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Thursday, April 18, 2024
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We Need Laws Requiring Parental Involvement in Schools

Dear Mr. President,
My name is Reuben Dowling, and I work for CROP, Conflict Resolution Organization for Peace, Inc. I am a Youth Motivational Speaker and Conflict Scholar, and work closely with teachers and students in the classroom in several public schools here in the territory.
Last Sunday, I listened to the Honorable Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education on the television program “Our World”. His major focus was on how we can fundamentally change the education system in four years.
The answer is that we need federal, state, and local laws demanding parent/teacher associating. All the experts know that children do better in schools when parents or guardians show interest. We have schools here in the territory where parent/teacher associating is under 5%. These schools perform at the bottom levels in our nation. There are a few Parochial and private schools in the Virgin Islands where parent/teacher associating goes over 90%, and those schools are doing exceptionally well, graduating over 98% of their students.
Simple online research shows that all of the nation’s top performing schools share in common a high level of parent/teacher associating. It is so sad to see that the children from the poorest communities; those ailing from all the effects of poverty, abuse etc. — the most damaged are not receiving the benefits of parent/teacher associating.
As a matter of fact, the only associating parents in the poorest communities wish to do with a teacher is to go to school to abuse her if the child reported that the teacher raised her voice at that child.
Many of the Educators here in the United States Virgin Islands feel that it is a travesty how America has turned on its teachers by the mass firing done at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. It did not surprise me to go online and note that Central Falls is located in the poorest school district in the state, where the majority of students do not receive the benefit of parent/teacher associating. Children there hardly ever do homework, and take home failing grades semester after semester without a bleep of dissatisfaction from home. The PTA attendance record at Central Falls High School is a disgrace! But to be eligible for federal funds the teachers are made scapegoats by the state. As leaders of the free world, the United States is setting a bad example by wrongfully persecuting her teachers who are so vital in shaping our future. The fact that America still leads the world is proof that our nation has the best teachers in the world. I ask that you would show the love and reverence for all teachers by reinstating the teachers at Central Falls High and make the parents more accountable.
My past history and experiences allow me to offer a very unique perspective on this issue. I had a very wonderful mother who struggled to raise eight children as a single parent and did the best she could. However, I never once had anyone at home ask me if I had homework, done my home work, or checked my homework. Because of wonderful teachers I went through elementary school on the honor role. From Junior High I needed supervision from home that I was not getting, and my mother never knew that I did not attend over 50% of my classes in high school. I believe, that if someone had warned my late mother that if she did not go to school at least once per month to check on my progress that I would end up spending over 25 years in prison, she would had found the time to do so. But suppose there was a law that she had to do so? I believe I would have been a candidate for valedictorian. However, I ended up living a life of crime, and spending a total of 27 years in prison on two bank robbery convictions. In prison I eventually wised up and took advantage of opportunities offered and got a college degree. After self-publishing three novels from my prison cell, the Governor of the Virgin Islands commuted my 70 year sentence to “time served” on January 3, 2007.
Before my release from prison I was working as a tutor in the prison here in the territory, where there were not ten high school graduates out of a group of over 400 prisoners. The prison yards across our nation are bursting at their seams with those who dropped out or got expelled. For the most part the majority of the violent crimes in our community are committed by those who drop out or were expelled. The uneducated are responsible for the majority of violent crimes here in the territory, and the majority of the murdered victims are those who dropped out and got expelled. However, far too many innocent people get caught up in the carnage.
A high majority of girls who drop out of school because of pregnancy never had the benefit of parent/teacher associating, and end up on public assistance at the cost to tax payers. Speak to those girls, look at PTA attendance records and parent/teacher associating in conjunction with these pregnancies and note the correlation. This is more than a civil rights issue. It is a public health and public safety issue.
Several years ago the Virgin Islands legislature enacted a law in their wisdom; making it mandatory that all employers in the territory allow their employees two paid hours off every month for the purpose of going to schools to check on their child or children’s progress. However, over 98% of our populace is not taking advantage of this law.
I was discussing ways to enhance this law so that it will be enforced with a former first grade teacher by the name of Ms. Rukiya C. Gordon who suggested lobbying to get the law changed to withhold public assistance from those receiving it, and make those not receiving public assistance pay a fine for not attending PTA meetings or stopping by the schools to check on the progress of their child or children at least twice per month. Other suggestions ranged from getting a shame page in the local news papers or to even make the parents spend a weekend in jail. I am more in favor of offering an extra fifty dollars as incentive to those on public assistance.
What America needs is a similar law passed nationally, but with the means to have it enforced. A study will prove that in our society there is a trend where most of the children of the affluent and educated receive the benefits of parent/teacher associating, while most of the children of the poor and uneducated are sent off to school by parents who show no interest in the child’s education unless they see an opportunity to war against the teacher or school. If we are serious about leaving no child behind, then it is time to upgrade our culture, making it mandatory where all students and teachers shall reap the benefits of all parents showing interest whether it is voluntary or not.
Education is the key, therefore our schools are the frontline, and it does take a village, and the peace and safety of our community is depending on better parent/teacher associating. From my observations in the classrooms it’s easy to see that the best Educators and potentially good students cannot succeed without support from parent or guardian. If Mr. Secretary of Education is serious about making fundamental changes in the best interest of our nation and world, then it is time to legislate love. Let’s cultivate a better crop by making sure that all of America’s children receive the love, care and support needed for them to benefit from our school system. The government cannot be in the homes, but the government should be able to set standards demanding all children in government schools receive certain levels of backing from home. I believe that enacting this type of change will show love for all people, bringing almost instant change to our world forever. And other nations will soon follow, so that America wouldn’t leave them too far behind.
In the best interest of our children who are the future, and in love and peace, I pray that all Americans will open their hearts to receive this message.
“Thank you,”
Reuben D. Dowling
Conflict Resolution Organization for Peace (CROP)

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