Last week at PS 120 in Queens, New York, more than 100 children were forced to sit in a dark auditorium within earshot of the screams of glee of their fellow classmates who were enjoying an end-of-year carnival outside. It was during school hours. The price of admission was $10, and the kids whose parents couldn’t afford it didn’t get to attend.
From the NY Post:
Close to 900 kids went to the Queens schoolyard affair, with pre-K to fifth-grade classes taking turns, each spending 45 minutes outside. The kids enjoyed inflatable slides, a bouncing room and a twirly teacup ride. They devoured popcorn and flavored ices. DJs blasted party tunes.
Not the poor ones, though. They were shuttled into a dark auditorium to watch old Disney movies. “It’s breaking my heart that there are kids inside,” one teacher told the Post. She spoke of a seven-year-old who was crying hysterically because she was the only one in her class who couldn’t go. One of the children in the auditorium asked if they were being punished for something. The six and seven-year-olds simply didn’t understand why they couldn’t attend. The admission fee excluded the poorest students in the school — most from Chinese immigrant families.
The principal posted a tally in each classroom of who had paid and who hadn’t, and refused to bend admission rules because it wouldn’t be “fair” to those who paid. Teachers were also given a bag of stuffed animals to give to the kids whose families had paid for admission tickets, again excluding the kids whose families couldn’t afford it. One teacher actually withheld the gifts until she could buy more for the students who were excluded.
The school made a $3,000 profit on the event, so they clearly would not have lost money had they let the kids who didn’t pay attend. And really, what would the cost to the school be had they attended? Popcorn is dirt cheap.
An end-of-the-year party is meant to reward students. There’s nothing wrong with also raising money for the school, but not at the expense of the feelings of small children. This would be a totally different story had the event taken place on a weekend, but during school hours? Any principal who is not only comfortable excluding young kids — but insists on it — is not in the right line of work.