In Loco Parentis: “Why aren’t the teachers doing their jobs today?”
Today all public schools in Madison, Wisconsin, are closed. No services provided. A “sick-in” has been declared as part of a protest against Governor Scott Walker and his move to unilaterally dissolve all collective bargaining (i.e. “unions”) for state workers. Our union released a statement explaining that we are doing this for our kids.
I know some people--people I care about and respect--will disagree with what we’re doing. Some will say we serve kids best by staying in the classroom. Some that they don’t like or can’t stand by unions. But here’s why so many of us have made the decision we have.
“In loco parentis.” Latin for, “In the place of the parent.” That’s my job. It is my duty to be the parent for every *single* child who walks through the door of my school. It is my job to see to their safety, welfare, and health. *Every* child, without exception, and it is my union contract that allows me to do this. It makes sure that I can speak and act as a parent (even if only a substitute parent) needs to, and I can’t simply be shuffled off or fired because doing so is inconvenient for the people above me.
I have taught the children of politicians, principals, and district administrators and never once had to back down from what was right and true. Because they can’t fire me. If I feel that a teacher in my building is shoving a student into a special education ghetto, I can speak up against it publicly and force the district to abide by the rules. And they can’t fire me. I can be active in local politics, fighting to make sure that my students’ rights are being protected, no matter what pressure is brought against the district. And they can’t fire me. I can speak truth at a PTO meeting, telling the parents what they need to know about how their children are being educated. And they can’t fire me. I can go toe-to-toe with my principal to ensure that all kids are being treated fairly and getting the services they are entitled to. And they can’t fire me. I can disagree publicly, and loudly, with my superintendent about what should be done in our schools to best serve our kids, and not back down until the right thing is done. And they can’t fire me, because it is my *job* and my contract makes sure I can do it. “In loco parentis.”
My union contract protects my job in times of conflict, and Governor Walker wants to make that go away.
Two months and one week ago my wife gave birth to the most beautiful child that has ever existed. He is happy and healthy and wonderful and the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me. No doubts.
Now, a question... If I have to choose between *your* child’s welfare and *my* child’s welfare--between doing my duty and having a job--which am I going to choose? No doubts.
Teachers’ working conditions are children’s learning conditions. Your teachers’ protections are your child’s protections.
I hope this helps explain why we’re doing what we’re doing, and I hope you’ll help explain it to others.