A 3-year-old in Arlington, Va., was kicked out of school for being, um, a 3-year-old.
Back in December, Zoe Rosso and her mother were escorted from her Montessori preschool at Claremont Elementary, an Arlington County public school, after she peed her pants one too many times. The principal told Zoe’s mother, Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso, that the girl had to take a month off from school and bone up on her bladder control before she could come back.
Of course, Zoe’s family would still need to pay that month’s tuition, $835.
Now Zoe’s mom wants to challenge the school’s potty-training requirement and cap on the number of accidents a child is permitted to have during a given time. She says that expecting that all 3-year-olds limit their accidents goes against what we know about child development.
For decades, Arlington public schools have required its preschoolers to be potty-trained. Any child who has more than three accidents in one week, or more than eight accidents in a month, can be dismissed from the school.
When Zoe initially started at Claremont, the 3-year-old could go weeks without having an accident. Then, according to a Washington Post story about the girl’s dismissal, she would have a spate of them. Zoe always cleaned and changed herself after the accidents. Her parents even took her to a pediatrician to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong with her. (There wasn’t.)
But the rules are the rules.
In January, after her month long break — during which time Rosso had to suspend her business, due to lack of childcare — Zoe returned to Claremont.
Shortly after her return, even though she stayed dry at first, the girl wet her pants five times over the course of a few days. The Rossos decided they wouldn’t return and put her in a preschool that accepted children and their piddly messes.
But Zoe’s mom isn’t finished with Arlington Public Schools. She is now on a mission to change the potty policy. Here’s what she told the County and School Board [via Washington Post]:
“We would like Arlington County to revise its policy so that other kids and other families won’t have their lives disrupted like this for something that’s totally developmentally normal,” Rosso said. “If a kid is emotionally and intellectually ready for school . . . then they should have the ability to go, regardless of whether their bladder has caught up with their brain.”
I totally agree.
Expecting such young kids to not have frequent accidents is an old-fashioned idea and one not at all grounded in reality. Even asking 3-year-olds (or younger, as is the case in many preschools where I live) is out of touch with what child development experts say can be expected of all children. They tell us all the time that potty-training is one of those milestones with a range of years — not weeks, not months, but years. Even the term “potty-trained” means different things for different children.
Potty-training is not a measure of intelligence. It has nothing to do with a mother’s love. It’s not a moral issue, either, as it’s so often treated. Just because a 4-year-0ld is in diapers doesn’t necessarily mean the parents are lazy or the child is a careless idiot or on some kind of power trip. Some kids aren’t ready. Some kids are but pee their pants often anyway.
It’s also surprising that a so-called Montessori school wouldn’t be sensitive to the fact that kids learn at their own pace, not just how to count beads on a stick but the fact that they need to drag themselves away from bead-counting the second the urge hits!
The spokesperson for Rosso’s school argues they don’t have the facilities or staff to accommodate diaper changes or kids in Pull-Ups. I can understand that, but the pressure to change needs to be on the schools, not little kids. The policy means the schools unwittingly exclude a significant number of kids — the pack that wets their pants.
Another problem with these kinds of school policies is that they don’t just keep the kid out of their programs for a few months until they’re ready. They keep the kid out an entire year. Maybe your just-turned-3-year-old pees his pants all the time. But what if he turns 3 years and 3 months and is suddenly dry all the time? He not only has to wait the entire year, if it’s the kind of program that has all its openings during the 3-year-old year, he’s out of luck for the entire program!
I think the worst thing about these policies is they force parents to push their young kids who might not be ready. Rosso sent Zoe to a potty-training class in the weeks leading up to her first day of preschool, no doubt having thought when the girl was 2 and applications were due that surely — surely! — Zoe would be able to stay dry all day by the time she turned 3. Alas, she wasn’t. Hence, the high-pressure, train’em in a weekend classes, which — I have heard more than once — can backfire.
If high-quality preschools with flexible hours and affordable prices were abundant, a policy on potty-training wouldn’t be such an issue. Parents could move their kids over mid-year if necessary, once the child stopped having regular accidents. But that’s not how things are set up in our cutthroat preschool culture — especially in crowded cities. There are applications, mandatory tours and mile-long waiting lists. School starts in September, period. If you’re not ready, get in the back of the line.
So much of preschool placement is the luck of a draw: not only that your child’s name will be picked while there are still slots open, but also that your child isn’t the type to pee her pants during all the school acceptance excitement.
What do you think? Has one of these potty-training policies thwarted your preschool and childcare plans? Do you think they’re fair (especially for a public school)?