Two teachers at Norview High School in Norfolk, VA were recently put on administrative leave by the school after a parent complained about a video that she saw in Government class.  The video informed its audience on how to assert their constitutional rights during various encounters with police, such as during a car or house search. It was accompanied by a one page handout about a person’s rights when stopped and arrested by the police.   When the girl came home after school that day, she told her mother “You won’t believe what we are learning in Government. They are teaching us how to hide our drugs.”  The woman promptly called the school to complain about what was taught to her daughter, and the teachers were subsequently suspended.

There are two things that are rather irksome about these series of events.  First, why are parents are so ready to jump to conclusions and act on those assumptions?  It’s a little hard to believe that teachers would be lecturing their students on the best way to hide drugs from the police.  If the girl’s mother had just inquired as to what was actually taught that day, it would have been clear that this was Government class as usual, just an exercise in educating youth on the Constitution.

Second, and more importantly, why are schools eager to appease parents at the drop of a hat?  These are institutions filled with education professionals: teachers know what their students should learn and what the appropriate materials for teaching them are.  A school’s administration should trust that the teacher is making reasonable choices as to how a child is taught and with what.  In response to a parent’s complaint, they should first research the allegations. The administration at Norview High School, for instance, could have a gotten a copy of the leaflet given to students.  They also could have watched the video to see if anything inappropriate was shown.  Instead, the school acquiesced to the demands of one uninformed parent.  Sometimes, Mother doesn’t know what’s best.  That’s why we have schools and teachers.

Unfortunately, this is not a new problem.  Schools all over the country have bowed down to raging parents over something they don’t think is appropriate for their child.  It’s a distressing thought that a parent’s misunderstanding about a certain book or a particular lesson in school can translate into a child’s incomplete education.  Learning about an individual’s constitutional rights enhances one’s education and can even make for a better citizen.  School administrators need to have more confidence in themselves and their teachers.  They need to stick to what they believe is important for a child’s education.