Teachers are supposed to be our kids’ allies when they start school, which makes it all the more devastating when some teachers abuse their power and play the bully.
One Oklahoma teacher played this part perfectly when she opened up a can of crazy on an unsuspecting 4-year-old, attending his first year at Oakes Elementary in Okemah, Oklahoma. Zayde Sands was allegedly told by his teacher that he was “evil” for writing with his left hand.
During this tender developmental stage where kids are learning to read and write for the first time, Zayde’s mom noticed her son was acting different at home. Alisha Sands, also a lefty, saw her normally left-handed son using his right hand during homework time. When asked why he had switched hands, Zayde told his mother that his left hand was “bad.”
Like any concerned mother, Sands sent Zayde’s teacher a note to discuss the issue. The response she received was unbelievable. The teacher sent back a note that called left-handedness “sinister,” “unlucky” and “evil.” The note went on to say, “For example, the devil is often portrayed as left-handed.” When asked for comment, the school principal said the incident was under investigation. Zayde may be transferred to another class.
This absurd exchange would be funny if it wasn’t so disturbing — and damaging to a young boy at such an impressionable age. But first, the facts. If any lefties are getting their feathers ruffled as they read this, you have every right to be offended. It shouldn’t have to be said, but left-handedness is not evil.
Fifteen percent of the population is left-handed, with men being twice as likely to be left-dominant as women. And what this teacher failed to account for when she associated left-handedness with Satan is that lefties are more likely to be geniuses — 20 percent of MENSA members are left-handed. According to a recent survey by LeftHandersDay, lefties also face more struggles than their right-handed counterparts. Up to 85 percent of lefties say that they feel awkward and clumsy living in a world built for right-handed people.
This story is an eye-opener, and not just because a teacher appears to have time warped to 2015 from the Salem witch trials. The sad truth is that there are plenty of grown-ups out there who are going to criticize our kids when they don’t fit into a socially acceptable box. We can’t change this, but we can challenge it at home.
It’s our job to be the safe place for our kids to fall. And it’s our job to start talking to our kids about how wonderful it can be to celebrate our differences so that an incident like this doesn’t happen again. It’s easy to focus on the “big ones” and forget about all of the tiny discriminations that we often sweep under the rug, where they collect and fester for years. We tell our kids to be accepting of other races and abilities. We forget to emphasize that every difference should be accepted — whether it’s a boy with long hair, a girl with two moms or a child who is left-handed.
Lefties may not be a protected group — referring to age, gender, race, religion or disability — but if this exchange is accurate, then a teacher went out of her way to detect a difference in a student and punish him for it. It doesn’t get any more bigoted than that.
This teacher’s alleged actions are appalling, but in a way, she’s done us a favor. She’s pulled back the curtain to let us see what’s really going on in schools across America, where you often can’t escape ingrained attitudes of discrimination. She’s reminded us of something that we need to keep telling our kids every day until they’re sick of hearing it: Normal doesn’t exist, and being different isn’t wrong. It’s our differences that keep life interesting.