SALEM, Oregon – It is time for schools to become a lot more direct with parents who fail to meet their obligations toward their children?

A recent letter, sent to the parents of students at Swegle Elementary in Salem, Oregon, was rather blunt and tactless, but nonetheless honest.

It tells parents that law enforcement will be notified if their children are not picked up promptly from school, and includes a clarification of when their children need to be at school if they want to eat free breakfast, the Statesman Journal reports.

The letter included the following paragraphs:

salem letter“Children must be picked up on time. If they are not picked up on time we will call (the Department of Human Services) and you will then have to pick them up at court the next day.”

“We will be serving breakfast at 7:45 a.m. at no cost. The Cafeteria will close at 8:15 a.m. for breakfast. If your child is running late, please feed them at home before sending them to school. Please do not drop your children off before this time. There will not be supervision. If children are dropped before 7:40 the staff will call the authorities.”

The response to the letter was swift and negative.

“Some parents at an elementary school are outraged over a letter sent home saying that DHS will be called if they don’t pick up their child on time next year,” said a report fromKATU.

Jay Remy, a spokesman for the Salem-Keizer school district, told the media that the letter was sent out in error because the building principal had not reviewed or approved it.

An office worker reportedly wrote the letter.

Remy predictably backed down from the wording, telling, “It doesn’t strike the right tone. There will be an apology.”

Remy also said the points made in the letter were overstated.

“Any grain of truth to that is in an extreme case, like if parents are habitually not picking their kids up,” Remy was quoted as saying. “Even then, those actions (described in the letter) would not be taken.”

One parent told KATU that she received a robocall from the district, offering an apology for the letter.

Perhaps an apology is appropriate, considering the language that was used. But could such language be useful, particularly if the school followed up on its threat to alert authorities about children who are left to wait without supervision for their parents to retrieve them from school?

If blunt words could prevent a tragedy – like the kidnapping of a waiting child – should they be blocked or censored?


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