Dear Editor: The "Written Off?" article describes a situation in which the West High dean of students, Ellen Pryor, was asked to write her assessment of a troubled student who'd run away from home and had contact with juvenile court.
Pryor did not force her opinions on anyone, she wrote the letter as part of her job. She's now in hot water because her assessment was honest. Her letter described some instances of the young man's negative behavior, his challenges at West, and his effect on other students. As an educator should, she then described the type of smaller, more structured high school where she believed he could be happy and successful. Her letter ended on this positive note, expressing her faith in the young man. She felt confident that in this better learning environment, he would overcome past troubles. Not much to object to, right? Wrong.
Pryor is in trouble for her sincerity. The letter was misused and misinterpreted to influence court decisions that kept this young man in detention well past the day he should have been released. This misuse and poor decision-making, on the part of others, was not her fault. She should not be blamed for it, and although she was pressured into an apology, she did not owe one.
The article goes on to describe a confused snarl of interaction between the courts, West High, and the young man's concerned mother, with a fog of distrust on all sides.
Somehow, after frustration and struggle, this was all worked through. Committed parents and educators found a way to communicate and listen to each other. In the end, this student emerged to a happier situation.
He's now enrolled in an alternative program in the district, doing well--in an environment not unlike the one Pryor recommended.
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