Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Scream Rooms in Schools?! What the...

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The name alone is terrifying. The first time I heard the term "scream room" I had no idea what it was or what it was in reference to, but I was pretty sure I didn't want to go there...

This video will take you through an elementary school in Connecticut that uses scream rooms, so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about.

Scream rooms (aka isolation or seclusion rooms) might have padded walls, or could just be an empty classroom. Schools say they use them to restrain or detain kids who are out of control, over-stimulated, or having a violent emotional episode, and they're often used with special-needs students. Growing up I'd never seen or heard of anything like this, but I was surprised to learn that only 20 states have laws that protect kids from being forcibly restrained or isolated, meaning 30 states have basically no restrictions on this type of discipline (click here if you want to know your state's laws). Google "scream rooms" and you'll see how outraged parents are about them. I'm undecided as to how I feel on the use of these rooms, and here's why:

On one hand, I think locking a child in a room alone as a punishment for bad behavior is sickening, especially an elementary-age kid. Reports have discovered that in some cases, children were left alone screaming from anywhere between 15 minutes to several hours in these rooms with only intermittent supervision, that several had peed their pants, and that other kids have died or attempted suicide while in these rooms. Ugh. Even scarier is the idea that parents (especially those with special needs children) may not even be aware that their school uses scream rooms, or be notified that their child was placed in one. A report by the Connecticut Department of Education found that in several elementary schools, faculty was not properly trained on how or when to utilize scream rooms, parents routinely failed to be notified, and there was no documentation indicating how long kids were isolated.

 The obvious problem is that there is way too much room for noncompliance with this type of discipline, even if faculty is properly trained. One autistic girl said her teacher put her in the scream room because she sharpened her pencil too much...I'm guessing she writes all of her assignments in pen now. The whole situation sounds vaguely reminiscent of the Stanford Prison Experiment, which leads me to believe punishment of this sort isn't likely to turn out great for anyone.

On the other hand, kids.are.crazy. I saw Dangerous Minds, and I'm not that tough. I can't imagine the crap teachers are confronted with day in and day out; back in the day kids used to run in the hallways and shoot spitballs, now they swear at teachers and shoot each other. School violence is increasing, but teachers have limited means to be able to deal with problem kids. If corporal punishment isn't an option, is time-out so bad? Some kids are so out of control they need to be physically restrained. It's also a fact (well, I guess it's more my opinion, but on my blog I'll call it a fact) that many parents are unwittingly raising a generation of crappy kids. They aren't putting in the time or effort to develop mature and respectful kids at home, and they resent the fact that any another adult could have the audacity to discipline their bratty child. Where parents used to rightfully place the blame on their kids' behavior, everything (from bad grades to bullying) is now the fault of the school system.

The CT report I mentioned earlier found that scream rooms were used to calm agitated students, as well as protect students from kids who were threatening harm or being destructive. Additionally, several kids requested to use the scream rooms when they were feeling over-stimulated, and multiple parents supported their use as a means of calming their children.

I think there are situations in which a scream room might be necessary. Are scream rooms "sadistic, as a lot of people are saying, or have we just gone soft when it comes to disciplining our kids?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Have You Thought About Abortion Lately?

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       , imagerymajestic

Probably not, and why would you? Sure, it's a hot button issue around election time, but on the daily, there's not much reason to think about it (if you happen to be a regular political activist, good for you!). I've seen several articles on social media in the last week about abortion (all with incredibly different takes on it) that have caused me to give it more thought than usual. 

The first was about Nik Hoot, a high schooler living in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The thing is, he was born in Siberia. Well, technically, he was aborted in Siberia. Nik's biological mother had an abortion when she was 24 weeks pregnant, yet somehow, Nik survived the procedure (despite losing parts of both legs), and recovered after being born so prematurely (completely contradicting the idea that a fetus isn't viable at 24 weeks). He went on to be adopted by an American family and is now a wrestler and a pretty typical mid-western teenager.

The second was an advertisement for an art exhibit that'll be displayed at the University of Michigan, called "4,000 Years of Choice: A Graphic Guide to Reproductive Justice." In its own words, it "is an exhibition of posters about the age-old practices of abortion and contraception as a means to reclaim reproductive freedom as a deeply personal and life-sustaining act existing throughout all of human history." Abortion is now considered a life-sustaining act in some circles, as well as an act to be celebrated...interesting.

And then there's this...

From Live Action Films--"Inhuman: Undercover in America's Late Term Abortion Industry-Arizona"
***Disclaimer: This video isn't graphic, but it IS disturbing***

This video brought tears to my eyes and made me want to retch all at the same time. Pro-choice or Pro-life, I don't believe anyone could watch this "doctor"'s callous disregard for human life and not feel disgust (if you chose to not watch the video, here's the basic premise: an undercover, pregnant filmographer is fictitiously seeking a late-term abortion; her Planned Parenthood doctor--in no vague terms--assures her that even if the baby is born alive, they'll still terminate it).

So why should you think about abortion? Because it kills millions every year. Whether you believe a fetus is a "person" or not, there's no denying that the termination of an unborn baby is a death sentence. With absolutely no say in the matter, that baby will never have a first birthday, take a first step, have a first kiss, or have a child of his/her own. We collectively mourn when we hear news of genocide and gross human rights violations (The Holocaust, Rwanda, North Korea). We grieve when we hear of child abuse and child hunger. But when I look at the numbers, it boggles my mind that we can talk with such reverence about the lives lost in war or conflict, yet completely ignore the lives ended before they even had  a chance to begin:

  • 1.03 MILLION abortions were performed in 2011 in the United States
  • 53 MILLION abortions have been performed since 1973 (Rowe v. Wade was passed) in the United States
  • 21% of all pregnancies in the United States end in abortion (not including miscarriages)
  • 30% of American women will have an abortion by age 35
        -(Statistics obtained from the Guttmacher Institute)

Can you imagine the grief, fear, and world-wide press that would be devoted to an army, disease, or natural disaster that killed 1 million Americans in one year? It would be utterly catastrophic. But how many of us were even aware that 1 million babies were aborted in one year? I honestly wasn't until I looked it up. I'm not trying to shame people who are Pro-choice, or to judge anyone who has had or is contemplating an abortion; I would assume most women facing that gut-wrenching decision do so with heavy-hearts, and that their circumstances must be extremely difficult if they feel they have no other option. But I wish abortion advocates would approach the subject with the respect, solemnity and reverence it deserves. The statistics are sobering, and the act of ending a life (let alone millions) is a sad, sad thing in this day and age. The problem is, the true nature of abortion is totally lost behind the euphemisms of "choice" and "freedom" and "justice." Even if you truly believe in the premise of abortion, don't ignore or deny what it really is, and let's not downplay the magnitude of 53 million lives ended prematurely.

If you're bothered by these facts, do something about it. Educate yourself. Write your elected officials (mid-term elections are this year!). Speak-up in your local newspaper. Advocate for adoption, increased access to birth control, or abstinence. Have these kinds of discussions with your friends, family, and kids. Think about it. Talk about it. Do something about it. And feel free to comment about it below.

Learn More:

Abortion Laws by Country
How to Write to Your Elected Officials
Guttmacher Institute (an objective look at abortion and reproductive health issues)
Live Action Films 
Abortion and the Affordable Care Act

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Babies: I Didn't Used to be Bipolar

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Opposition exists in all things: pleasure and pain, light and darkness, joy and sorrow...but this fact wasn't fully apparent until I had a baby. Before the birth of my son, I considered myself a relatively stable person; I was rarely rattled by minor annoyances or major upsets whether at work or in my personal life. After, however, I turned into a raging psycho. I can now go from sweet to despicable in no time at all.

It's not to say that kids completely change who you are (although it's safe to say they do change just about every aspect of your life); but having a child will amplify the most extreme aspects of your personality--for better or for worse. For example, if you struggle with road rage and you don't have kids, imagine what moronic driving will do to your temperament whilst you have a screaming newborn in the backseat; throw in spit-up-soiled clothes and aching, engorged breasts and you're likely to have a full-blown psychotic break. 

The fact is, there's nothing I've ever accomplished or done in my entire life, that compares to the feeling in my innermost being when I look at the cherubic face of my sleeping baby. He is literally heaven incarnate. The joy and fulfillment are indescribable. The love I feel for my offspring is unparalleled. 

As is the frustration that washes over me when he refuses to eat the seventh meal I've prepared just for him for dinner (I know you're hungry...and since when do you not like beef bourguinon, macaroni and cheese, or french fries?). Or the exhaustion I feel as I realize he dumped the entire toy box I just spent 10 minutes filling (Seriously? I've already put those away eight times today, and you're not even playing with them). Or the shame I feel when I see the tears welling in his eyes after I yell at him like I'm a boot camp instructor (what is WRONG with me, they're just toys!). 

As a new parent, life is lived in the extremes, because being responsible for another human being (especially one that is tiny, constantly vulnerable, and typically acts like he's drunk) is one of the most intense undertakings one will ever experience. To look at your child and know that you created him or her is incomprehensible; it fills you with wonder and causes you to ponder the very meaning of life and human existence. To look at your child's face and see your eyes staring back at you, your mother's nose, your husband's ears, and your nephew's smile, makes you feel connected to your whole family in a completely new and unanticipated way. To be your child's entire world--Finder of Missing Lego Pieces, Kisser of Scraped Knees, Consoler of Untold Hurts and Disappointments--makes you feel like the most needed and indispensable person in the world. But for each moment of blissful reverie, there are an equal number of challenges, sticky messes, tantrums, poopy diapers, bite marks, and "I hate you mommy"'s to keep you humble and on your toes. You might be SuperMommy for nearly an entire day, but in the last quarter your child might decide to throw your iPhone in the toilet; don't be surprised when you instantly and unwillfully go from June Cleaver to Norman Bates' mother as you unleash unholy wrath on your spawn, Siri, and the cruel fates that allowed you to leave your cell phone in your toddler's reach.

A lot of people think, "If having kids is so awful, then why did you have them? And why am I listening to you complain about them?" The purpose of this post isn't to complain or whine about how tough parenting is (even though it is, so there :) ). The purpose is to reassure the doubter that it's worth it. The most worthwhile achievements in our lives are not achieved haphazardly or accidentally. The most significant things I've accomplished in my life--whether in sports, finishing a degree, or buying our first home--have taken years to fully realize. They've required me to toil day after day, year after year; at times requiring me to perform activities that were at times painfully mundane and other times unbearably difficult; along the way allowing me to garner occasional successes, but even more setbacks and failures. At the end of each long road, however, I realized that the journey was far more important than the realization of the goal itself, and that I learned way more about myself as I was enduring the highs and the lows and forcing myself to stay the course. So it is with parenting. Even though some days (most days, in fact) are hard, I know that I'm a better person now than I was before I was a mother. I've learned an untold number of life lessons (selflessness, unconditional love, patience) exponentially faster because of parenthood. As unstable and bipolar as I may feel from one moment to the next, I know that if I can just make it through that rough spot in the day, I'll be rewarded with a sweet smile, a thoughtful kiss, or a heart-melting "I love you, mommy" just when I need it most.