“It’s a different world.”
Those were the words of Superintendent Richard D’Agostino when he called with the outcome of an incident on a school bus last Thursday, while transporting kindergartners home following the morning session at Sherman School.
D’Agostino couldn’t have characterized the situation better.
The story seemed incredulous when the mother of one of the eight or nine students on the bus called to say that her daughter got off the bus with a red mark across her face. She went on to say her daughter told her that another girl had hit her and that one of her classmates was daring other kids to hit her. The mother was upset, but she was outraged that there hadn’t been a monitor on the bus, as required by state law, and had been without a monitor since the beginning of the school year.
The mother had a point. Why didn’t the bus have a monitor, although the intent of the monitor program, which was legislated following the death of a St. Francis School student who slipped under a bus, was to ensure the safety of children getting on and off buses?
That situation is to be rectified today, D’Agostino said. The bus will have a monitor.
But, what about the alleged assault of a 5-year-old by another 5-year-old? The incident sounded like a kindergarten version of the Lord of the Flies, too extraordinary to believe of children that young, yet remarkably true of human behavior. Kids in groups act differently from kids all by themselves, which is why so many parents believe it when they say, “My kid wouldn’t behave like that.”
D’Agostino is handling the case with the proper balance of compassion and concern.
The school principal has met with the mothers of both girls involved and he said the school is paying extra attention to behavioral and social skills. No students have been deprived of their bus privileges, as the usual practice when there are fights.
As the mother of the girl who allegedly assaulted her classmate said in a call to the Beacon, a lot could have been cleared up had the parents first contacted each other. She said the incident had been blown out of proportion and that the two girls were getting along fine and had even exchanged phone numbers.
That bit of information was a bit of a jolt.
Do the girls – 5-year-olds – have cell phones? Are they texting each other? Are they using social media?
We didn’t ask the mothers, but we did ask D’Agostino.
He didn’t know, but he guessed it’s possible, although, he quickly added, the kids can’t bring their cell phones into class.
It is a different world.