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Sioux Falls Schools May Ban Teachers’ Children from Classrooms After School

Teachers around South Dakota commonly have their kids—not their students, but the children in their family—come to their classrooms after school. Like several other teachers, I did it occasionally in Spearfish. If my wife was away, our little one would ride the bus from West Elementary to Spearfish High School and come to my classroom while I finished work for the day. She'd look at books or color while I graded papers, typed up lesson plans, and helped students with homework. Instead of paying for her to sit in a noisy daycare for an hour, I could have her come sit in a relatively quiet educational environment under parental supervision. Having her come to my classroom also meant I could relax and stay at school to work longer than I would have if I were worried about leaving the moment the contract workday ended to retrieve her from paid daycare. You tell me which option makes more sense.

The Sioux Falls School District, however, is considering banning this practice. After extending the teachers' workday 30 minutes this year, Sioux Falls would further put the screws to its teachers under the guise of insurance liability. Superintendent Pam Homan sounds like she's inclined to spend more money on the more complicated solution of expanding the district's Kids Inc. after-school program, which currently operates only at some schools and would require teachers to pay for the care they can currently, safely, provide for free.

Lennox teacher Michael Larson says banning teachers' kids during work hours is counter-productive:

So you have a situation where no one is seems to really be complaining and it allows workers to stay longer.

I have two boys, very active boys, and they hang out with me when I am at school working from time to time. Usually they come in the evening when I will have debate practice with students, help with volleyball games, or do some extra work. The students on my debate team have a blast with the boys around. Now when they see them at games, the kids love to come up to them and say hi! Now Sioux Falls claims that the policy does not include time served at the building before 7:30 or after 4:00, but if the issue is liability then wouldn't a student in the building at 4:05 be just as big as a liability issue?

Even if Sioux Falls does put bogus fears of liability over decency and common sense, perhaps teachers can work around it. I assume other district students will still be free to come to teachers' rooms. The students who dropped by my French classroom at Spearfish weren't always French students. Sometimes debaters would bring questions about their cases. Sometimes students would bring English papers or college applications for me to proof. Sometimes they might just stop in looking for a quiet place to work.

Suppose a Sioux Falls teacher has her child in class. Suppose that child has a question about her homework. I can't imagine Sioux Falls could ban a teacher's child from seeking after-school homework assistance from her teacher while allowing other students to come for help. At that point, teacher moms and dads, you declare that your children are coming to your room as students, just as any other student in the district is authorized and encouraged to do, and the ban becomes unenforceable.

Having kids come to their classroom makes teachers' lives easier without costing the school district a penny. No one's education is harmed. Teachers' kids get to spend more time with their parents in a safe environment, and students may find their teachers more available after school. Sioux Falls School Board, stop looking for problems where there are none. Get off your teachers' backs and let them serve their own children and your students better.


  1. Joan Williams 2013.09.15

    "...bogus fears of liability over decency and common sense" explains a lot of issues. This is really unnecessary, another solution in search of a problem.

  2. Kal Lis 2013.09.15

    I am getting too cynical for my own good, but I would bet the back forty and an outhouse that has full service plumbing that this issue arose because somone who's part of a school board member's coffe klatch or a participant in an administrator's Tuesday night poker game complained about some unnamed teacher paying too much attention to the teacher's own child after school.

  3. John 2013.09.15

    Where is the line drawn . . . for the school, community, or state? It's one thing if the teacher's student child is in a public place in the school (commons, lunch room, library) quietly doing homework awaiting for teacher parent to wrap up; while it's another thing if the student child is in the teacher parent's classroom while the teacher is on duty - that's a professional conflict of interest. How about those teacher / coaches kids - do they ride the bus to out-of-town games? They darn sure do at USD - interstate bus rides for minor children not of school age, they run around in truck stop parking lots, in restaurants, motels, in the ditch when the bus breaks down at night along rural interstates; when not endangering themselves they keep the student athletes awake interrupting their study or rest. Where does the school, community, state draw the line - do cops, firemen, and national guard pilots take their kid to work? There is lots of willfully blind leadership allowing this to occur in manners exposing schools, communities, and the state to needless liability.

  4. grudznick 2013.09.15

    Teachers and administrators don't play poker. They don't have the stomach for it. I say teachers need to pay their own way just like everybody else. When the libbie whiners stop bitching about this and advocate that the minimum wage earners at Hardees should get to babysit their kids in the back booth then I'll listen. Otherwise, I am slamming the door on your idea and hereby ban it.

  5. Joan 2013.09.15

    One purpose of teachers staying after school hours is so that if a parent wants to come in to discuss a problem, anyway that is the way it was when I taught, We had to be at the school by 8:00AM, school started at 8:30, and we had to stay until 4:00PM, with school getting out at 3:30, specifically for the reason of being there in case a parent wanted to talk to us. Another thing is there might be a student or more that needs to be tutored after school. Until every working parent in SF can have their kids with them after school, I don't think teachers should be able to.

  6. grudznick 2013.09.15

    So 9 months a year, and only working 8 until 4 in a cushy air conditioned job. AND they want to keep their kids in their work environment to save a few bucks. I don't often agree with Ms. Homan, but when I do it's with a sardine in my free school lunch.

  7. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.15

    I didn't realize there were so many scrooges against family life if it happens to involve a teacher.

  8. grudznick 2013.09.15

    Indeed, Mr. Wiken.

  9. Michael Black 2013.09.15

    A really good teacher does not just put in extra hours to put in extra hours. They do it to provide the best education they can for their students. While teachers do enjoy the benefit of having time in the summer, most will average 60+ hours a week during the school year.

  10. grudznick 2013.09.15

    Really good workers everywhere put in extra hours every week of the year and they do it to provide the best "fill in the blank" that they can. They do not unionize and whine and demand more money for just doing their jobs and THEN throw a tantrum because they can't carryout personal day-care in their offices.

  11. Nick Nemec 2013.09.15

    Calm down grudznick, you're protesting a little too hard. By definition any school teacher's school aged kid waiting for their parent-teacher would be school age and presumably well behaved. If they are running around like a holy terror give a warning to the parent and second offense that kid can't stay after school in their parents room. Problem solved.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.15

    John, it's no more of a conflict of interest than when a teacher or principal almost inevitably supervises his or her child in an official capacity. The status quo offers a perfectly viable, no-cost solution. Nick's common sense gets the job done.

  13. grudznick 2013.09.15

    Mr. Nemec, perhaps you are correct. It's probably no big deal anywhere if kids hang out in classrooms after school even if it is their mom running the room. Maybe that's even better.

    I stand corrected.

  14. John 2013.09.15

    Cory, the difference is . . . in an official capacity . . . when the liability is on the school, community, or state. Which is why my suggestion that the teacher's-student-child-not-in-an-official-capacity be in a common area of the school open to all and not in the classroom or office of the parent while the parent is on duty - that protects the teacher, the school and community. I can't imagine my teacher-grandparents or my son would do otherwise.

  15. MJL 2013.09.15

    John: In an official capacity? I spent many hours with my father at the local grain elevator because there wasn't an opportunity for daycare, and hey, I could do it. If he had to tend to something, I just hung out and did homework or coloring. How about farm kids that help out their parents on the farm in an official capacity? Is that an issue of liability that needs to be monitored and banned? I think we need to get Kristi Noem on this pronto!

    Very seldom do my boys hang with me right after school. It may only happen when daycare is closed, but I actually know teachers whose students do spend time in their parent's room. What does the teacher need protection from when he or she is on "duty." What happens when that teacher is monitoring recess and his or her son want to ask a question or heave help tying his or her shoe? There is less of a liability issue with a student that can work quietly in your room while you are getting things done.

    I think the biggest problem with the issue is that real teachers can show others time and time again that these liability issues simply don't come up and if they did, excluding children from hanging out in mom or dad's room for 30 minutes while they get correct some papers and maybe run to the bathroom or office is no more of risk than you working outside while your child is inside reading a book or playing on the Xbox.

  16. Troy Jones 2013.09.16

    There should be no "one size fits all."

    If the teacher's principal deems the child doesn't distract the teacher in the performance of duties/preparation or inhibit other legitimate matters (availability to other students or parents), the teacher should be able to have their child in the classroom. If the principal deems otherwise, the teacher has to find alternative care for the child.

    Just another example of where we either don't allow managers (principals) to manage or we doubt their ability. Whatever the case, we need to fix the problem and not the symptom (creating "one size fits all" policies that remove discretion in management).

  17. Michael Black 2013.09.16

    Is this an insurance issue or has an administrator have an agenda?

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.16

    I like Troy's managerial approach. We don't need a new policy to define the teacher's duties. A good principal can tell if a teacher's actions are detrimental to the performance of their duties and can intervene if necessary. Having one's own kids in the classroom after class is most of the time not a problem. Teachers can monitor themselves as well: they know when they have meetings coming and need to make alternative arrangements.

  19. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.16

    We have "in loco parentis" policies, but real parenting in the school room should be forbidden? Somehow both claiming a teacher is able to act as a parent for other people's children, but not their own seems senseless.

    There are too many principal's without principles who are lazy and nearly useless overpaid redundant bureaucrats interested only in making their own jobs easier without regard to the inconvenience to parents or teachers.

    My wife reminded me of a day in her elementary school days when she was in first or second grade. A sudden blizzard hit Winner. The school administrator response was to close the school and run the kids out into the storm without regard to whether or not they had a ride home with parents or others. Obviously she made it home, but remembering 1952 or 53 and retaining a distaste for school administrators ever since indicates that day of administrative incompetence made an impression on her.

  20. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.09.16

    I too am shocked at the responses which sound punitive and angry. For pete's sake folks!

    When I taught in the late 70s in small town SD, teacher's children always hung around school after it was out for the day. It was not remarkable in any way. There was one kid who was a brat. His mother kept him in her classroom until they left. Other teacher's kids watched sports practice, did homework, chatted with friends, etc.

    It seems to me that this is simply a case of people using smart economic sense to manage their budget. Instead of growling at them, leave them alone. Teachers, and others, have jobs that enable them to do this. So of course they should. It's a no-brainer.

  21. John 2013.09.16

    MJL, geez, grain elevators, farms, and the like are private enterprises or at least are not public - they assume the risk and the risk is not socialized to the taxpayers. Where does the community or school draw the line for liability - do the cop's kiddies ride along while she completes her shift? Once again in the absence of proper management the insurance companies will eventually fill the void by drafting policies excluding coverage for babysitting at the worksite, for if anything untold happens to the babysat - it's not in the schools or the community's "line of duty" to cover a death or disability. Ask whether its in the teacher's contract or duty description - if not, then its likely outside the line of duty so any liability falls on the parent, not the school, not the taxpayers.
    You gain nothing by maligning the messenger.

  22. JoeBoo 2013.09.16

    I'm a teacher, first of all anyone who thinks its a 8 to 4 job is kidding themselves. To be a decent teacher it is much more than that.

    I do understand why they would create this rule. If you are under contract, are you fulfilling your contracted duties if your kid(s) are in the classroom with you?

    I've seen it both ways with teachers, I've seen it where they are still productive, I've seen it where they are not. I've seen it where teachers are not productive, whether they have kids with them or not

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.17

    The police analogy is silly. School is the safest place for any child to be. Any student could come in my classroom after school to work on homework or ask questions; why deny that opportunity to my own children?

  24. Joan 2013.09.18

    When did it become common policy that elementary school teachers spend so many hours a day at the school? It wasn't that way when I was a student and when I taught school in the 60s. I can't figure out why that is necessary, because the teachers now don't teach everything like they used to. Now they have separate art, music, and gym teachers. Plus they don't have to spend every minute of the day with their students. We had to be outside on the playground, with our class, when our kids were out there. The teachers that had kids attending the same school didn't have their kids hanging around after school. They either walked home or rode the school bus home, their wasn't any hanging around waiting for a ride home with the parents.

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