Tuesday, April 21, 2009

i feel a rant coming on...

sabin's school has a parents' portal. it's one of those typically badly-designed, no usability studies conducted, homemade kind of unhandy, old-fashioned things, which isn't really what this post is about, but as i said in the title, i feel a rant coming on, so i shall indeed rant about everything.

yesterday on the parent portal, the school posted what i can only term a decree outlining their "principles for parental financial responsibility for damages." it reads as follows (in the original):

Hvis en elev bliver taget i, forsætlig at have forvoldt skade på skolens materiel, vil elevens forældre modtage en regning til betaling – efter endt reparation eller ombytning.
Når det er billigere for eleven og skolen, at servicepersonalet reparere materiellet, vil elevens forældre modtage en regning på 250 kr. pr påbegyndt time samt omkostninger til materialer.
Elevens forældre vil ikke modtage en regning, med mindre skolen er sikker på, at det er vedkommende, der er skyld i skaden.
Elevens forældre vil altid blive informeret i godt tid, inden der kommer en regning.
Forældrene orienteres inden arbejdet påbegyndes.

basically, it says that if your child causes damages to school property, you as a parent will receive a bill for the damages or replacement of said property. it further declares that if it is cheaper for the student and the school, the school's own service personnel will make the repairs and the parent will be billed for 250 kroner per hour + the cost of materials. it does allow one caveat that the parent will only receive a bill if the school is sure that the student in question caused the damages. and it also says that parents will be notified before work begins and before they are sent a bill. 

at the bottom of the word document, it says that the decision about this matter was taken at a school board meeting at the end of march. the document was simply put in the intranet with no accompanying explanation. and this is part of what i object to. i'm sure that there are extenuating circumstances which made the school think this was necessary, but none of those are given (perhaps if i were truly a resourcestærke forældre i would simply KNOW what the background story was). i cannot believe that i'm the only parent who would be interested in knowing the context of this decision and i would think that could be done diplomatically without naming names.

i think this is another example of how language manifests culture..i find it to be written in the same cold, righteous, distant manner that i sometimes find the entire culture to behave. it just hits me as very harshly put, even tho' if you dissect, there's not anything that's really wrong with it. maybe i feel this way because i'm missing the context for the decision.

or maybe the main reason that this is rubbing me the wrong way is that last week, sabin hurt herself when she fell on a wooden structure in the schoolyard that is in dangerous disrepair. i don't know if the hole she fell into was already there or if she actually made the hole in this wooden decking/bench structure that surrounds a tree in the schoolyard.  i had a look at the bench and counted no less than four places where there were jagged pieces of broken-off wood or holes where children could get hurt. it wasn't blocked off from kids playing on it until i brought sabin's injury to her teacher's attention (by which time it was already too late). i have to give her a big hand because she immediately acted and there is now tape up and the kids have been instructed not to play there. and look, the maintenance guy fixed it today--where the new boards are is where there were jagged edges, holes and dangerous protrubances (is that a word?):

this is the one where sabin fell in (before the repair).

but what i wonder now is if i will be presented with the bill? where does responsibility begin? if sabin had maliciously damaged the wooden structure, i would happily take responsibility. but, if she got hurt playing on something that should have been kept in good repair and it happened to break further when she was playing on it, should we have to pay? you might imagine that i do not think so. and i should hasten to add that no one has asked us to, these are just the thoughts that go through my mind as i read the proclamation.

i think it provokes me no end that parents are basically being threatened with having to pay for damages on school property when the school isn't even taking care to maintain it properly themselves. 

i was so incensed by this last evening that i couldn't sleep and i stayed up late composing an email to the school which i sent late last evening. it's now late afternoon here and do you think anyone has acknowledged my mail and my concerns? they have not. and do you think that's making me happy? it is not. 

there is a parents' meeting this evening and i am attending. the right people are probably not at this meeting, but you can bet i'm going to bring it up, even if i am painted ugly american for doing so. i just don't think it's acceptable to send out such a strongly worded statement with no accompanying background information, nor do i think it's appropriate to ignore my email. and most importantly, i don't think it's ok to let play areas become dangerous so that children are hurt on them during playtime. if it were the US, we could definitely sue over the injury sabin got on that broken decking. denmark isn't like that, but my litigious inner american has been awakened and she's not happy.


Jelica said...

Good luck at that meeting! You have every right to raise the issue but I am curious as to what will be the reaction of other parents...

heidikins said...

...I do not understand this. Since when do school's have a "you break it, you buy it!" policy!?



Char said...

I would also like to know how this arose - if a child damaged something and the parents refused to pay or what. And, I agree - if you are responsible for what your child does, then the school has a standard to uphold to keep it in repair. Tit or tat or whatever.

Echo_Jezebel said...

In Scotland theres such a big problem with schools not having nearly enough money spent on them that theres always an incident of a child being hurt. Good luck I hope they see your side.

Extranjera said...

New reader who used to reside in Denmark and is married to a Dane. Congrats on being blog of note!

My two cents and then some:
In Denmark it would be impossible to name names and single out the kid or two who are breaking stuff on purpose (at least this is how subtext reads to me), that would be So against the rules of hygge and treating everyone equally (read: the Danish understanding of this). Both of these are lovely things, but sometimes, especially to a foreigner's sensibilities, seem to result in these rather bewildering incidents.
I guess there is a value to not singling out the bad seeds as such, to avoiud the self-fulfilling prophesies and all, but 'singling out' all of the children as such malicious creatures that the school can no longer afford it seems a bit far out.

Anyhoodles, like your blog.

julochka said...

the wind got taken out of my sails before yesterday's meeting--both by the BoN thing and by the fact that I did get an email from the school principal right before the meeting, so I didn't take it up.

they clearly don't see my point that this decree needed to be explained, which i still think could have been done without naming names. but again, it's a cultural difference and most of the time, i actually really like and appreciate the directness of Danes. it just really hit me wrong in this case, i guess because i was so pissed about sabin getting hurt on something that should have been maintained better.

YinYangDK said...

You can see this as a rant too....
"..but my litigious inner american has been awakened and she's not happy."

Har du fuldstændig mistet din sjæl til den amerikanske plader der strømmer ind af TV-skærmen hver dag??
Hvis du er utilfreds med Dansk kultur og Dansk levemåde så flyt til USA....!
Sjovt nok skriver du intet om hvad dit barn havde at sige om tilfældet. Kender du dit barn godt nok til at vide om barnet er i stand til at ødelægge uden tanke?
Sjovt nok står der heller intet om du har været udefor om den slags er ske før.
Du må være venstre-mand, hvis du overvejer og vælger den amerikanske metode frem for en metode så gennemført som vores.
My inner anti-american is revoltet by your litigious inner american.

julochka said...

hello there mr. yingyangDK. it seems there's not a lot of balance in your good self, is there. nor a spell-checker. i welcome diverging opinions and debate, but not so much vitriol, especially when you resort to doing it in danish, which was really a bit cowardly from the standpoint of other readers understanding it.

happily, freedom of speech is a value in both my homeland and my country of residence, so i will not delete your comment, which utterly lacks any sign of ying and yang.

if you don't like it here, don't stop by. that's the beauty of the internet, there's surely a bunch of DFers out there blogging away and you are most welcome to join them.