Friday, April 10, 2015

Ken Thiessen goes the extra mile to be totally wrong (UPDATED 4/10/15)

Ken Thiessen is the principal of Wichita East High School and he has managed to completely forget why we are in the business of teaching children.
Michael Kelley has Down syndrome and autism, but that doesn't stop him from participating in extra-curricular activities at Wichita East High School. He plays basketball for the special needs team and gives it his all every night. His mother, Jolinda, bought a letter jacket so he could have a reminder of his participation with the team. The problem was that she bought a varsity letter for that jacket, which school officials say are only to be worn by those on the varsity team.
No, this should not be a problem. Not by a long shot. This should be something that could be a good lesson in realizing that we are not in the business of equal measure for everything in existance because circumstances necessitate that we become flexible with policies. Making an exception in this case is called leadership.
Only in this case the leader capitulated. After a parent complained that Kelley had on a letterman jacket, the principal ordered young Michael to remove the clothing on the spot and replaced the cover with a girls sweatshirt.
By the way, the parent that complained about Michael Kelley wearing a lettermman jacket....fuck you.
And Principal Thiessen could have made right by saying that he set the wrong tone by thinking this was some kind of normal situation but alas he wrote a letter that bascially said deal with it.
As the leader of this school, I understand that taking criticism for my actions and decisions comes with the job. What I can’t accept, however, are the horrible comments from people who have no idea what East High is really all about. Suggesting that our school doesn’t support and embrace special needs students is simply not reflective or indicative of the culture we have in our building. Our administrators, our teachers and staff, as well as our entire student body value ALL of our students. This is continually demonstrated in our activities, our celebrations, our honors and the daily way our school conducts itself
For those of you who don’t know East High, please take an opportunity to learn about us before you judge us based on one story that originated approximately a year ago. Our graduates have shaped the history of Wichita for more than 100 years, and our students today give me great faith that our proud East High legacy will continue for years to come.
You tarnished the image of Wichita East by falling all over some idiotic symbolism that would have meant 50x more to an autistic kid with Down Syndrome (who did work in athletic compeititon) than to a college bound varsity athlete whose letterman is simply another honor to plant on the mantle of his or her success. This should have been a no-brainer and ended up being a horrible example of what-not-to-do.
I'm as big of a supporter for following the rules as the next guy but there are always exceptions. Always. We are in the business of dealing with kids and sometimes you need to think about the right thing to do, not necessarily the "rules" thing to do or the "satisfy the jocks and parents attitude" thing to do. We are not talking about a "new normal" here, or something that would need containment like it was a virus. Giving Kelley the letterman wasn't going to lower standards or destory the egos of varsity athletes on campus. Nope, it was an exception that should have been made to the rule. It would have been good teaching.

UPDATE 4/10/15

Brian Sumpter is the Sports Editor for the Lake County Record Bee (the county to our west) and has started the "1000 Block Letters for Mike" campaign in which schools send their letters to the Lake County Bee and then they are forwarded to Mike Kelley.

Pretty proud to be a Wildcat today!

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