What do you do when your 15-year-old has a 1.22 grade point average, doesn't give a damn about school, and is dangerously on the verge of becoming yet another Black man caught up in an already overcrowded prison population should he continue his behavior? Aside from asking if his ass even goes to school, or is he mentally capable, what do you do? I tell you what you don't do; you don't sit around "Waiting for Superman". Like 33-year-old, Ronda Holder, you take matters into your own hands and send a message, like this:
Head hanging low, he stood near an East Tampa street corner for nearly four hours Wednesday afternoon.Oh yeah, there's always some expert willing to talk out of his or her ass about "effective parenting". And there's always some prick suddenly concerned about the actions of single black mothers enough so to call the man on them. Yep, these are the same idiots who wouldn't have said jack if this kid was white. Or who would be quick to question the whereabouts of his parents had his black ass gotten arrested doing dumb shit as some do? Oh how judgmental, are we?
James Mond III, 15, wore a sign around his neck with a message:
"I did 4 questions on my FCAT and said I wasn't going to do it … GPA 1.22 … honk if I need (an) education."
People honked. Lots of people.
This was his mother's idea. Ronda Holder, 33, a Tampa hair stylist, said she wanted James to realize the importance of an education, afraid he will otherwise wind up on the street.
"I don't want any of my kids to stand by the side of the road asking for change," said Holder, the niece of a former Tampa police chief.
By Thursday, her plan had a life of its own. A local TV crew turned James' punishment into evening news. Franklin Middle School enrolled the teen in after-school tutoring. The Department of Children and Families came to Holder's home to interview James.
DCF spokesman Terry Field said the punishment might legally be considered bizarre, a form of maltreatment.
Experts cautioned that the punishment was extreme and likely ineffective.
It was the mother's latest attempt to get her son to take his schoolwork seriously. Neither she nor the boy's father, James Mond Jr., finished high school.Oh wow, and his dad is involved? Holy shit! You mean this kid actually knows his father, and his father cared anough about his well being to attend the parent-teacher conference? Um, yeah, he must be a white man. And the father and mother never finished high school, but yet they want their son to do better? Un-friggin-real! You mean they're not just gonna accept mediocrity and failure as all poor black folks do? They actually want the best for their child?
She said they have offered James help, asked to see his homework, grounded him, lectured him and taken away his cell phone — all to no avail.
"He'd tell us, 'That school doesn't give homework' or 'That teacher has a problem with me,' " Mond Jr. said.
James did poorly in math, poorly in history.
But when his latest report card showed an F in physical education — James says he's "not an outdoor person" — things had gone too far.
Mond Jr. said he had a meeting Tuesday at Franklin Middle School with James, a teacher, the guidance counselor and the vice principal.
In that meeting, the eighth-grader offered none of the excuses he'd given his parents, Mond Jr. said.
"He just sat there looking up at the roof like he wasn't listening," his dad said.
Holder decided that was it. Using white poster board and a marker, she made the sign at home Wednesday, took it to Franklin and called her son out of class. She made him wear it as they exited the campus and then took him to the corner of E Hills?borough Avenue and N 22nd Street.
Child care experts said this may not be the way to reach him.Whatever expert; tell that to the judge who ordered a convicted shoplifter to stand on the street corner wearing a sign that said, "I stole from Wal-Mart". But I understand; poor black folks don't know any better.
"It definitely would fall within the category of emotional abuse. It's shame, embarrassment and humiliation. This will be a lifelong memory for him," said Arlinda Amos, a licensed clinical psychologist and ombudsman for the Hillsborough Children's Board.
"It's such an unfortunate strategy, and of course it's ineffective," said Dr. Peter Gorski, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the Hillsborough Children's Board and the University of South Florida.
"The key to motivating children is to balance responsibility with support, and balance is the important part."
The father feels he's done that.Oh so now this kid is gonna grow up to be emotionally fucked up because of what his mother did, right? So what if his GPA improves. What's important is his emotional stability when he gets older. I mean the last thing we'd like to see happen is this poor kid become a raging alcoholic strung out on crack all because his parents cared about his education just a tad bit too much.
"I talk to my son," said Mond Jr., 33, a landscaper from Tampa. "I told him he needs to go to the teachers and request extra homework for the weekends to try and pull his grades up."
The mother defends her actions.
She has six kids, all in school. The others get good grades, she said. Who's to say her idea won't work?
"They can't judge all children on just one thing," she said.
"If it doesn't work on one child, they don't know if it's going to work on this child. We'll see if it works."
James understands where his mother is coming from.I think the best thing that could have happened to this kid was that the news crew caught him out there. Nothing like being ridiculed or reminded by your friends for having to stand in public telling the world that you're a failure.
Still, if he had kids, he wouldn't use the tactic on them, he said.
"She was trying to teach me a lesson," he said. "I should have been working harder than I was in school."
He pledged to improve his grades if it freed him from the sign.
The principal said "he is a really sweet boy," said Linda Cobbe, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County School District.
People might wonder if James has a learning disability. He has never been tested, his mother said. Until the middle of seventh grade, his grades were fine.
On Thursday, amid attention over the sign, she got a letter from her son's history teacher claiming his grades are improving. He got a D on his last report card, she said.
Holder was glad the school offered him tutoring this week but couldn't hide her contempt that someone reported her to the DCF.
She said she fails to see how her fighting for her child's education falls into the category of child abuse.
"You can't resort to spanking," she said. "I want my child to have an education and have his children be able to look at him and say I can get an education, too."
People can criticize her all they like.
"This is one child who won't be lost to the streets."
I'm guessing standing on the corner for four hours with a sign soliciting your embarrassment at 15-years-old, is much better than the embarrassment of picking up trash in public while wearing prison gear when you're older.
Personally the tragicomedy of this woman's actions should be appreciated and not condemned. Bet hey, that's just me; and I damn sure ain't no clinical expert. I'm just a parent. And like Ronda Holder, I care about the education of my kids.
Question: What do you think about this mother's method of getting her kid on the right track? Is embarassing a child into doing better is school going to work, or is he only going to rebel? What would you suggest if this were your nephew?