The first time I heard the Latin phrase, in loco parentis, it was in response to my objections that the principal breathalyzed students as they walked into prom. I was in my twentieth year of teaching at the time.
Make no mistake, I am a parent. I do not approve of kids drinking. Nor do I condone drinking and driving.
But as a high school teacher who had, of late, transferred from one of the roughest schools to the crown jewel of the county, I was appalled to see how this woman treated our graduating seniors.
Whenever I chaperoned prom and graduation at my former school, the students were proud of their achievements, and conducted themselves as ladies and gentlemen.
And rightly so. Prom and graduation are two rites of passage that marks a young person’s exit from the daily grind of public education to a new venture into the military, technical training, colleges and universities, or, for some, entry-level careers.
I heard about a situation years earlier at a different county high school where a student came to prom drunk, and after she demonstrated she could not function properly (i.e. probable cause) she was taken out of the ballroom, breathalyzed, and her parents were contacted to come get her.
This seems an appropriate use of in loco parentis.
But to arbitrarily pull kids from line and breathalyze them in front of their peers is another matter indeed. Here they are in gowns and tuxedos, ready to take part in a sit-down dinner followed by dancing, and likely feeling more grown up than ever before, but we’re going to kick off the night by humiliating them.
Makes sense to me.
Actually, I marvel at how Principal from Hell, Martha Stewart-Wannabe, managed to retire before being sued by some influential parent who didn’t like the whole, “Presumed guilty before proving innocence.”
To be fair, most administrators are not like Martha Wannabe. At least not toward the pupils. Staff is another matter. In the last ten years, micromanagers have been cropping up like dandelions.
But Martha broke the mold in that she had to exert control over every aspect of every facet of student body life–including every bit of minutia and then some.
Pep rally was a debacle–one of Martha’s tirades against the student-body (who had just entered the gym and had been seated) made YouTube. Dances were patrolled for couples who danced too closely. Computers were monitored from the principal’s desk. Security cameras were rolling to catch minor student infractions. The walls had ears.
This is why at the mere suggestion of suspicion, Martha would go through a student’s locker. Without probable cause, mind you.
Just overheard bits of conversation, or a scent of tobacco clinging to a kid’s coat. (I know for a fact, when students come from a home where smoking is commonplace, their clothes often carry the smell. That doesn’t mean they are smoking–on the contrary, they often hate cigarette smoking.)
Another one of my favorite examples of Martha and in loco parentis came one morning when I was giving a final exam to graduating seniors. The class was settled, silent and working soon after the bell rang to begin class.
And then a dark presence was at my door. Martha.
What now? I wondered, remembering the time Martha pulled a girl out of my class and made her put on an ugly, highway-worker-yellow men’s XXL T-shirt since the shirt the girl wore to school was sleeveless and, therefore, against dress code. Never mind the disruption and embarrassment that this action caused.
Anyway, I opened the portable classroom’s door, and Martha requested that a particular Varsity softball player step outside.
When Anastasia* came back in the portable, she had the strangest look on her face. “The principal just smelled my fingers,” she said, her voice quavering with disbelief.
Of course, every kid stopped taking their exam and attended to Anastasia and the Principal’s latest escapade.
“She said she thought I was smoking in the bathroom, so she wanted to sniff my fingers.”
It was all I could do to refrain from commenting on the absolute jackassery of the situation.
Interrupt my exam to sniff an athlete’s fingers. An athlete going to college on a softball scholarship. Makes sense to me.
The next day, I heard that Anastasia’s older brother–now a college student–made a beeline for Martha’s office. He got in her face and said, “If you ever sniff my sister’s fingers again, you’re going to have to deal with me!” Then he stormed out. Point made.
I guess that was in loco fratris. Or act as a reasonable brother does.
At least someone had the sense to know that a finger-sniffing administrator is just gross. And possibly unconstitutional.
You can’t spell In Loco Parentis without some degree of loco–let the teachers teach and the parents parent. Just saying,
Susan J. Anderson, Foxy Writer Chick
*Anastasia (not her real name) is now a rising sports broadcaster–a sports anchor on a major network’s affiliate station. And she still doesn’t smoke.