A Story of Shame and Shaming

Author: Ann Thomas

Two years ago when I wrote about kids being labelled in school, I had only presumed what was happening around me. I, however, could never have imagined that these prejudices were being documented on an excel sheet and being passed on from Class Teacher to Class Teacher and grade to grade at my son’s school – South City International School, Kolkata. 

Last evening’s events have confirmed the prejudice and humiliation our children suffer at the hands of these teachers. We, parents of Class 5, received a file with regard to the Grade 6 class allotment of our children from our respective Class Teachers. Except that by error a personal file was shared with the parents and on it were recorded  ‘labels and tags‘ for children and their parents.  

Labels and Tags for Students and Parents

On that sheet, students were tagged as poor, average, below average, excellent. They were labelled timid, manipulative, insolent, grown up baby, irritating and pompous. Moms were not spared too. They were overprotective and problematic. 

The irresponsibility with which private and confidential information (Kids with Learning disabilities & Special Needs) got passed to every single parent of the institution and the stigma attached to these kids is clear through that one excel sheet. 

And to make it worse, instead of an apology we were provided a conspiracy theory – one lie after another.

First we were told that the school ‘records were hacked’. (While the document attached clearly shows when the file was created, and who it was modified by etc)

Then a scapegoat, a teacher on probation, casually termed “unstable” was created. While the document clearly mentions that the Primary Coordinator is responsible.  

If the PRIMARY COORDINATOR and class teachers of can without fear write such reckless and judgmental statements about students and parents alike, it is clear that the conversation is no more about what kind of teachers there are but a lot about what kind of culture and teacher training the school adopts. If this is the culture of an International school like South City that claims to be inclusive, then little is to expected from education. 

Labels are derogatory and divisive. People change. Circumstances change. School is a place of learning not a court of law – every child must get an opportunity to start anew and simply make mistakes without having to live with it for the rest of their lives.   

Scapegoatism can not be a solution. It simply reflects a system that preys on the powerless and the vulnerable. Today it is a teacher on probation, tomorrow our children. They will be made to answer for feedback and grievances that parents bring to the principal & teachers in the hope of improved systems, processes and education.

Every academic year is a new start for every child in a school. We tell them that it is their opportunity to start afresh, leave the baggage behind. Yet, our kids don’t get a fresh start.

I am offended as a parent. 

I am offended as an educator.

I am offended as an an advocate for special needs and Inclusive education. 

This is not about one teacher, or one school. 
It is a culture of shame that cannot be allowed to fester. 

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