In John Knowles’ book “A Separate Peace,” the main character denounces sarcasm as “the protest of people who are weak.” Merriam-Webster defines sarcasm as “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.” With that in mind, I hereby pronounce Ron Sterr, Principal of Litchfield Elementary School in Arizona, to be weak and mean.
Sterr is accused of writing a sarcastic letter to parents in which he derides their children as either too lazy or too stupid to finish their work in class. He suggests that students who do manage to finish their assignments should be rewarded with a “half-hearted high five” as their accomplishment is “the equivalent of a twenty-year-old wanting to be congratulated for knowing how to tie his shoes.”
The letter, which was sent home last month to the parents of second-graders, goes on to joke about a child’s despair over a deceased puppy and urges students to “imitate a crazed masochist” so that a classmate with a nervous tick will feel inconspicuous.
Sterr is now furiously back-pedaling, insisting he wrote the letter as a joke in response to comments made by an unnamed individual. He never meant for the letter to actually go home to parents! He loves his students and was merely trying to “mock those views and point out how ludicrous they are.”
Unfortunately, one of his teachers didn’t get the joke and sent the caustic letter home with students. Needless to say, this did not go over well with parents. Litchfield Elementary School District Superintendent Julianne Lein says she’s been inundated with angry calls from parents and is taking steps to “remedy the situation.”
While I have no doubt that Principal Sterr is being truthful when he claims he never intended the letter to be sent home to parents, the damage has been done. He’s been placed on administrative leave and is facing demotion and possible termination.