Pennsylvania father and radio personality Mike Rossi qualified to run the Boston Marathon this year, and was certain from the start that he wanted his nine-year-old twins to be there to cheer him across the finish line. So the family turned the sporting event into a vacation.
Rossi felt justified pulling his kids out of school for three days to witness such an epic event. This year’s Boston Marathon wasn’t just a sporting event — it was symbolic of overcoming adversity, patriotism, and the strength of community. These are lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom. The principal of his twins’ school did not agree. She refused to excuse the absence. Here is the note Rossi received when he returned from the trip:
School administrators have a very hard job and need to be supported and respected. They also need to return that respect to parents. If a family decides their kid will miss three days of school to cheer their father across the finish line of the Boston Marathon, they shouldn’t be chided for doing so.
Anyone who has been an in-person spectator of a marathon will tell you that they are truly epic occasions. I lived on the NYC Marathon route for 10 years. Cheering on people who have trained for months, many who have overcome some adversity to do so, is really inspiring. Reading the name tags, learning the stories — I’m getting weepy just thinking about it. I can’t wait until my kids can experience it.
Rossi penned a great response to the principal’s letter, in which he explained that his children had an experience that “can’t be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book.” He made it clear that the three days they missed of school consisted of standardized testing that could be made up at any time. He insists his kids didn’t just have a trip, they had a lesson in “dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history culinary arts and physical education.” He mentions that his kids watched their father overcome injury, the death of a loved one and bad weather to “achieve an important personal goal.”
The frustration with dealing with bureaucracies of any kind is that sometimes you just want people to use a little common sense. Pennsylvania law lists “educational travel with prior approval” as a lawful absence. It allows districts the authority to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Rossi claims his wife notified the school via email before they left. The principal isn’t wrong here, she’s just not using common sense. The tone of the letter is ridiculous — if it’s a form letter it should be changed. Parents are adults, not children to be scorned for their decision-making.
“When they’re playing soccer and they want to quit halfway through, you don’t quit, you stick with it. I wanted to lead by example. They knew I was injured. They would ask me, ‘Daddy, do you think you’re going to be able to finish?'” Rossi told Today Parents. “This was like the final exam for that in this whole semester of learning, so to speak. I would do it all again a million times.”