Superintendent Blake Peuse and Principal Melissa Horn and other Wisconsin school bureaucrats have been bullying an 11-year-old-boy, Matthew, and his parents, by criticizing him for having a tiny picture of a gun on an American flag as his avatar while using his computer at home; by declining to return messages left by his parents, who were worried that Matthew would be expelled from his virtual school due to his use of the avatar; and by announcing they plan to create a new policy specifically designed to ban Matthew (and others) from using an avatar reflecting a belief in the constitutional right to bear arms.
Until recently, Peuse and Horn declined all public comment on the matter. They even refused to return calls from prominent media outlets (in particular, calls from Zach Noble at The Blaze). But facing what they apparently perceive as a barrage of media abuse, somehow they found time to break away from their recreational pursuits and address the matter publicly.
Late last night, or early this morning, they issued an undated letter to the parents and students of the virtual school they run, apparently by e-mail (there’s no sign of it on any relevant website). Conservative Wisconsin talk-radio host Vicki McKenna (who originally broke this story; see Sept. 2 post) uploaded a copy of it early this morning on Twitter and on Facebook (the comments on Facebook are interesting).
Perhaps by design, the letter features tiny type that is difficult to read, and consists of three densely packed paragraphs filled with bureaucratese which is difficult to quickly parse.
Below is a copy of the letter. But its contents are far easier to understand when typed out, with each sentence broken out and numbered.
Below, in bold, is such a version of the letter. In brackets (not in bold) are comments:
(1) noting grammatical errors and inept word choices (one Facebook commentator, Jerry Drolshagen, mentioned that it “read like a 2d grader wrote it” — Peuse earned a B.A. in Phy. Ed. at UW-Platteville, and, more impressively, Horn earned a B.A. in Education from Marquette, but apparently one can graduate from both programs without being able to communicate clearly in English);
(2) pointing out substantive errors; and
(3) translating some of the bureaucratese.
The bottom line is that, translated into ordinary English, what Superintendent Peuse and Principal Horn do in this letter is:
(1) blame Matthew for supposedly not making “good choices” in his use of an avatar for sending e-mails that reflects his respect for the constitutional right to bear arms (sentence 10); and
(2) blame Matthew’s parents for supposedly not having reached out to school personnel “for clarification” prior to contacting the media (sentence 11) when, in fact, Matthew’s parents did try to obtain clarification through the person they were told to contact with any concerns, and they only contacted the media after those efforts were ignored (see links in comments after sentence 4).
“Blame the victim” is a common strategy used by progressives when they come under fire for improper conduct, but it’s unfortunate to see school officials resort to this strategy, especially after bullying an 11-year-old boy over having a tiny picture of a gun on an American flag on his computer at home.
* * *
Dear WVL Families and Students:
1. The media has [sic; “media” is plural, so it should say “have”] reported on a situation at Wisconsin Virtual Learning regarding a student’s online profile [wrong; at issue is merely an avatar included as part of the student’s e-mail to a teacher’s aide; there’s no indication the image is part of a “profile” that can be viewed by other students] that depicted a handgun imposed on an American flag. [Wrong; handgun wasn’t “imposed” on a flag; this should read “superimposed over,” or, better, “resting on” (as it’s a photo of an actual handgun resting on an actual flag).]
2. Given the wide variety of communications that we received in response to this media reporting, we would like to provide clarity and accurate information that [wrong; should say “which”] is important to all families and students.
3. When we have a concern regarding a student’s online profile, [inapplicable here; again, this was simply an avatar included in an e-mail sent to a teacher’s aide, not viewed by other students] we contact the family to address those concerns.
4. We take the time to speak to the family to address these concerns and we develop an understanding between the family and WVL that satisfies the interests of the student, the family and the interests and educational mission of WVL. [Wrong; there was no taking of time to speak to the family about the e-mail avatar — instead, the teacher’s aide immediately wrote Matthew asking him to remove the avatar, as Vicki McKenna explained on Aug. 29 (30 seconds starting here). As Vicki also explained, the school employee the parents were told to contact with any concerns blew them off; only after they were stonewalled did they go to the media (30 seconds starting here, and 15 seconds starting here),
The school’s failure to respond to the concerns raised by the parents is contrary to the assurances made by Principal Horn in her “Executive Director’s Message” about how school officials supposedly “pride ourselves in being both parent and student-friendly,”and about how their “lines of communication, whether face-to-face or via telephone, email, or Blackboard Collaborate room, are always open.”]
5. We have not threatened or issued disciplinary consequences to any student based on a student’s online profile and no student has been expelled or threatened with expulsion. [This is not news; Vicki McKenna reported on Aug. 29 that once the school admitted it had no policy, and would have to create one before being able to threaten Matthew with expulsion over his avatar, it conceded Matthew is not now at risk of expulsion — watch video starting here).]
6. Every student and staff member is entitled to a safe and welcoming school. [The reference to staff members is apparently designed to set up an argument that students should be banned from using a gun-on-flag avatar if any staff member viewing it might become upset, even if no other student would ever view it.]
7. We treat the safety of our students very seriously, regardless of whether the student attends a brick-and-mortar school or virtual school. [This bureaucratic gambit to leverage a school’s admitted authority concerning the safety of students in physical schools as some sort of justification for regulating what students do at home while working online falls completely flat. No explanation is supplied as to what safety concerns could arise regarding students who are “attending” a virtual school while simply sitting at home working in a home computer.]
8. We rely on policies, experience and common sense in determining how best to maintain safe and orderly educational environments and to maintain order and discipline to effectively educate students. [Again, what these school bureaucrats are attempting to do is assert that a child’s home, and the computer he or she uses to work online, is an “educational environment” which they can regulate the same as they regulate a physical classroom — the analogy is ridiculous.]
9. We also recognize teaching students the shared values of civilized discourse and social order consistent with the basic educational mission of the District. [This is bureaucrat-speak for the proposition that no one should use an e-mail avatar that might offend a liberal teacher or teacher’s aide — and especially no one should use an e-mail avatar professing respect for the constitutional right to bear arms (perfectly illustrated by an image of a gun lying on an American flag).]
10. Our students are expected to make good choices about how they portray themselves so that we can continue providing safe and orderly schools and respectful educational environments fueled [poor word choice; “characterized” would be much better] by civil discourse. [Translation: Matthew did not make a “good choice” when he used an avatar expressing support for the Second Amendment (he should have realized this would offend the liberal school bureaucrats) — so Matthew is to blame for his bad choice.]
11. As a thoughtful community with a strong interest in education, please ask us for clarification or help if something seems contrary to accepted practice. [Matthew’s parents did just that, but were blown off; see links after sentence 4, above.]
12. Communication with families of students is critical to meeting the needs of the individual student, and we want to convey this regularly through any issue that might arise. [If anyone has a guess as to the meaning of the phrase “convey this regularly through any issue that might arise,” please e-mail email@example.com.]
13. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Melissa Horn, WVL Executive Director and Principal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or NOSD Superintendent Blake Peuse (email@example.com) at any time.
Melissa Horn, WVL Executive Director/Principal; 262-692-3988 X 291
Blake Peuse, NOSD Superintendent of Schools; 262-692-2489 X 402