Pajama parties at school are tons of fun: They cut the morning routine time practically in half, kids dig wearing pajamas all day, and everyone gets to relax a little. Well, everyone but the kids who attend PS 202 in Brooklyn, where the principal makes Regina George look like a Girl Scout.
The New York City school hosted a Valentine’s Day-meets-pajama-party fundraiser, where kids had the option of ponying up two bucks, rolling out of bed and partying in their jammies. Unfortunately Machael Spencer Edwards, principal of PS 202, managed to do the impossible and suck all the fun out of it by turning away kids at the door.
Apparently a flier went home with kids that explained that a PJ party was forthcoming for kids who donated $2, but some important information was left out. First, that pajamas were mandatory for participation, and second, that Principal Edwards was going to stand outside the cafeteria and make sure kids came correct. If he deemed that the pajamas a student was wearing didn’t meet his arbitrary and apparently super-secret standard for what pajamas should like like, they were told to scamper off.
According to school staff, “no pajamas, no party” was the mantra of the day, and one that sent more than a few kids off in tears.
There are a few problems with all of this, but the largest one has to be that, according to the Department of Education, Principal Edwards’ pajama policing is pretty explicitly verboten. If you hold a fundraising event during school hours on school property, you can’t turn kids away. Yes, even if their defiance in the face of your totally reasonable, not-weird-at-all power trip extends to skipping the footie pajamas.
Which, of course, brings up another issue. What qualifies as pajamas? At least one kid got the boot despite following directions to the letter. He paid his $2 but forgot his PJs, so he called his parents, who were nice enough to bring them to him.
Except this kid wears basketball shorts to bed, and those didn’t qualify, so the 10-year-old was bounced at the door. He was understandably upset: “I changed in the bathroom, and I got in line… but the principal told me I can’t come. He said, ‘That’s not pajamas. Go back to the lunch room.’”
Oh man, that’s cold.
PS 202 caters to a low-income population, which raised its own issues. Parents pointed out that some kids weren’t comfortable in pajamas (go team real pants), which makes some sense — coming to school in hand-me-down jammies or onesies that are worse for the wear for all your peers to see is a less-than-thrilling prospect at any age. Still others couldn’t even afford the cover charge for Principal Edwards’ super-exclusive shindig.
This just seems like such a strange instance for this principal to exert his authority. Who cares if kids actually wear pajamas to a party they paid to attend? Better yet, who cares if the PJs they do wear aren’t fuzzy fleece long johns or frilly nightgowns? It’s a school party, not a meeting with the governor. What are they going to do? Probably sip on room-temperature apple juice concentrate and chow down on Teddy Grahams while they watch a G-rated flick. It’s not that serious.
Literally nothing was at stake if kids showed up in their street clothes except, perhaps, for this man’s ego. He undoubtedly broke with the district policy of including all kids, and that has cost administrators their job before. How will he justify himself if he ends up facing similar consequences?
“No, you don’t understand! I’m the boss of them, and they were wearing basketball shorts! Basketball shorts, I tell you!”
Our guess is that it will suddenly seem a lot less important.