105 Ways to Give a Book

Snow Day Message

I was going to write up a review today, but I’ve been suckered into this ongoing dialogue on YouTube today. Seems like a high school senior called up the county school administrator to complain that schools were not closed for snow. The wife of the administrator called him back and left a message on his cell phone blasting the kid for calling her home in the early morning hours.

Given that I know of the area of which they speak, and know how hard it is to predict weather patterns there, I think the county administrator is doing the best that he can. He doesn’t want to close the schools unnecessarily — which has happened — or keep schools open when it’s unsafe to drive — which has also happened. I don’t think that anyone has the right to call him at home to complain about it. If you have to say something, you can leave a message at his office or write his email.

The current back-and-forth on YouTube focuses on the wife’s angry response. People are calling her all sorts of names, and her private response is now public record. I feel bad for her, especially because I don’t think her response is wrong. In fact, I think it addresses a broader concern, which is perhaps why it’s touching a chord with me and others.

I hear from teachers that kids question everything. They try to negotiate homework assignments. They argue with the teachers. If things don’t go their way, they bring in the parents. When did kids and teens get this huge sense of entitlement? Because at the heart of the snow day message thing is that some teen feels entitled to call the home of the county school administrator because he doesn’t agree with the decision to keep schools open. Is that really okay? The other issue is that adults seemingly can’t yell at a teen, even if he is doing something that could be interpreted as harassment. Is that really okay?

If you feel like finding out more — and I’ll warn you against it now before you get sucked in — here’s the news report, the Washington Post article and commentary, and the YouTube posting. If you want, we can talk here about entitlement and boundaries, privacy and Internet, brats and bitches. Oh, and kids today.

12 comments:

Jenny said...

I'm not convinced he did anything wrong (at least not initially). Their phone number is in the phone book. That makes it public and if they don't want phone calls from strangers they have the option to have an unlisted number. However, I say that having the impression that his phone message was politely asking why the schools weren't closed. (I agree with you that the administrator is doing the best he can, and I agree with his decision in this case.) I think she overreacted. If she had answered the phone when he called I would have been more sympathetic to her response. But, she had time to think it over and she returned his call. Her message to him was over the line. She could have left him a message making it clear that she believed his phone call was rude and unnecessary without being rude herself. That said, I do feel bad for her. I'm sure she was having a rough time without this call and overreacted and is now regretting it. That's a human thing to do. For most of us, our regrets don't end up being quite so public.

He has apologized, somewhat. I think the biggest issue here is that both of them did things without the expectation that their actions would become so public. I think he posted her response so that his friends could hear it. I don't find that surprising. I'm guessing that he was shocked when it became so public. There's a lesson in this about how public our lives are now, no matter what we think we are doing to keep private.

Bill/Cinéaste/FatherReader said...

Maybe it's me, but I have absolutely no sympathy for the "kid" in question. I'm sorry, but there is absolutely no excuse for his calling an administrator at home about this. If anything, I don't think the wife's response was nearly harsh enough. No apologies — his behavior (both initially and afterward) has proven that he is a snotty-nosed little brat.

Speaking of "entitlement," where does this kid get off thinking that he is somehow "entitled" to a response at all? Exactly what is it that the administrator is supposed to respond to? A tirade about how the decision to close schools or not to close schools was a bad one? No, you don't deserve an individual response for that. Sure, your "First Amendment rights" (the argument that many commenters seem to be tossing around) allow you to complain. They do not require anyone to respond to your complaints. Nor do they extend to harassment (e.g., posting home phone numbers for purposes of inciting unwanted contact). I'm the biggest First Amendment nut on the planet, but try that crap with me and I can guarantee you'll be seeing me in court.

(I noticed that the original YouTube posting of the rant has been taken down. May be a sign that they will be seeing each other in court.)

As for an apology, maybe there's something I haven't read, but I haven't seen anything of the sort. Sounds like the kid's trying to hold himself up as some sort of hero. Hardly an apology. Even if, as he says, the original message wasn't intended to harass (which I don't buy for a second, but we'll let that go), his later actions sure as hell were.

Here endeth the rant.

MotherReader said...

I'd give anything to hear the student's message. Just so we could know how respectful it was.

However, I don't think it's respectful in the first place to call the county school supervisor to complain that you had to go to school that day. Their number is public, yes, but that doesn't entitle people to use it for concerns relating to the man's position. Hell, I've had complaints about some of the decisions they've made about weather, but I - as an adult - understand that he is just a man doing a tough job of trying to predict the weather and base the fate of the school system on that decision. I don't call him at home to question him. If I don't think my kids should go to school because its unsafe, then I have the right to keep them home.

Maybe if someone had been yelled at this kid earlier in his life, he wouldn't feel so entitled for an immediate response from the county school supervisor - much less any response at all.

I'm sure it got out of hand with his posting the info, but he did post it - including the phone numbers and other info of the supervisor and his wife. I don't see any way that's right either.

p dog said...

There was an interesting article in the NYT Mag last winter (maybe) about the 'achievement gap'. Bear with me, this applies.

Sociologists spent significant time in many households: rich, poor, black, white, etc. They tracked a number of factors, but they focused on communication between parents and children, from babyhood onward. They counted number of utterances, and number of positive vs. negative utterances.

Children from households in which they were talked to more (and more positively) achieved academically. However, they were also not great team players, and they were the kids who negotiated with parents and teachers, didn't take no for an answer, and had this huge, totally annoying, sense of entitlement.

By and large. We're assuming OUR children, whom we talk to constantly and try not to yell at, will buck this trend, and be polite respectful cheerful teens.

Yes, and by then I'll have the JUMBO bottle of Zoloft!

But I just thought it was an interesting perspective on 'where did all these dickhead youngsters come from?' Apparently they come from more attentive parenting!

p dog said...

Oh and PS last year it was MY husband who decided whether to close our city's schools for snow, and believe you me, his phone started ringing at 4:30am on days when the decision had to be made.

Just sayin' - that kid didn't wake that lady up, probably the system's Director of Transportation did.

Kat said...

The only thing I will say in reguard to this is that he's a TEENAGER. When I was his age I could see many of my friends doing something similar to this because it was funny, and even more likely, he is testing his boundries in becoming an adult. I think this is probably just a developemental step that 5 years ago no one would have paid attention to.
This sort of behavior has been going on for decades. My mother told me stories all the time of herself calling her school principal in the 50's and asking him if he had "Prince Albert In A Can" (punchline: Well, you better let him out!). I don't think it's a sign that the world is going to hell. I think it's a sign that teenagers are as they ever were: Fiesty.
As for the woman's response: I think it was probably a bit over emotional but not unwarrented. I am quite sure that students call her home frequently and maybe it was the wrong day for him to call. My guess was that it was the last straw for her.

SevenImpossible said...

p dog is on to something here. This issue makes me very nervous as a parent. I try reeeeeally hard to make sure my daughters don't walk around with this sense of entitlement being spoken of here. My husband read a research article about parents who tell their kids they're "smart" all the time as opposed to parents who say things like, "wow, you worked really hard to get that success, didn't you?" The kids in the former category were more . . . well, they were braggarts, and the kids in the latter category were not. (God, I'm going to get grief probably for my very poor synopsis of this research article, and it's not like my husband and I walk around all psycho-babbly, saying "you worked really hard for that success, child. Kudos" all the time, but you know what I mean).

But I see this a lot. This extreme "attentive parenting" -- there is a great book about this. Well, it's a chapter in a book called Confessions of a Slacker Mom (don't let the humorous title fool you -- she has quite the interesting philosophy on contemporary parenting), which I mentioned here in this old 7-Imp post (like, the first post I ever did at our blog). She talks about parents who go absolutely apeshit over the tiniest things -- doing cheers and jumping jacks when their young child does something simple, instead of reserving those cheers for a task that is really well-earned.

I dunno if I'm rambling here. I'm not going to comment on what that teen did, 'cause I didn't hear the message, but do children today have an overblown sense of entitlement? Hell yes.

Jules, 7-Imp

Jenny said...

I want to start by saying that I understand your point of view. However, I still see some things differently.

As an elementary school teacher one of my big concerns for my students (and now for my own daughters) is that they learn to think for themselves. I don't want them to grow up always following directions without thinking about it. I want to know that they recognize when the directions are bad or dangerous. I want them to question things, not simply accept that what they are told or read is simply right or true.

I think this boy did that. He may not have done everything right, but he is thinking for himself. He is questioning authority. Again, maybe not in the best way (he should have contacted this man through his office, I agree), but I can't believe that what he did shows a sense of entitlement. (Although, if I could hear the message he left it would be easier to judge.)

And, as to the woman, I'm sure she was fed up and frustrated. But, she is the adult and the behavior she modeled is no better than the behavior she was angry about.

MotherReader said...

Another issue this brings into question - as always - is the accuracy of media coverage and the words chosen to convey the information. From the Washington Post, with my comments in ( ).

"It started with Thursday's snowfall, estimated at about three inches near Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke. (The snow didn't start until 10:00 a.m. and maybe, maybe the total was 3 inches by evening. I even doubt that.) On his lunch break, Lake Braddock senior Devraj "Dave" S. Kori, 17, used a listed home phone number to call Dean Tistadt, chief operating officer for the county system, to ask why he had not closed the schools. (This has been talked about as him calling for information with concern for safety for the students. However, if he's calling after he's already at school, you can say he's calling for information, but it seems more like he's calling to bitch about the decision.) Kori left his name and phone number and got a message later in the day from Tistadt's wife. (This is totally my guess, but since he called the office, and emailed the administrator and didn't get a quick enough response, I'm guessing that he left his name and number with the direction that he expected a response.)

Well, he got a response. It is your right to express your opinion in the appropriate venue - the admin.'s office and email. It is not your right to call someone at home and it is not your right to an individual response.

I respect the idea of raising your children to think for themselves. In this case the perfect example of thinking for himself on this issue would have been to not go to school if he was worried for his safety (though what made him better able to predict snow that didn't start until 10:00 a.m., I couldn't say.) His other option in exercising his rights was to leave messages at the person's place of employment, and consider his opinion expressed.

But the kicker for me is when he got yelled at for stepping out of line (from the Post):

"Kori took Tistadt's message, left on his cellphone, and posted an audio link on a Facebook page he had created after he got home from school called "Let them know what you think about schools not being cancelled." The Web page listed Dean Tistadt's work and home numbers."

So, when he didn't like the response he got - and who would - he sets up a page that is about inciting personal harassment. Not so nice.

It's hard to condone the woman yelling like that at anyone, but I sometimes I think we've made our tone with kids too soft and wishy-washy overall. And I think she was just a woman at the end of her rope with calls from kids like this who expect individual attention for a decision that effects thousands of kids - and not all of whom can be called to explain the delicate balance of working for the safety of the students and the disruption of the school schedule plus the businesses in the entire Metro area.

Jenny said...

Just for the record, I'm completely with you about the web page. I think that's where he went too far.

Also, I agree that the words chosen by the media make a huge difference in how people respond. (I've been thinking that a lot during the election season.)

MotherReader said...

And, Jenny, I don't want to sound like I'm yelling at you. I just find it fascinating as a touchstone for rights, manners, boundaries, privacy, and reporting. I also think that there is a huge generational thing involved, by which people on either side can barely begin to understand what the other side is saying.

The teenagers - used to being reached on cellphones and IM constantly - can't imagine what the problem is with calling someone at home. The adults - raised when you didn't question authority - can't imagine what gall it would take to call a senior level administrator in the first place, much less his home. The teenagers don't even think much about putting the personal info online, why not? The adults are still horrified at the concept that their names can be googled.

And then throw in the media, where it matters in subtle ways if the kid called for information or called to complain. It sounds different if the report that he was concerned about safety than if they report that he wanted a snow day.

I find it one of those rare analogies for our times.

Library Lady said...

As I always tell my girls when they're having a fight--your sister's bad actions don't justify yours!

The student who made the call is a teenager, who still has a lot to learn about how the world works.The administrator's wife is an adult, and should have known that no matter how angry she was, calling the kid and being abusive, was NOT an appropriate response!

Oh, and for those who want to talk about selfish, mannerless teenagers,in the days when I was pushing a stroller, I noticed that I got far more teenagers opening doors for me than 30/40 something aged adults!

"She probably gets a lot of these calls" doesn't cut it with me.
I'm sure she loves the whopping salary Fairfax County schools doubtlessly pay her husband. And getting calls at home can go with the job. She'd better learn to deal with it, and use her answering machine and caller ID!