As crazy as you thought the state of Alabama could be, it got crazier over the holidays, particularly in the education sector. The few states ranked below us in education must be pleased. 

Let’s start with the good. As a substitute teacher, I see educators who work so hard to teach children. They work with learners on all levels. They strive to help children who have significant learning differences and never give up. The best educators in our state make a difference every day in the classroom and our children are the beneficiaries of their care and hard work. 

Now for the bad and the crazy. While reading the 1819 News piece on Theron Stokes’ holiday advice to Alabama teachers a few weeks ago, I thought I was reading a parody. Surely this was a “Babylon Bee” piece! Up until that point, I didn’t realize the Alabama Education System (AEA) published a school journal to educators. Now I know that ignorance was bliss. 

As the AEA’s associate executive director, Stokes felt it crucial to remind teachers not to break the law over the holidays by getting DUIs, smoking cigaweed or sexually preying on their students. I’d really like to thank him for giving me a whole new set of fears as the parent of a child who attends public school. 

The man literally felt it necessary to remind teachers that Uber and taxis are great forms of transportation if they get bombed at parties! It’s none of my business if a teacher wants to drink at home or at a holiday party, but I trust that these ADULTS – who are responsible for teaching children – are capable of finding safe transportation home without reading it in a newsletter. 

But it gets better (which is code for worse). Another special AEA newsletter holiday tip for teachers was to not do illegal drugs. WHAT?! Is this a necessary reminder?? Do we have a bunch of illicit-drug-using teachers across the state? Should I be concerned that one of my son’s teachers has the munchies at school for any other reason than that they have no real time to eat there? So many questions from just this one bit of upsetting advice. 

And last – and certainly not least – came the disturbingly crazy instruction not to be a sexual predator. Don’t squint, you read that correctly. Stokes reminded Alabama educators not to “hook up” with their students. “Don’t … slide into their DMs” was his exact wording, and while he doesn’t “know the cure for loneliness” he knows sending inappropriate, sexually explicit messages to minors won’t cure it. Oh, and my favorite understatement was that doing so would put them “on Santa’s naughty list.” I’m pretty sure this is where my eyes started bleeding. 

As previously stated, I’ve known some exceedingly good, morally admirable teachers in my kids’ schools. Since that now covers a 20-year span, many of those teachers have retired. They are sorely missed. If the younger generation of Alabama teachers need the AEA’s holiday advice to not drink and drive, to not get caught smoking crack, and to date folks over the age of 18 that they DO NOT TEACH, then our state education system may indeed be doomed. No wonder Alabama state scores keep dropping! 

One more question: Is Stokes still employed by the AEA? After that ill-advised holiday newsletter debacle, I would think he would be quietly looking for employment elsewhere – like maybe Louisiana since they’re ranked behind even Alabama in education.   

Parents, I am one of you. I am sober, don’t use drugs and am married to a man who is 34 years older than 18. So, I implore you to wake up. Engage in your child’s learning and our state education system. It’s not like it was when we were growing up. Our parents got to coast a bit, but maybe that’s why we’re here now - sending out newsletters that instruct teachers on how to be law-abiding adults. It’s obviously way past time to be alert to educational materials, state and local curriculum, and the character of our state’s educators. 

And for heaven’s sake, check your kids’ DMs.

Kristin Landers is a substitute teacher and freelance writer. Landers’ previous work includes serving as Communications Director for the Alabama Policy Institute and working for Citizens Against a Legalized Lottery (CALL) to defeat legalized gambling in the state of Alabama.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected].

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