13th Palo Alto Daily from someone who does:

"Duveneck instructional aide Allen Cotten said the new emphasis has already drastically curbed playground disputes. Before the school discussion, Cotten said he had to step in daily to end fights or rough behavior.

""It was constant argumentativeness, fights over balls, a lot of bullying," he said. "Kids would come up crying sometimes.""

Boisterousness is one thing, in my book, 'a lot of bullying' quite another.

Surely, above all we all want the atmosphere of all our schools to be respectful, non-threatening and safe. If Duveneck school was seeing regular fights, tears and bullying, then I think that Principal Larry Thomas was absolutely right in feeling the need for some drastic action.

Rather than calling his work 'pathetic' perhaps the more constructive thing would be to support him in his efforts to return his community to the child- and learning-friendly environment that it has long been reputed to be.


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Posted by anonymous mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 14, 2007 at 11:41 pm

I am not surprised to hear of bullying at Duveneck. I've consistently noticed a lot more clique-y, exclusive, taunting, bullying behavior from kids there than other neighborhood schools I'm familiar with. I've seen more times than I care to recount a kind of experimental social cruelty, not reined in by parents who are sometimes right there. I've heard the same from other moms.

This starts at home, and has to be dealt with by improving the social environment and feeling of community. Kids do not naturally know how to treat each other with respect, that's taught. NBC had a special after the Columbine tragedy which demonstrated how social environments in schools could be turned 180 degrees to the better.

I'm not painting the children at Duveneck with a broad brush. Social environments can be affected by very small numbers. Most of the kids are not like this. They deserve a more respectful environment.

This rule is a patch and will not address the underlying social reasons for the problem. Kids need to be comforted when they are hurt, this is ridiculous. NOT touching kids and preventing them a from familiarity with "good" touching gives them less discernment and fewer skills to deal with "bad" touching.


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Posted by anonymous parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 15, 2007 at 9:02 am

I support Duveneck's policy. It is correct to teach school-aged youth to have some idea of respecting others, to be aware that others exist around them, not pushing and shoving. Learn to stand reasonably quietly in a line, think of others.


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Posted by anonymous mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2007 at 9:21 am

anonymous parent,
You are absolutely right. But teaching them to respect others has to go beyond making rules about touching. Children find other ways to bully. The underlying social environment has to be addressed.


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Posted by Simon Firth
a resident of College Terrace
on May 15, 2007 at 9:47 am

Anonymous mom -- I'm with you in feeling that, while the school was justified in its drastic intervention to end the unacceptable behaviors the Daily has reported were occurring, bullying can continue in other ways.

So can anyone from the Duveneck community tell us what the school is doing -- as a community -- to address this problem in a more fundamental way?


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on May 15, 2007 at 12:17 pm

Banning ALL physical contact between young children to stop a small contingent from bullying? Not only is this just plain lazy, but what an absolutely horrible message to send to these kids!


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Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on May 15, 2007 at 12:23 pm

The balance of my comment got cut off- forgive the multiple post.

All of my kids are either currently or were formerly enrolled in a public elementary school outside of PAUSD. I dont recall EVER seeing an incident of bullying, nor do I hear of any (and my wife and her friends are at the school enough that they'd know if it were going on). Why? I think it is because the administration sets high standards for all of the kids, and they are expected to live up to them. The sort of parents described by 'I agree but' are politely but definitively dealt with in an appropriate manner (in other words, the world doesnt come screeching to a halt whenever they open their mouths)


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2007 at 12:45 pm

I'm with Eric: it is lazy. The real issue is HOW the school goes about teaching kids to respect others. It is now May, and the school should have all these issues under control, so it's clear the school has been ineffective.

What is the school's approach to fostering emotional and social learning? What expectations does the principal have for his teachers? What professional development do they have available in this area? How well do the teachers teach the kids to respect others?

Individual schools have their own "culture," and that is something set by the principle and enabled by the teachers. I hope anonymous mom is wrong when she says the Duveneck culture is one of bullying, taunting and exclusion. If she's right, the blame doesn't belong with the kids but with the principle and teachers.


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Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 15, 2007 at 1:08 pm

The PTA at our elementary school does "Anti-Bully" training of the kids every couple years. I see our school as quite safe. Not cause and effect, but maybe there is a correlation.

Maybe the PTA at Duveneck can get the same program and start teaching the kids how to deal with bullying/roughness in a productive way.


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Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 15, 2007 at 1:12 pm

By the way, have to agree that saying something is "pathetic" isn't too helpful. But, gotta admire the guts it took to at least sign her name, instead of saying it anonymously!!


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 15, 2007 at 1:21 pm

When my child was at Duveneck (now in HS) there was a good deal of cliches and bullying which was not dealt with - the primary reason being a lack of adults on the field. There were at most 3 adults at lunch, often none at recess (with extra supervision in the kinder area.)


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2007 at 11:28 am

I've heard a couple of Duveneck parents complain about feeling like the other parents are clique-y and not real friendly. I don't know anything firsthand, but could any experienced Duveneck types tell me if it's a school with a community feel? I know Addison seems to have a pretty strong community. Duveneck's the only school where I've heard that sort of complaint, but it could just be those particular parents.

Ohlone? Very chummy, of course. Though I think because the tendency is to give siblings the same teachers and each stint is two years, you get sort of an inadverdant hierarchy going. I sometimes feel like there's a class of professional Ohlone parents (nice,though).


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Posted by Teacher Mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Duevenck has between 6-8 adults on the yard during lunch, which is clearly not enough. I would also like to go on record to say that their has always been more than three adults on the playground at lunch. I'm sure it FEELS like three, but really it's more (I too have a former Duveneck grad at Paly.)

As a teacher, this time of year is really tough regardless of the school. For reasons unknown to me, children are just more aggressive this time of year and their aren't enough adults to go around and monitor every movement of every child on the playground. If this issue is really concerning to some of you, maybe you should go down to the district office and apply for the position to do lunch supervision. I don't know the new principal at Duveneck, but I do know that the Daily has a tendency to exaggerate and parents have the tendency to overreact. I'm sure the other 9 months out of the year all of the teachers at Duveneck are working diligently helping the kids problem solve, but honestly everyone is done by May and their's still several weeks to go.....Whatever works and helps the kids stay safe and the teachers sane gets my vote.


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Posted by pa mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2007 at 9:40 pm

The kids do not get more aggressive at our school this time of year. In fact, I would say things are great because the kids understand what is expected of them now better than at the start of the year.

If the school yard has to have enough adults to "go around and monitor every movement of every child on the playground" in order to keep bullying behavior in check, the school needs to address the social environment that would make such a thing necessary.

Not to dismiss your observation -- this is high allergy season, and allergy causes adrenaline increase. I doubt you'd get anyone to take you seriously, but a review of major seasonal allergen exposures on campus especially from landscaping could improve the situation a lot. I've read about campuses that turned behavioral problems around in stunning ways just from removing access to junk food and improving lunch nutrition.


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