Preschool expels student for mom's Facebook rant: When to vent online?

Venting about a child's school experience on Facebook or Twitter has increased with the popularity of social media. But when a parental rant reaches teachers, parents need to remember that their posts have consequences.

By , Correspondent

Ashley Habat took to Facebook for a brief rant about the private Christian school her 4-year-old son attends and the school responded by "unfriending" the child – by expelling him from preschool.

As distressing as this decision by the school may be to Ms. Habat, the real problem this parent may be facing is finding a happy thought about educators in general and not allow this incident to color the rest of her child’s school year or career.

According to reports, Ms. Habat was irritated because she felt the school had failed to give enough warning about when picture day was coming and as a result her son was late for school on picture day.

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The mom’s post read, “Why is it that every single day there is something new I dislike about Will’s School? Are my standards really too high or are people working in the education field really just that ignorant?”

She made the same mistake many of us have made when we just need to let off steam online: We're not always situationally aware of who, aside from her closest friends, might be seeing the post.

Having ranted a time or three on Facebook over various incidents at schools that my four sons have attended over the past 20 years, I completely understand a parent’s need to vent.

Some might even applaud Habat for not making a scene at school and bringing her disapproval directly into the classroom.

A few years ago when I was having a conflict with a teacher because I felt she didn’t understand some of the special needs of my son who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Aspergers, I posted a rant on Facebook.

Because I didn’t want the post to upset the educational apple cart, just to get some social network therapy, I limited it only to friends and it was not marked as “public.”

All I really wanted was to have my steadfast friends to give me a little virtual sympathy with a “there-there” or a “here-here” in the comments. However, a very well meaning Facebook friend who was on the PTA tried to help facilitate a dialogue with the school by bringing my post to the attention of the school principal.

I will only say it took the better part of a year to repair the ensuing all-points disaster that ensued as I felt betrayed by my friend; the teacher and school administration were offended by my rant; and my child felt the heat of the overall situation frying his emotional circuits.

However, when it came time the next Fall for my son to go to school, I was already taking a defensive posture in August as I waited for my child’s classroom assignment.

My husband took me aside and carefully advised me to find my happy place. “Please, for the sake of our child, keep an open mind,” my husband pleaded.

My son was in the room at the time and said, “Mom, what my teacher did it really didn’t bother me as much as it bothered you.”

From that moment, it took me quite a lot of soul searching to admit how hard it is to relinquish control and care of your child to teachers, acting during the school day in Loco Parentis [Latin: meaning in the place of a parent].

In sending my child to school, I learned a great deal about myself as a person and a parent.

As a result of the incident, I had to admit that under all my hostility toward the teacher and school was the fact that I was simply afraid on many levels.

Not only was I afraid my son would be scarred by a bad school experience, I was also afraid I was failing as a parent by not being able to make that experience perfect for my child.

There are lots of bumps through the school year, be it misunderstandings, bullying, or missed picture days, and each of those can be an open door to either disaster or a place of higher social and emotional learning.

The one thing I can guarantee is that if a parent brings a positive attitude to the new school year, the child will pick it up like an Olympic torch and run with it. Parents have the opportunity each day of their child’s life to help them learn to be the light in the world because they shine and not because we have set a fire on social media. 

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