Have you heard of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Sounds weird to me, but maybe I have fallen behind the times. We have a student who claims to be an adherent of this “religion.” He says that every Friday is a holy day, so he should not have to come to school. Waddyathink? LOOKING OUT MY WINDOW—SEE NO SPAGHETTI MONSTER.
DEAR LOOKING OUT:
The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster was formed in 2005. It has a website: www.venganza.org. Adherents of this group call themselves “Pastafarians.” They believe that pirates were the original Pastafarians and were peaceful explorers who have been given a bad rap by Christians. Which makes us wonder if football coach and pirate expert, Mike Leach, is a Pastafarian. Pastafarians say that they are “fond of beer,” which hardly makes them unique among religious groups. Just ask any good Lutheran. They do, in fact, claim that every Friday is a Religious Holiday. However, this is not a matter of dogma or required adherence for them. In fact, the website tells us that “the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma. That is, there are no strict rules and regulations, there are no rote rituals and prayers and other nonsense.” You can become a Pastafarian minister, complete with a Certificate of Ordination with embossed gold foil seals for $20. The whole thing began with a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education which was thinking of calling for the teaching of “intelligent design” in the public schools, written by Bobby Henderson, a graduate student in physics at Oregon State University. So it looks like Bobby Henderson is to Pastafarians what Joseph Smith is to Mormons. Pastafarians insist that theirs is a real religion, no crazier than some of the others out there. But even if you buy that, they have no dogma, no “holy days of obligation.” Your Pastafarian student does not have a religious duty to not go to school on Friday. If he doesn’t show up, count him absent, unexcused. You can probably find him at the Spaghetti Warehouse.
I was reading over the latest guidance from the Office for Civil Rights on dealing with sexual harassment and violence. They have introduced a new term: “culturally competent counseling.” What exactly does this mean? If we are obligated to provide “culturally competent counseling,” how do we do that? Is there a matrix used to determine a counselor’s “cultural competence”? Are we going to get complaints from students and their parents that the counselor lacked “cultural competence”? ARE WE GOING TO CALL THIS CCC?
DEAR ARE WE GOING:
You are right about this (CCC) being a new term, and the Dawg is digging into it with enthusiasm. Let’s consider the context. This term appears in the OCR’s Q and A document. One of the questions asks how schools should respond to complaints of same-sex harassment. In the answer, OCR points out that Title IX covers claims of discrimination “based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” It’s in the response to that question that CCC is discussed: “In addition, a school should ensure that staff are capable of providing culturally competent counseling to all complainants.” So they are not talking about your familiarity with Italian opera, French impressionists or the sonnets of Shakespeare. They want to make sure that your staff will not be freaked out when they are dealing with gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual students. So we think the starting point should be to look for some common signs that a person is lacking in “cultural competence.” Here are a few that come to mind:
• The counselor who asks you “what does LGBT stand for?”
• The counselor who displays Duck Dynasty paraphernalia in the office.
• The counselor who does not know what “not that there’s anything wrong with that” means.
Can we put into a student’s behavior plan that “when he gets upset a teacher will give him a Big Ol’ Hug”? WE LIKE TO BE AFFECTIONATE AROUND HERE.
DEAR WE LIKE TO BE:
Well, there is nothing in the law that spells out what you are supposed to put into a behavior plan other than it is supposed to be “positive behavioral interventions and supports, and other strategies to address that behavior.” A Big Ol’ Hug is certainly positive. The content of the behavior plan should be discussed with the parent, and agreed to. So if the parent is OK with this, and the educators think this would be an effective intervention, we see no problem with it. Obviously a Big Ol’ Hug can become inappropriate, but we trust that your staff has the good sense to take that into account. Contrary to the beliefs of many, there is nothing in the law that prohibits teachers from being physically affectionate with students. You just have to use good judgment about it.
Praise God we have reached the end of another school year! What should administrators do over the summer break to re-energize? NEED A BREAK.
DEAR NEED A:
Go swimming. Read a trashy novel. Catch up on “House of Cards.” See a baseball game. And pre-order the 8th Edition of The Educator’s Guide to Texas School Law, now available at UT Press!
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