Saturday, September 24, 2016

HILLENDALE: Our litigious society

I'm joining the chorus of community outrage in the wake of a parent's civil suit accusing Hillendale Elementary School principal Steve Dissinger of, essentially, rigging a PTO election.
Where do I even start?
First of all, I have a hard time believing that "Mr. D" would take part in any hanky-panky like this. The Young Relative attended Hillendale for six years. Every time we saw Mr. D at holiday concerts, the Halloween parade, back-to-school night, the Wax Museum, the Veterans' Day ceremony, the Milking Contest, and innumerable other school and district events, my entire family was impressed with his enthusiasm, energy, competence, and kindness, and his affection for and rapport with every single kid. "We didn't have principals like that in my day!" my father would say in amazement. The personal stress this must be causing him is discouraging to think about.
Second, I'm baffled as to why the mother of Hillendale pupils would file a lawsuit over a petty issue like a PTO election. She is an attorney, and members of the Bar usually have a pretty shrewd understanding of human nature. She must have known the fallout this would create for herself and, more importantly, for her children. As one parent said to me, "No parent will want to have them over if their mom is a sue-happy attorney."
Third, the lawsuit is going to have a chilling effect on the number of people willing to volunteer (already a dwindling number in every organization). Who is going to risk getting sued over some trivial disagreement?
Fourth, the PTO now has a line item for legal expenses in its budget. Hard-earned money that should be going toward kids' programs, not to mention taxpayers' dollars, is going instead to pay for lawyers to defend against the suit.
The one bright spot here is the fact that dozens of parents and community members have come out to show their appreciation for Mr. D and Hillendale; as one parent said to me, "she is actually pulling people together in their support of HES!"
We try to teach our kids that sometimes you have to stand up for what's right, even if it's unpopular and you get grief for it. This, however, is not one of those causes. Let's hope the woman sees sense and drops her lawsuit.

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