Should a Pre-K Teacher Be Disciplined for Sending Home Letters About Her Students' Hygiene?
A Buffalo teacher sent home a note with her pre-kindergarten students and mayhem ensued. The Buffalo School District has filed disciplinary action against the teacher, Ms. Sharon Dunnigan, and the parents of the pre-kindergarten students have lashed out at the "offensive" note.
The note read:
URGENT NOTICE!!! PLEASE READ
Several children in Pre-K ages 3-4 are coming to school (sometimes daily) with soiled, stained, or dirty clothes. Some give off unpleasant smells and some appear unclean and unkept.
Parents please take care of this matter: It is a health and safety concern. It also makes it difficult for me to be close to them or even want to touch them.
Please sign and return so I know you've read this.
I have read the notice. ____________(parent) _________ (child)
Generally, I am on the side of parents but I have to say I can understand where Ms. Dunnigan is coming from. Keeping our kids clean is one of the basic functions of our jobs as parents and it must be frustrating for a teacher to see children coming to school every day dirty and unkempt. Furthermore, according to the article, teachers are generally the ones who handle hygiene issues, albeit with the help of a school counselor, so Ms. Dunnigan wasn't entirely out of line in sending the note.
I am also at a loss to understand the outrage at her sending notes to ALL the kids. That seems as if Ms. Dunnigan tried to be sensitive to the feelings of the children who were the true target of her note. Wouldn't it have been worse if she had sent the note home only to a few hygiene-challenged children? By sending the note to everyone, none of the kids would be the wiser about who was actually smelly. Actually, I take that back, the parents of the hygiene-challenged children probably know exactly who they are talking about.
The thing that really gets me is the final point Ms. Dunnigan made in the note: She said that the children's odor was making it difficult for her to do her job. It seems that the administration and parents have forgotten what that job entails -- nurturing and teaching their children which requires that she be in close proximity to her students. We complain when teachers are not engaged with their charges, yet here we have a teacher who wants to be engaged but can't because her interaction with her students isn't pleasant. Her letter may be unpleasant to read, but I really think she only wanted to help and was exasperated by what she saw as potential parental neglect. Isn't that what we want in a kindergarten teacher? I don't know about you but I want a teacher who cares -- even if her tact leaves a lot to be desired.