Yesterday my 7-year-old brought home an assignment that was to be completed with the students’ families and returned to school the next day. We’ve had many of these over the years. We’ve decorated turkeys, created timelines, and made family trees. I know the assignments are just to encourage families to do something together. For some kids, I’m sure it offers some much-needed interaction with their parents. However, we do things together as a family continually, and searching for feathers, buttons, felt, and markers to decorate a turkey isn’t a fun activity; it’s a pain in the butt. Nevertheless, we participate anyway. Yesterday’s assignment was a little different. When I read the instructions I was left a bit dumbfounded. And by ‘dumbfounded’, I mean I was saying, “What the crap? This can’t be real!” See for yourselves:
I understand why this activity was sent out. It makes perfect sense that a 7-year-old should be able to identify and know the difference between prescription and over-the-counter medication. There’s no reason why a 7-year-old should simply be taught that medicine should never be taken unless your adult caregiver or a doctor gives to you. They should absolutely know the difference and be able to tell what condition each medication is used to treat. It’s never to early to start training our future doctors and pharmacists. It’s also important that this personal health information be shared with the students’ teachers and classmates. I mean, how else will they know which houses have the “good drugs”?
The last part of the assignment is the best. “Discuss with your child the responsible way to take prescription medicines and how they help the person for whom they were prescribed.” It doesn’t even mention OTC medicine. Yes, let’s confuse the kids and teach them that only prescription medications can be dangerous. You can take as much OTC stuff as you want. It’s practically candy! But like the activity suggests, I think every parent should have the following kinds of conversations with their 7-year-olds.
“Well Johnny, this is your father’s Viagra. It helps him … perform. And these are my birth control pills so I don’t have any more babies. And these are my antidepressants because without them, I’d jump off a bridge. And this here is your father’s hemorrhoid cream because he has ouchies on his butt.”
Under the “RX” and the “OTC” columns, I was going to list the following medications: Vagisil, anti-fungal cream, painkillers, Preparation H, prescription dandruff shampoo, wart medication, anti-psychotics, more painkillers, Viagra, Ex-Lax, anti-diarrhea medicine, more painkillers, lice shampoo, Rogaine, more painkillers, anti-flatulence meds, and finally, some more painkillers. I decided I’d create a third column labeled “illegal” and list things like: marijuana, crack, molly, heroine, LSD, bath salts, and ecstasy. In the end, I decided against that plan however, because I don’t especially want DCFS knocking on my door. I had friends tell me to call the school, complain to the principal, take it to the school board, and call in the media! People screamed “HIPAA violation!” That’s really not my style though. I didn’t think this was an assignment created by my child’s teacher to search out drugs, or garner a bit too much information about the families of her students. I didn’t think it was an underhanded way for the government to keep tabs on us. I thought it was nothing more than a poorly thought-out activity assigned as a drug awareness exercise during Red Ribbon Week. A VERY poorly thought-out activity.
Instead, I emailed my daughter’s teacher and wrote, I’m curious about last night’s home activity. Who came up with that assignment? (I’m guessing it was something every teacher was told to pass out.) I felt like it was inappropriate on many levels. In my opinion, a 7-year-old doesn’t need to differentiate between prescription and OTC drugs; they just need to know that you don’t take any medication unless your adult caregiver gives it to you. They don’t need to know who takes what prescriptions and why, nor does anyone at the school need that information. I opted not to do the activity, but instead talked to Brooklyn about not taking any medication unless I give it to her.
Her teacher responded, Yes, I understand your concern about the family activity that was sent home last night. This work is given if the parents want to do the activity with their child-IT’S NOT MANDATORY. I completely understand what you wrote to me addressing your concerns. I also told the students that the only thing they take is if their parents give it to them when they are sick or if they go to the doctor and have to get medicine to make them well. We were all given these activities to send home to the parents in case they would like do them with their children. Don’t worry about not doing the activity. It’s only optional. :) I hope this makes you feel a little more at ease about this. Please let me know if you have any more questions or concerns.
I like Brooklyn’s teacher and know she didn’t come up with this assignment herself, but I’m a little disappointed that, optional or not, it was handed out at all. Whoever thought this was an appropriate activity didn’t use common sense, in this parent’s opinion.
Has anyone else gotten any assignments like this? I’m curious if other schools participated in this ‘Learning for Life Substance Abuse Prevention Education Program’. If so, did you do the assignment? Were you outraged and did you go to the school board? Or did you just skip the activity?