US Students required to smile at Pennsylvania school — or else

21:32  16 may  2018
21:32  16 may  2018 Source:   nydailynews.com

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School requires smiling in between classes, teen says — or students get sent to office. A teen in Pennsylvania 's Northern Lebanon School District claims students must smile between classes or else .

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Turn that frown upside down — or else.

Northern Lebanon School District students in Pennsylvania must smile while walking the school’s hallways or they will be punished, according to a report.

Students who don’t wear smiles on their faces between classes will be asked to do so, and if they refuse, they will be sent to discuss their problems with a guidance counselor, according to the Lebanon Daily News.

Parents say the policy is misguided, and that administrators should instead focus their efforts on combatting bullying in the district.

The rule has not yet been written into school policy, but has been strictly enforced by assistant high school principal Benjamin Wenger, according to the report.

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Jean Gundrum, whose 15-year-old daughter Julianna Gundrum is a student at the school district, said she’s pulled her daughter out of school since the policy was instated.

“If you don’t (smile) you get called to the office or down to see your guidance counselor,” she told the Lebanon Daily News. “You have to talk about your problems then. You have to or you get detention,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gundrum claims the school has ignored reports of bullying and harassment.

Superintendent Erik Bentzel denied the claims.

“We fully investigate every report of bullying,” he said. “But, we can’ tell (both sets of parents) about the consequences — I can’t talk to (a parent) about another (parent’s) child,” he said, according to the Lebanon Daily News.

Gundrum claims her 14-year-old daughter, Adreanna, was bullied at the start of the school year.

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“First it was on social media then it rolled over into school,” she said.

Education expert Dr. Steve Imber, a certified school psychologist and special educator, said he applauds any effort by administrators to increase students’ happiness, but that forcing students to smile doesn’t accomplish that goal.

“If they are trying to have kids feel good, then that’s wonderful,” he said.

“However I think if that’s true, that students are being required to smile subject to the consequence of having to see a guidance counselor to find out what their problem is, then I think the district, in its desire to create a positive environment, has gone too far.”

He said students should be free to express how they really feel.

“They should not be required to walk around the hallway smiling if that’s not how they are feeling,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s appropriate to refer a student to a guidance counselor. It’s not healthy and may result in doing the opposite of what I suspect administrators are trying to accomplish.”

He added that that policy could even violate students’ right to freedom of expression.

“They are saying the student has to say I am happy, they are imposing a requirement. It comes down to freedom of expression. It says regardless of how you feel, you should act like everything is fine, everything is good.”

Superintendent Bentzel said there is no truth to claims that administrators are forcing students to smile.

"We under no circumstances would ever force our students to smile," he said.

"Do we like to see our kids smile? Of course. But there is absolutely no policy, written or unwritten, that our kids have to smile."

He called the alleged policy "ridiculous" and said that no student has ever been issued a detention for not smiling.

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