No Sharpies for You!

I know I’m a little slow on the uptake, since this incident is almost a month old, but I just had to comment on this story from Adams School District 50 in Colorado. Apparently an 8-year-old boy used a Sharpie marker to color on his sweatshirt and then continually smelled the spot. His elementary school principal, Chris Benisch, in an effort to make a definitive stand against inhalant abuse, or “huffing,” suspended him for 3 days. The school district initially backed Benisch, but later the suspension was reduced to 1 day. In response to the Rocky Mountain Poison Control Center’s statement that Sharpies are nontoxic and can not be used to get high by inhaling, Benisch reportedly still felt that Sharpies are too dangerous for schools. From Colorado’s 9News.com:

‘Wow, that’s a very serious marker,'” Benisch said. Despite the medical evidence, Benisch promised to draw an even clearer line on markers. “We’ve purged every permanent marker there is in this building,” he said.

Wow. When I read this account, it brought to mind the approach of many American school districts to emerging technologies. It seems that it is just more manageable to lock down student Internet use at school rather than finding ways to incorporate safe, constructive use of a global interactive web. So many schools just take the interactive, read/write web away–like the Sharpies–rather than changing school structures and expectations. Rather than teaching students how to use these tools authentically and ethically!

I don’t believe that administrators/school IT departments make the “lock-it-down” decisions that they do most of the time simply because it is the easy decision. I think it is fear of litigation driven by a fundamental lack of understanding about the incredibly positive experiences students can have when schools allow & guide them. Look at the Horizon Project for a great example of students learning globally and collaboratively.

Think what might happen if our kids could use Sharpies and the Internet. Who knows what they might be able to do!

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  1. And no paper or pens either. I mean, they might write nasty notes, or throw spitballs, or get paper cuts, and ruin their shirt pockets!No books either. What if the weight of the books gave them carpal tunnel syndrome? That would plain rule out the playground too. Then we’d have to proceed to eliminate the gym. And the band hall is sure to burst their eardrums.The cafeteria probably has foods they are allergic to.Let’s just all live in a bubble and be safe.

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