In which we call in an expert adjudicator : Miss Ann Davis

Regarding the grievances currently facing my friends the Summers,
I'm calling in an expert arbitrator:

Miss Davis.

Not my photo.  Mine, alas,is lost to the ravages of time.
I stole this image (and Miss Davis herself) from the internet.  

I did not have Miss Davis as a first grade teacher, but I was taught by one of her soul-sisters.

If you are above the age of 7, it's likely that you, too, have survived the rigors of first grade, probably taught by a person similar in appearance and values to the esteemed Miss Davis.

Presumably, we were all able to satisfactorily demonstrate the skills needed to move on to higher grades and more complex situations.

And yet, with the grievance at hand, I see a return to elementary school behavior:

"He said"  "No, SHE said!"  "I did not, you pushed me!"  "You cheated, you must have cheated."  

"Miss Davis!  He got mad at me!"

Since the expertise of Miss Davis is needed, I shall ask Miss Davis to weigh in...or rather, the spirit of Miss Davis, since the sainted lady herself has been long since released to the Ultimate Recess. 

You can do this too.  You learned stuff in kindergarten and first grade that remain part of your daily life.  Even if your first grade teacher isn't easily accessible, you can access her/his spirit if you think for just a moment about what your "Miss Davis" would say.

The situation spun out of control in January, Miss Davis.  Did you see any of what happened?

MD: I did not.  The first I heard of it was when the children in my class returned from recess and it was clear that an incident had occurred on the playground.

How did you proceed?

MD:  I brought each child into the hallway individually and asked a few questions.  

There were accusations of pushing, of yelling, and of cheating.  The children did not all agree upon what had happened.  Some said that Peter pushed Sue and her friend.  Others say that Dennis pushed Peter.  Others said that Dennis just touched Peter, or merely yelled at him.  A few children were frightened by yelling between the two boys.

Dennis was very angry because he believed that Peter had pushed Sue and their new friend.  He said that Peter and some of the others have been "out to get him" since he and Sue moved to our school from their old school.   Other teachers in our school remember of accusations of cheating in class last year, but they also remember that the Summers proved that they had not cheated.

So, what happened on the playground?

It appears that there was some kind of incident on the playground in which Peter joined Dennis and some others for a while, and then suddenly left.  He may or may not have pushed Sue and her friend into the cactus.  Sue had cactus spines removed by the school nurse after recess, and said that Peter had pushed her.  I do not think that Sue would have fallen into the cactus on her own.  She has never done so in the past.

Then what happened?

The children were excited.  Dennis was very angry.  He left the group for a while, but when he returned, he was still angry, and says that's when he went nose-to-nose with Peter.  

Some children report that Dennis hit the other boy, others say that he merely touched Peter.  Dennis himself says he did not hit Peter.  Both of the boys thought the issue had been "settled" on the playground, but some students and teachers think that more action is needed.

What do you think?

There are several issues here:

Peter and his friends have certainly provoked Dennis and Sue in the past.  That made Dennis mad, but he did not act on that anger at first.  That was a good choice for Dennis.

Dennis is a boy who often helps other kids, especially younger kids and students new to our school.  He feels protective of these others, and advocates on their behalf.  At our school, we encourage our first graders to take good care of each other, and Dennis does this, often without being asked.

During the playground incident, Peter left the group, possibly pushing the girls into the cactus as he left. In first grade, we do not push other people.  First graders must learn to leave a game politely so that other players will not be scared or hurt.

Dennis got mad again when he saw pushing.  He chased after Peter, and when he caught up, he used his words to express his anger.  Using words is a good choice.  We teach our first graders to use their words.

Dennis may also have "gotten into Peter's face."  Dennis agrees that he did not make a good choice when he did this.

Some, but not all, of Peter's friends say that Dennis hit Peter.  Dennis says he did not.  This is a tough call.  In first grade, hitting is not allowed.  

Some children, but not all, think that Dennis got mad because Peter won the game by being mean.  I believe this is only somewhat true:  Dennis is very competitive, but he also encourages other players to compete against him, and has always been gracious when others win.  It appears that Dennis' anger stems more from concern for others (in this case, Sue and her friend) than from the competition.

So, Miss Davis, what do you recommend?

I will start by acknowledging Dennis' anger.  We teach our first graders that all their feelings are valid.  It's okay to say, "I'm sad," or "I'm angry."  To tell someone to stop being angry or sad is not okay, and really, it's not possible to stop feeling an emotion because somebody says you should stop feeling it.   

In first grade, we teach our students techniques to cope with negative feelings like sadness or anger.  One of those methods is to use our words, to say, for example, "I got angry when I saw you push those girls."  That is a good first grade thing.

We also recognize that sometimes first graders do not always choose words wisely, especially when they are tired.

Here in first grade, we help students choose better words and actions.  Peter played nicely with Dennis and Sue and their friend, but then he left the game in a way that wasn't nice.  

Dennis got angry and used his words, but he also used his body, and that wasn't okay.  

Dennis knows that he made some bad choices, but he also says that Peter made bad choices.  

It seems to me that the two students should both face consequences and try to build consensus so that they can become good 2nd grade citizens together in the future.  

I understand that the vice principal has decided that Dennis shall be given no credit for schoolwork completed in the past six months, and furthermore, suspended from our school for an additional six months.  Peter has thus far not been censured at all.

I think that this punishment is too one-sided, and also too severe, given the nature of the incident and the normally good behavior of Dennis towards other students in the first grade.  

In addition, I believe that punishing a student who is generally a good helper may discourage students from advocating for their peers in future.  This would be a very bad precedent, as we encourage all first graders to always speak up and be good helpers for their classmates.

I hope that the vice principal will reassess the situation, and work towards different means of problem-solving.

...just a suggestion....

Thank you, Miss Davis.  We always appreciate hearing from you.


Additionally, I want to thank everyone who has weighed in politely on this blog site and on Facebook.  I have been the subject of a "trial by Facebook" in the past, and the process is beyond ugly.  I will never forget the kindness of people to me during that time...and I shall never forget the unkindness either.

I truly hope that, as more witnesses come forward with testimony on behalf of the Summers, the unfair punishment assigned by the Protest and Grievance Committee will be changed to a more reasonable consequence.  --Aarene


  1. Aarene, this was well written. Thank you also for posting the three protests earlier. I had avoided forming an opinion until I read them because I hadn't heard of the situation, and don't personally know anyone involved, only know that I respect what I've seen of Sue and Dennis and their support of the sport.
    My conclusion is there is a lot of he said/she said that prevents us from knowing exactly what happened on the trail and that its likely to have happened quickly enough that the facts are clouded even in the participants' minds.
    More people saw the end confrontations and probably those accounts can be relied on. Maybe there was bias in the ride managers decision, I don't/can't know. But I do support the ride manager's right to take away completions when he/she feels warranted. And in this case, I think that decision should stand, all protests should be denied, Dennis should lose that single completion and that should be the end of it. He and Sue alone can decide if there is reason to think of changing reactions in the future and now everyone knows to watch Peter's trail behavior if they are so inclined. Peter can decide if he needs to modify his behavior as well. This should be the end of it. Anything else feels like pure b.s. and I am unable to comprehend the motivations.
    I don't know if my opinion is valid since I wasn't there, but there it is, based entirely on the words of the P&G committee.


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