Education in the post 9/11 world

How do you thank an educator for success? You might give her $25,000.00. Or, you can kick her in the teeth for demonstrating good judgment. If you are New York’s Department of Education, you can do both. According to The New York Times, Curtis High School’s award winning principal, Aurelia Curtis, was transferred from her Staten Island school and reassigned to regional headquarters. Her error? On October 31st, a 16 year old junior, during debate, made a comment which referenced blowing up the school. She did not report it to police.

It seems that the honors student, while debating capitalism with fellow members of the Curtis High School debate team, said something about planting a bomb in the school to protest capitalism. Not a little thing in our post 9/11 climate. And in our knee jerk, damn anyone who says something controversial society, I think the principal acted prudently. Upon hearing the news from the debate team faculty advisor, Ms. Aurelia met with the student and his mother, searched his belongings and found nothing that would be considered a threat. She then, according to the article, met with the school’s crisis intervention team and they jointly decided on a four day suspension and psychiatric evaluation as appropriate precaution. Days later, the police learned of the “threat” and arrested the student- he was charged with making a terroristic threat. He is now suspended until February 1st. But the principal was not transferred at that point. It seems that the principal, whose own children attend Curtis, had the support of other parents.

Fast forward to December 14th. Ms. Curtis was watching a school basketball game when police attempted to arrest three male students for robbery. Ms. Curtis vouched for their whereabouts and refused to allow the boys questioned until their parents were present. She was reassigned the next day. Many parents are upset. Maurice Royster, parent of a student who, partly by Ms. Curtis’s involvement, received a scholarship offered,

“You knuckleheads up there don’t know nothing. I made myself get off the bus after work tonight and come here, and I don’t even like PTA meetings.” A moment later he concluded, “Let the woman come back.”

A comment at inside states,

Principal Aurelia Curtis has been temporarily removed from the school for mishandling a bomb threat made by a student, the Staten Island Advance reported. The boy was arrested for “naming the school as a hypothetical target during a political debate,” the newspaper reported. “Quite honestly, she’s wonderful,” PTA President Mary Ellen Brown said about Principal Curtis in the article. “She’s very good with the kids and it seems like all the teachers are very happy with her.” A follow-up article reported that teachers and parents planned to stage a rally to call for Curtis’s immediate reinstatement.(December 2005)

Public schools are usually easy targets, ripe for one joke after another. It seems that in this case, the principal cared. She cared about student performance and received not only accolades but financial reward. And she cared about a student enough to suspend the hyper-vigilant tendencies of our post 9/11 America. She evaluated a comment, and acted responsibly. How refreshing her action and how sad the board’s reaction.

  1. The war on terror as caused by 9/11 is a farce. If we (and by that, I mean the federal government) truly cared about minimizing the safety of Americans, it certainly showed its true colors during Katrina. Condi going shopping, Bush going to a B-Day party, and Cheney just hearing of it through the grape vine.

    Now, locally, county and town governments might enact such ridiculous measures because they are truly fearful of the boogeyman. But the federal government does not enact restrictions of liberty to save us. It’s just that when these attacks happen, it’s a convenient (strangly convenient) excuse to grab the power while dangling a carrot in front of us, claiming that they’ll prevent the same from happening next time.

    But with every terror attack, they get bigger budgets, higher approval ratings, and blind patriotism to “get those bastards”… so why would they want to stop that? Seems like a conflict of interest no?

  2. The war on terror is no farce. The way it has been conducted sometimes is. The name isn’t that great either.

    The principal cared. Many public servants care too. But we often screw ourselves over by insisting that mindless bureaucracy is more important than measuring results.

  3. The war on terror is no farce.

    The “war on terror” is certainly a farce, at best! If we were truly engaged in such a war we would not be spending the money, time, resources or blood that we are in the sham of the Iraq War. The sad reality is that FedGov needs the terrorists and their actions to justify their shiny new powers and carte blanche authority to perform the despotic action du jour. The falsified “war on terror” is a de facto movie set providing the illusion that Washington is doing something; the whole production being voiced-over with false bravado by the administration and its mouthpieces.

  4. This just shows that if you do not tow the line and do exactly what the higher powers on the public school and gov’t want there will be hell to pay. This is why our public schools are going down the toilet. They take what it seems is an exceptional principal. She will likely be replaced with a mediocre at best one and if nothing else she will have learned her lesson or taught others not to do anything that is against the establishment. All this has done is weakened our school system and society further.