The plastic tubs lined one long, low table at Apathy Elementary School. They were filled with supplies. One was overflowing with boxes of crayons. The other was filled to the brim with markers. There were piles of scissors, rulers, erasers, and rows of bottles of school glue. On the floor next to all of these supplies were boxes of Kleenex, packages of paper towels, and tubes of disinfectant wipes. These were the supplies that parents were asked to bring with their children to school yesterday. These were supplies to be shared by the entire class. Gone are the days when a teacher sent home a list of supplies that little Johnny needed to keep in a small cardboard box in his desk to use throughout the school year. Now it takes a village to supply a school. Education has become communal.
We witnessed the annual great restocking of school supplies when we attended school to meet our daughter’s therapists. She attends our local elementary school to receive speech and occupational therapy services. I was grateful for two things. The first is that as a very part-time student, we were not expected to participate in this charity event. The second is that we were not attending Pauoa Elementary School in Honolulu, Hawaii, where students are required to bring a four-pack of toilet paper on their first day of school. Stephanie Clifford of the New York Times reported last Sunday that the list of supplies that students are “requested” to bring on the first day of school gets longer and longer each year. In her article “Back to School? Bring Your Own Toilet Paper,” she reported that along with the normal supply of pencils, scissors, and glue, students across the country are asked to bring double rolls of paper towels, Clorox wipes, baby wipes, garbage bags, liquid soap, Kleenex, Ziplocs, cleaning spray, hand sanitizer, cotton balls, facial tissue, sheaves of manila and construction paper, paper sandwich bags, Dixie cups, paper plates, printer paper, wet Swiffer refills and plastic cutlery. I would have thought that cutlery would have violated a zero tolerance policy against weapons in school.
Along with the list of supplies, new students at our local schools are asked to bring, among other things:
• Proof of identity & residency or other documentation, which the Apathy Board of Education determines to be satisfactory
• Proof of immunization of certain disease or furnish documents to satisfy statutory requirements. Booster shots required by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Environment are also required.
• certified copy of birth certificate (Kindergarten & 1st graders only)
• $50.00 book fee (payable by check, cash, or credit card)
Now, why is it that our local school can demand “proof of identity & residency or other documentation, which the Apathy Board of Education determines to be satisfactory,” but the state of Arizona cannot ask people stopped on suspicion of violating the law to show proof of identity and residency or other documentation that they are in the country legally? I faced the acceptable documentation gauntlet at our local elementary school last year. The school has yet to satisfactorily explain to me why a utility bill is acceptable documentation of residency but my driver’s license is not. The school has yet to explain to me why I must prove eligibility at all. In court, the burden of proof is on the state and the accused is innocent until proven guilty. At our local elementary school, the burden of proof is on the consumer, and the consumer stands accused of not being eligible to send their child to school until they prove otherwise. Thanks to a federal judge in a decision concerning a lawsuit brought by our current president’s administration, kindergarten students in America’s heartland face a tougher burden of proof than do people crossing our country’s borders illegally.
My homeschooled children have a much easier time enrolling in school each year. Besides the annual first day of school wake-up call, a boisterous and off-key rendition of the “First Day of School” song as performed by my wife and I, enrollment involves eating breakfast, stumbling downstairs in their pajamas, and starting their first subject of the day. I don’t ask for documentation. I don’t require proof of residency. I provide all their supplies. I even give them free bathroom tissue. All I ask for is a smile, but I’ll settle for the absence of a frown. Homeschooled or not, they are children. They still suffer from the first day of school blues.