When Philadelphia dad and radio host Mike Rossi was criticized by his children’s school principal for taking the kids out of school for the Boston Marathon, he couldn’t keep silent. Rossi stepped right into an age-old parenting debate: When is it OK to allow your kids to miss school?
The thing is, Rossi wasn’t taking his 9-year-old twins Jack and Victoria out of school for a three-day vacation, as many parents are known to do. Rossi took the kids to the recent Boston Marathon on April 20 so that they could watch history in action and honor the bombing victims. Rossi also had a personal parenting angle for the trip: He was competing in the Boston Marathon with a shoulder injury and wanted to show his kids what it looked like to overcome a challenge.
So far, this father’s reasoning sounds right on. Not only did he want his kids to be socially aware, but he wanted them to watch him finish a race despite a physical challenge. As Rossi stated, the kids were likely to learn more in their three-day Boston Marathon trip than they would have at school.
Sadly, the children’s principal at Rydal Elementary School, Rochelle Marbury, did not agree. Marbury sent Rossi a letter stating that the kids’ absences would be officially “unexcused.”
Marbury’s letter went on to say, “I understand that your family recently took a family vacation. I want you to be aware that the Abington School District does not recognize family trips as an excused absence, regardless of the activities involved in the trip. The school district is not in the position of overseeing family vacations or evaluating the educational nature of a family trip.”
After reading this letter, Rossi was upset, as most parents would be. He was offended by the fact that the school’s narrow policy painted him to be an irresponsible parent, when he really had an uplifting purpose for his children’s trip. Rossi also pointed out that this “zero tolerance” policy hardly makes sense for a father who chaperones class trips and regularly participates in school activities.
This dad cares about his kids’ education, so can’t the school cut them a break? In Rossi’s viral response to the school principal, which he posted on Facebook, he writes, “While I appreciate your concern for our children’s education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school. Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.”
“In the three days of school they missed (which consisted of standardized testing that they could take any time) they learned about dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history culinary arts and physical education. They watched their father overcome, injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal. They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists cannot deter the American spirit. These are things they won’t ever truly learn in the classroom. I wouldn’t hesitate to pull them out of school again for an experience like the one they had this past week.”
We all understand that school policies are there for a reason, but clearly, this dad is actively involved in his kids’ lives. As Rossi argues, there are exceptions to every rule, especially in a situation where, Rossi says, “zero tolerance equal zero common sense.” There are plenty of serious issues schools have to deal with on a daily basis. Chastising a parent who took their kids on an educational trip should not be one of them.