Beware of little old ladies in tennis shoes, wearing iPods!

anne-petersonBeware of little old ladies in tennis shoes, wearing iPods!

That’s the message I (a little old lady in tennis shoes and iPod) received today at my neighborhood school, where I was enjoying a  morning constitutional, as I have many times over the years….

“Ma’am, ah, ma’am,” a school staffer called. “… You’re not allowed on campus when the children are here.”  

“WHAT?” said I, a 40-year resident of the neighborhood, a tireless school volunteer during the 10 years my children attended that school, and the wife of a school board member.  (I say this not because I expect any special consideration as a result, but just to underscore the absurdity of  the situation.)

“You could sign in at the office,” she offered.  “Don’t worry, I won’t be back,” I answered with a mix of sadness and anger.

OK. OK I get it; she was only ‘following orders.’  There have been unspeakable tragedies involving schools and crazy people and guns and nothing is more important than keeping our children safe.  But the sad fact is that an evil-doer could sign in at the office and still do great harm with a concealed weapon.  Remember the Columbine shooters?

So what’s the answer?  More staff  to enforce the rules?  More rules to ‘protect’ the staff and children?  How about metal detectors in every classroom?  More taxes? Fewer taxes?

Do the ‘socialists’ have a plan to deal with the ways in which we marginalize each other in the name of  some perceived greater good ?   Do the Tea Partiers?

It’s a sad commentary on our crazy, paranoid, polarized world when little old ladies in tennis shoes are as welcome on school campuses as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is in lower Manhattan.

Anne Peterson was a journalist at the R-S in her 20′, full-time mom in her 30s, full-time public school speech pathologist in her 40s and 50s, part-time instructor at National University and Shasta College in her early 60s … and currently a full-time grandmother of five.

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Judy Smith says:

    Funny…..Doni and I had a similar experience walking the Sequoia Middle School Track. We ARE pretty scary lookin'. But it is a sad commentary on our times.

    • Avatar sandi says:

      Judy, I remember when you were at Sequoia daily–what a god-send you were with all the help and volunteering. Yup, sad commentary, but the world, Redding and Sequoia are much different today.

  2. Avatar Marilyn Adam says:

    There are too damn many rules and regulations so that folks are just ignoring them….now the SF Board of Supes has banned the sale of Happy Meals and the food police keep a simple pleasure away from kids – we took our kids to Micky D's once a week when they were in school as a reward for jobs well done. They saved every toy for years. What's next?

    What is your pet peeve about regulations and rules?

    (And Anne – you hardly look like a little old lady – you are fit and trim and look great!)

  3. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    You look scary to me! Are you sure that's not a detonator in your hand? There have been a lot of suicide bombings by little old ladies in Redding, lately, you know.

  4. Avatar Judy Salter says:

    I got hit by the school in my neighborhood too.

  5. Avatar Erin Friedman says:

    One of the many reasons our family chooses homeschooling: We don't have to abide by arbitrary, ridiculous rules. Little old ladies – who can be valuable role models — are ALWAYS welcome on our campus. 😉

  6. Avatar Budd Hodges says:

    Well Anne, ha, Didn't the Office of Homeland Security, FBI. DOJ and the PTA send out a notice to be aware of little 'ol ladies in tennis shoes invading and encroaching school property? Because they might be carrying weapons of mass distruction and a part of the Gihad.

    I think the administration owes you a big apology and should offer you a lifetime pass.

  7. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    I got kicked off the basketball court of my old elementary school when I was just out of high school and working the night shift at a factory. It surprised me but it was completely understandable. The schools belong to the kids during the school year and school hours.

    Thnking that you deserve special consideration to use something you have no right to use or be at. You don't demand to walk at the Mt. Shasta Mall after hours do you?

  8. Avatar Mike Stuart says:


    I understand your complaint, but it is not unreasonable for you to check in at the office. You know as well as I that it is not so simple. If I was the admin there I would give you a pass for the year and renew it the following years for you to help make the case for you to be on campus and have a process to allow some people on and others not. I may just make you a school volunteer to let us know if any "scary" people were on campus. Nice looking people are allowed but not "scary" ones. Now, how do I describe what a "scary" person looks like that parents of our students would not want on campus? For you and I we know it when we see it, but how is that definition put into policy for schools to follow? Sure enough, if we define a "scary" person, the folks in the community who fit the description are showing up to a board meeting with their ACLU lawyer and media (who love this kind of thing) to complain about the district being discriminatory, stereotyping adults and probably students as well. In fact they will probably bring a sobbing student to the board meeting crying about their dad, uncle, neighbor and also them being discriminated against because of this policy. In fact, the student will state, the discrimination is why they are failing all of their classes.
    These folks will want to know who made the policy, who voted on it and all involved are discriminatory. The Board should be recalled and the Superintendent and school Principal fired! So, we allow everyone on campus or no one? If we allow someone on campus that harasses or scares a student we get a lawsuit for not having a policy that keeps adults off campus.
    Anyway you get the point. I know this sounds a bit far fetched and silly to those not involved in schools, but this kind of thing happens too often. How do we have policies that protect students and also leave room for common sense? What seems to non- school people like a no brainer has consequences that burn time and resources of schools. I have seen so many of these kinds of instances when the right thing is done (letting nice ladies on campus) that just explodes into something really ugly. I imagine Redding was a very different place 40 years ago. Too bad some things have changed.
    Thanks for being one of the non scary and nice people who should at least be able to walk on campus.

  9. Avatar Judy Smith says:

    I would like you to think about one thing…Ted Bundy. Lets see, he was handsome, articulate and suave. At least that's what his 29 victims thought. How can anyone be expected to identify a person of potiental threat. I for one thank the school employee for following protocol. I would much rather have your "feelings" hurt Anne, than a child hurt.

  10. Avatar Judy Smith says:

    Please note that the last message is a different "Judy Smith" than the first comment submitted.

  11. Avatar Valerie Kumra says:

    You can come power walk through our school ANY time, Anne! That is, if you can make it past the little old lady in the security booth. 😉

  12. Avatar Damon Miller says:

    It is unfortunate it has come to this, but I blame the "Won't SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN" crowd instead of "socialists." Really, socialists? You think socialists are out to… what, socialize public education?

    Also, every time Mr. Stuart posts, I'm filled with sympathy for the hardworking teachers who had to deal with such an authoritarian martinet for so many years in the course of their duties. Darn that ACLU, protecting our rights and liberties!

  13. Avatar mike stuart says:

    I really appreciate and enjoy reading the blogs on News Cafe as they exhibit good public discourse, frequent humor, kindness and principled disagreement sometimes without the personal attacks found in the daily newspaper's blogs. Citizens engaging in current events with class @dignity is inspiring

  14. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyde says:

    Sorry Anne, but Mike Stuart makes perfect sense to someone working in the trenches.

    If you walked on my campus during school hours, someone would know it, call it in and find out who you were and what you were doing here. And I would be thankful that the rules were followed. We don't care what anyone "looks like".

    The student who was "going to make me sorry" is now behind bars facing a murder charge, the gang retaliation promised against a student was thwarted by law enforcement, and that homeless man who was sleeping on the bench was safely escorted to another venue. And no student has been kidnapped from our campus. Not one. And there have been attempts.

    Making a safe haven for our students is foremost in our minds. It's not "ridiculous or arbitrary" to control the environment in which our students work.

    (After school hours, feel free to use the dirt track and old basketball courts.)

  15. Avatar Joanne Lobeski-Snyde says:

    P.S. School's, during school hours, have never been free range in my long life-time. In my culture, you don't go on school grounds unless you get a "free to visit" pass from the office. This is not political. It's not personal. And it works so well that we don't need more security, metal detectors or increased taxes.

  16. Avatar Bea says:

    No strangers on campus during school hours. No special treatment because of your supposed status in community.