By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
When Kylee Blake Pedersen asked her son, a fifth grader at Kennedy Elementary, how his day was, she got an unexpected answer.
Her son informed Pedersen that his class was required to sign a “No Discussion of Dating Contract.”
The contract was given by Kennedy behavioral specialist John Moran.
Concerned that her son had been asked to sign something without her knowledge, Pedersen went to Kennedy the following morning to see the contract.
The first sentence stated, “I (insert student’s name) understand that it is a school-wide policy at Kennedy Elementary School to refrain from discussing dating, boyfriends, girlfriends, and any related matters at school.”
According to the contract, “discussing” included talking, gossiping, spreading rumors, writing and passing notes, daring others to date, playing games around dating and anything else related to dating.
Students had to consent to their desk being searched for notes at any time by staff members and if any were found, they would be in violation of the contract.
Consequences for violating the contract included: spending recess and/or lunch in the office, loss of privileges at school (assemblies, class parties, field trips, jobs in the classroom or at school, being a peer mediator), a phone call home, parent meetings with the principal and suspension.
According to the Salem-Keizer School District, the contract was brought to one classroom at Kennedy.
“He (Moran) was going to bring it to the other fifth grade classes but we pulled it back so it is not being utilized,” said Lillian Govus, Director of Community Relations and Communications. “It won’t be used in the other classrooms at Kennedy and it’s not used in the district anywhere else to my knowledge.
“We’re really glad that the parent brought this forward because it’s been a good discussion point for school leadership, making sure that we are creating healthy spaces for our children to grow and form relationships with adults where they feel comfortable talking about this sort of thing.”
After speaking with principal Jesse Leonard, Govus was informed the contract was used once before at Kennedy about three years ago after the school had issues with fifth graders passing notes.
The intention was to create a space where students didn’t feel like they were being bullied through gossiping and spreading rumors.
“It wasn’t anyone’s understood knowledge that it (contract) was going to be brought forward at the beginning of this school year,” Govus said. “The intention of the behavior specialist was to help create a space for students to feel safe. The intention was to create a really healthy space for the children in the classroom but I think the application of it didn’t quite align with the intention.”
Govus also said the district has a problem with students being asked to sign something without their parent’s knowledge.
“It’s allowed us to the opportunity to reiterate to all of our principals, particularly at the elementary level, that asking a child to sign something like this without including the parents in the decision making process so that they can have informed conversations with their children isn’t in the most effective or trust building method to be employed in our schools,” she said.
The contract won’t be discussed any further.
“If an issue arises in a classroom, then the principal and the guidance counselor will work with the student and the student’s parents on a one-on-one basis,” Govus said.