School Hosts End Of The Year Carnival, But Only For Kids Whose Parents Could Pay

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lyrk8For school-aged kids, the end of the school year means celebrations with friends and a chance to blow off some spring-fever steam. Conversely, for the kids at P.S. 120 in Queens, New York, the end of the school year has turned out to be a great opportunity for a little good old-fashioned poverty-shaming.

P.S. 120 held its yearly carnival on Friday, sponsored by the school’s parent association, and tickets to the on-campus event cost $10. Dropping a Hamilton on a school party is a big ask for a lot of families; especially, potentially, for the large population of working-class Chinese immigrants whose children attend P.S. 120. So what happened to the hundred or so students whose parents couldn’t afford the $10 fee, or who simply didn’t understand the request on the permission slip? They were shown into the school auditorium to watch old Disney movies, while still within earshot of the whoops of joy and laughter of their classmates at the carnival. Truly, nothing brings a school together like dividing it up based on how much money students’ parents have.

To add insult to injury (or rather, to add injury to injury, since these are seven-year-olds we’re talking about), the school principal sent a bag of small stuffed animals to each classroom to be handed out — only to the students with carnival tickets. At least one teacher refused to hand out the prizes until she could buy extra so that she’d have enough for all the students in her classroom. There were still kids in the school crying and wondering if they were being punished, or if their parents didn’t care about them, which is a really terrific outcome for an end-of-the-year celebration. An end-of-the-year celebration that, by the by, still turned a profit of around $2,000 according to the PTA president. School fundraising is great, but not when it divides students against each other based on the contents of their parents’ wallets.

According to the teacher, the principal didn’t want to let all the kids attend because it wouldn’t be fair to the parents who had paid. When I was a teacher, I remember having a lot of discussions with my students about that loaded little word: “fair”. I’m not a big fan of the concept of fairness — I prefer that wonderful human invention called justice. My high school students were able to come to grips with the idea that what was right was not always what looked equal on the surface. So why is an elementary school principal having so much trouble with that?

(Image: Lee Barnwell / Hemera / Getty)