The following interview stands as a representation of a deliberative individual whose resolution, after bearing some measure of personal cost, remains unaffected by a school board’s calumniatory dissonance. After reading the interview you may feel inclined to assign it to the usual banality, failing to see the evocable interest that lay at every parent’s doorstep. If this is in fact the case, then the tragedy is yours, not ours.
We will preface the actual interview with an introduction and posting by the interviewee, CJ Grisham, this will lay the foundation for the ensuing exchange.
L.R.I.: Please provide for our readers a little insight into who you are.
CJ: CJ Grisham is an opinionated Soldier who tells it like he sees it. He has been in the active duty Army more than 14 years. His assignments include such tropical paradises as Fort Irwin, CA, Fort Stewart, GA, Fort Meade, MD, and Redstone Arsenal, AL. He has been deployed to Panama, Ecuador, and Iraq. His biggest accomplishment was getting invited to the White House by President Bush and President Obama for his writing at A Soldier’s Perspective.
He has been awarded the Bronze Star with V device, Meritorious Service Medal (3 oak leaf clusters), Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal (4 OLC), Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Combat Action Badge, and many other pieces of flair he doesn’t want to brag about. He is married and has three beautiful straight “A” children!
Mr. Grisham: Last night, I attended a meeting at my kids' school with the intent of discussing the principal's decision to go to school uniforms in the middle of the school year. The problem is that the principal didn't want to hear our concerns. She tried to shut me up and I think you all know what happens when someone tries to shut me up. Not only that, but she scheduled this meeting on the same evening as the school board meeting, so parents had no opportunity for recourse. About 10 parents tried to make it to the meeting before it ended, but we were too late as the school board is located on the opposite side of the city from the school.
- Family and school communications is two-way, regular, meaningful, and respectful of diversity.
- Parents and the community are welcome in the school, and their active support and assistance are sought.
- Inclusion of parents and community as partners in the decisions that affect children and families.
I will state unequivocally that there was NOT two-way communication on the uniform policy. It was a one-way communication that simply informed us of the decision to switch to uniforms mid-school year. The community was NOT welcome in the school as demonstrated by [the principal's] banishment of the media present to cover a simple event to showcase school uniforms. She did this rudely and without identifying herself WHILE a parent of one of the students was being interviewed. And, finally, parents certainly were NOT included in the uniform decision, which no one can argue doesn't affect children and families.
Parents had an opportunity to question the security official and the uniform store official, but no one was allowed to question the principal who unilaterally decided this was a great idea. Let me state plainly and openly that I, along with most of the parents I've spoken and met with on this topic, am not opposed to school uniforms. Far from it! I have absolutely no problem with them. I wear a uniform on a daily basis as a Soldier. What I have a problem with are parents not being consulted on these major decisions. I have a problem with instituting an expensive uniform policy halfway through a school year after the most expensive holiday of the year and after school clothes have already been purchased. I have a problem with a principal who refuses to even listen to voices of opposition and then mislead you and others about how many of us there are! I have a problem with a principal who dismisses my concerns and tells me that she won't discuss a uniform policy with me at a uniform meeting! I have a problem with a principal who doesn't understand the fundamentals of our free society in allowing the media to cover a public event. What is there to hide if only "one or two" of us disagree, as you stated on record tonight? Her conduct tonight was unacceptable, mean spirited, and completely unprofessional.
One parent tried to explain to other parents how much these uniforms cost, but couldn't be heard because no microphone was set up. When she went to approach the microphone after other parents wanted to hear what she said, Mrs. Williams said it "wasn't necessary" and didn't allow the parent to be heard. She mentioned some fictitious price sheet that I and other parents haven't seen. One of the school officials sitting right next to Mrs. Williams cast aside our concerns over the cost of having to purchase multiple uniforms by basically telling us to teach our kids to do laundry! I thought we taught our kids how to conserve water and energy and yet we're being told to wash uniforms basically every day if we can't afford multiple sets?! No silly $50 voucher is going cover everything the kids need, especially with multiple kids. My cost would be easily over $400 to purchase just five sets of clothing and that's assuming I even qualify for a voucher.
The parents and I would like to schedule a meeting with you to discuss our concerns. We are not against uniforms, we simply believe that there is no reason to force us to purchase them or the kids to wear them in January. We are in the middle of one of the worst recessions in recent memory and money is tight for everyone. The Huntsville City School system receives a LOT of federal money for all the military children attending school here. We deserve a voice in our children's education. And we also vote in school board and superintendent elections.
I study law and am aware of numerous United States District Court rulings in which the legality of forcing unwilling children to wear a uniform were questioned and ruled unconstitutional when challenged. I brought two cases with me tonight. I'm also aware of federal law contained within the US Code that specifically states that "parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, and States, localities, and private institutions have the primary responsibility for supporting that parental role." (U.S. Code, Title 20, Chapter 48, Subchapter I, Paragraph 3401(3))(emphasis mine)
We believe this decision can be postponed until the new school year or some other compromise. If the uniform is voluntary until December, it can be voluntary until May. Please let me know of a few dates when you would be available so I can coordinate with the families who are also concerned. A timely response to this concern is appreciated. Please feel free to contact me directly at [phone number deleted] if you would like to discuss scheduling over the phone.
May I also add that it was completely contemptuous of [7th grade science teacher] to remark to other parents how embarrassed my wife must feel being married to me. Those comments by her and other teachers about those of us that disagree are completely uncalled for and made me feel as if I needed to speak with the assistant principal to inform her that if there is any blowback against my kids for what happened tonight, lawsuits will follow. My children's education experience had better not be affected by my actions in standing up for my rights as a parent and organizing others who feel the same way. I can't even begin to describe how absolutely ashamed I am of the administration tonight at Williams Middle School. My wife is proud that I had the courage to stand up for what is right and stood by me the entire time. [That teacher] and other teachers need to stay in their lane of educating our children.
L.R.I.: The context of this interview pertains to a situation involving your kid's new school uniform policy, as well as the level of parental inclusion the school administration sought as a matter of consideration. Since you have explicated your position through the aforementioned letter, how did the other parents react, and did they make a similar request to be heard by the school administration?
Mr. Grisham: Many parents wrote to the principal upon hearing about the policy. We all got form letter-like responses that didn't answer our questions. We were told that at the uniform meeting we would have a chance to ask her questions about the policy. She never gave us opportunity. At least seven parents had their hands up with a question when the Principal took the stage, but she abruptly ended the meeting without allowing anyone to even ask. At that point, I yelled for all the parents that disagreed with the principal's policy to meet me in the back of the cafeteria where I gathered their contact information to organize a phone and email campaign about our treatment.
L.R.I.: Did your children experience any adverse treatment at the hands of the school administration?
Mr. Grisham: No, I wouldn't say they received "adverse treatment." They were, however, called out of class and asked about the meeting that occurred the night before at the uniform meeting. Other kids' teachers told the kids that the people who disagreed with the policy were "immature" and "trouble-makers."
L.R.I.: Now the school administration's vitriol has extended further into your personal life by affronting your reputation within your occupational environment, the military. Please tell us what actions the school administration took and the words they used to describe you.
Mr. Grisham: This is where it gets confusing. Initially, the principal and the PTA president contacted the Army claiming that I was threatening them. When that didn't work, another complaint was made, but I'm not sure who made it. It appears that the PTA president is the main instigator, with the principal providing support. The Superintendent and the principal are sorority sisters, so they support each other. The super hasn't done anything to diffuse the situation and instead continues to blame me. She has said on numerous occasions that I'm not allowed to involve the media and other crap.
L.R.I.: There seems to be an unwarranted escalation within the school administration's reaction to your concerns of being an informed parent. Why do you think their response took the form it did?
Mr. Grisham: Because I was the first and loudest to protest the way parents were being treated. I'm the one that organized a large group of parents that disagreed with the policy. I also brought the media into it, which embarrassed the administration. Because of that, they have sought to discredit me. Each time they've pushed me, I've pushed back harder. It's about losing control and having their authority questioned, in my opinion.
by people who were never there to begin with...."
L.R.I.: Is it reasonable to state that the intention of going after you on a professional level was to dissuade you from further interactions with the school administration?
Mr. Grisham: Yes. I'm trying to fight this through the school system. The principal and the PTA president are both supposedly former military. They know that if a civilian makes a complaint, the military tends to overreact. And that's exactly what happened. Instead of just allowing me to speak my piece and work through the school system, they're fighting it in the Army.
L.R.I.: Can you talk about how this affected you on a professional level?
Mr. Grisham: So far, I've been counseled on my "professionalism" by people who were never there to begin with. I was yelled and cursed at by senior military personnel before even being asked my side of the story. I had to go to CID to prove that nothing I said was "threatening" as claimed by school officials. I've had to meet with the garrison commander, a full Colonel, on two separate occasions.
L.R.I.: What are your children's reactions to all of this?
Mr. Grisham: They are afraid of going to school. It's very stressful for them because they see how my wife and I are being treated. They understand what we're doing.
L.R.I.: As of this writing, where do you and the school administration stand?
Mr. Grisham: I am barred from speaking directly with the principal. When my wife and I go to the school, we are followed by school security personnel the entire time. We are pointed out by other members of the staff. The only time the principal has responded to my emails is when I threaten to speak with the media. What, if any, legal actions exist that you can take as a matter of recourse? Right now, a few parents are seeking legal counsel. I am looking into a lawsuit against the school and PTA for slander and defamation of character. I'm not sure what legal action other parents are taking.
L.R.I.: As a decorated soldier and a man who took an oath to defend this country, how would you describe the current state of affairs for individual liberty, as well as those of the family unit?
Mr. Grisham: I'm greatly concerned for our personal liberties. They have been under assault for years and for the most part, Americans have allowed it to happen. Our elected representatives continue to vote in laws that further violate the constitution and usurp states rights. The education system has taken away the rights of parents and made them subservient to the system. The family is under attack through educating kids about homosexuality and encouraging reliance upon the government, not the self and the family. I took an oath as a Soldier to protect the Constitution and I take that oath seriously.
The ensuing text was taken from a post written by Mr. Grisham. When you are done ask yourself; "How well do I know my child's school administration and their agenda?"
I've learned a very important lesson the past few weeks: when you fight the school system, you might as well be fighting the mob.
In the past few weeks, I've seen a concerted effort by school officials, to include teachers and PTA representatives, to discredit and castigate me. They've contacted my employer. They've contacted other parents. They've tried to gain access to my Facebook page. They've commented on my blog posts. They've lied to police officers. They've lied to their superiors and they've lied to parents (or to kids, depending on how you want to look at it).
At a recent assembly, the principal of Williams Middle School told the children that they must now tuck in their shirts. The kids were made to tuck in their shirts on the spot. Those who couldn't tuck in their shirts because their pants were too tight or the short was too short, were made to unzip their pants in public to tuck them in. This is according to many children who came home later in the day and told their parents.
During that same meeting, the kids were told that if they voluntarily wore uniforms starting in January, that they would receive "special privileges." Among those were trips through the new school, obtaining snacks from a special vending machine or booth, and bringing electronics to school on Fridays. Additionally, in order to be one of the school ambassadors, the kids must agree to wear the school uniform. When I emailed the principal about this, she lied to me and told me it wasn't true. My kids weren't the only ones coming home and telling their parents what happened. I got calls and emails from at least a dozen other parents.
country. We are no longer allowed to speak up as opposition to the 'state'."
Some PTA members have contacted the police to try and force me to take down a video because during a small portion of the video the individual's son walks into camera view and she didn't give permission. There is nothing illegal about this, but the intent is simply to make trouble for someone calling out the school and PTA on illegal and unethical conduct. After a conversation with this parent last night, I've learned that she didn't even make this complaint. Someone within the school or PTA falsified a complaint to the police and used her name to do so.
Some so-called educators have begun leaving comments on my blog anonymously. Unlike them, I'm willing to stand up for myself without using fake names. I know that I am in the right here and I'm willing to stake my career on it. Interesting that those that disagree with me aren't willing to do the same thing.
This isn't just happening here. Dissent is being criminalized in this country. We are no longer allowed to speak up as opposition to "the state." If you do, you're considered racist, extremist, or worse (if that's possible). I still love my country and nothing will change that. I'm 100% committed to its defense and support.
Last night, I attended a meeting at my kids' school with the intent of discussing the principal's decision to go to school uniforms in the middle of the school year. The problem is that the principal didn't want to hear our concerns. She tried to shut me up and I think you all know what happens when someone tries to shut me up. Not only that, but she scheduled this meeting on the same evening as the school board meeting, so parents had no opportunity for recourse. About 10 parents tried to make it to the meeting before it ended, but we were too late as the school board is located on the opposite side of the city from the school.
The school administration's actions against Mr. Grisham are highly egregious and have exceeded the bounds of civility. Furthermore, to extend their maliciousness by aggressing Mr. Grisham on a private and personal level illustrates that they care little for individual liberty and the rights of the parent. Their (school administration) questionable actions have manifested legal concerns and they should be given their due consideration. Liberty Research Institute has not contacted the school administration for a response, but an effort will be made to do so. Whether they maintain some semblance of dignity and verity remains to be seen.