Parents upset after Merced elementary teacher asks students to shave his face
Young girls say teacher had them shave his beard, then told them not to tell anyone about it.
BY DANIELLE GAINES
Although the events occurred in the third week of November, a letter from Principal Nolan Harris about his investigation wasn't sent home until Dec. 12. It read, in part:
"As you may be aware, the last week before the Thanksgiving break, Mr. McLane had the class participate in a face-shaving activity with an electric razor as a story starter for a writing assignment. He later instructed the students that if they told they would not have a Christmas Party. Needless to say, that instruction was inappropriate and was not well received by several parents, staff or the Administration. On behalf of myself and the District, we want to apologize to the students and parents."
The rest of the letter seems to emphasize the inappropriateness of the threat about the Christmas party -- not about the face-shaving itself.
Dr. Julia Johnson, a licensed educational psychologist in Southern California, said the event could lead to deep anxiety and confusion among the children in the classroom.
Johnson said the children are told from a young age to trust and respect their teacher. "That's why this classroom situation is so significant. This teacher, to them, is the embodiment of trust," Johnson said. "He's using manipulation, and this whole ethic of trust is completely obliterated.
"In the school day, most of our kids are educated, are taught, about 'stranger danger' to keep them safe. When they hear somebody tell them, 'It's our secret. This is our secret, don't tell anyone,' alarms go off. But this is coming from the teacher, so this is confusing to them."
Depending on the child, that confusion can manifest in different ways. Some kids may feel an intense anxiety, Johnson said.
"If kids have heightened anxiety, then they aren't going to be able to engage their memory and cognitive processes and they are not going to do as well in the classroom," she said.
As far as the actual act of face shaving, Johnson said it may not resonate as an inappropriate act as strongly with children as it does with adults.
One big question remains unanswered, Johnson said:
"What was he getting out of this?"