A Connecticut school district is “reevaluating” its policies after a mother complained about an extremely personal and — in her opinion — invasive and inappropriate question about her child’s birth, Yahoo News is reporting.
Cara Pauik first wrote about the “absurdly inappropriate” question in a June, 2015, guest column in the New York Times. Pauik says that her husband was filling out a veritable mountain of forms in order to get her son registered for kindergarten in the West Hartford, Connecticut, public school system. She says that she was letting her husband do the work — until one particular question caught her eye. She ripped the form out of his hand.
— clarissaanggel (@clarissaanggel) July 1, 2015
Pauik was outraged at the invasive question — “My vagina [is not] up for public examination” — and wanted answers. She made some phone calls, and eventually got into contact with the district’s head nurse.
“The head nurse informed me that the form was stored in the school nurse’s files so that if a teacher or other administrator perceives an issue with a child (presumably, a learning disability or behavioral problem), that person could pull the file and look for clues in the medical record that might explain the cause.”
In fact, so-called “birth trauma” can affect a baby’s cognitive development. For example, if the umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby’s neck during delivery, that can deprive the infant of much-needed oxygen, leading to fetal stress, which could then lead to cognitive delays down the line.
However, Pauik called that line of reasoning “far-fetched and inadequate.” For one thing, birth trauma can occur during any type of birth — vaginal or C-section. For another, the school could have asked the question more directly (“If adverse birth effects are the underlying concern, why not ask about them?”). And finally, she asked, why was the school not, for example, asking if a child is vegan so the schools can be on the lookout for vitamin deficiencies?
The answer she got floored her.
“We don’t like to ask questions about food. Parents are very sensitive to that.”
The more people she asked about the question, the more frustrated she got. The school district’s medical adviser said the question had been on the form for at least 20 years, and no one had ever once complained about it in all that time. West Hartford Schools Superintendent Thomas Moore also said that the question had been there for as long as he could remember, and no had ever complained or given a moment’s thought to changing it. Even her own husband didn’t give it a moment’s thought — he said that most forms have irrelevant questions on them, so why not just accept it?
At the time, Pauik wrote that she never got a satisfactory response from her son’s school, so she just refused to answer the question and left it blank on the form. Her son was able to enroll in school without any repercussions (although she concedes that there may be a note about her in her son’s file).
Once her story began gaining attention in the media, however, the school district changed its tune. Superintendent Thomas Moore, speaking to Yahoo Parenting, said that questions that are irrelevant and not helpful — such as whether or not a baby was born vaginally or via C-section — will be removed or updated.
“I’ve asked principals and teachers if they’ve referred to [the question about the baby’s birth], and they said they didn’t even really know the question was there. So we are going to review all our forms, and questions that don’t seem to help us get to know kids or educate kids will be changed or eliminated.”
Do you think it’s appropriate for a school to ask if a kid was born vaginally or via C-section? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
[Image via Shutterstock/Matthew Cole]