Education

Letter saying kids must pay to use paper in class causes uproar. Then principal explains.

An authentic-looking letter that caused a ruckus at Tates Creek Middle School was on school stationery and signed by the principal.
An authentic-looking letter that caused a ruckus at Tates Creek Middle School was on school stationery and signed by the principal. lkiser@herald-leader.com

A letter telling parents at Lexington’s Tates Creek Middle School that students would be charged 10 cents for each page of paper they use caused a social media uproar Wednesday until the principal explained that it was not real.

The letter was a social studies assignment on taxation without representation and The Stamp Act, Principal Eric Thornsbury said after receiving inquiries from parents Wednesday morning.

The Stamp Act of 1765 was imposed on American colonists by the British government. It was a tax on paper documents in the colonies.

The authentic-looking letter that caused the ruckus was on school stationery and signed by Thornsbury.

It said in part, “Starting on January 3, 2019, all Tates Creek Middle School students will be charged ten cents per piece of copy paper given.”

“The teacher will track the cost ... and turn in the money every day to help cover the cost of paper and copier maintenance. If the student chooses not to pay, he/she will get an incomplete on the assignment, even if it is an achievement grade.” the letter said. “I regret that Tates Creek Middle School must resort to making students and families pay for their paper and copies but due to the budget cuts and struggling economy, there was no other solution.”

After Thornsbury began to hear from parents, he sent an email to the staff at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday that said, “Our message is very clear. No, we are not charging students for paper...”

“Each year our 8th grade (social studies) teachers teach about the Stamp Act and use a letter that states we are going to charge students for paper use,” the email to staff said. “Unfortunately, times have changed and this letter is being spread all over Facebook ... .”

Thornsbury said that after students receive the letter, he enters the classroom and tells the eighth graders that the letter is an attempt to teach them about taxation. But he said at least one student who received the letter took a cell phone photo of it and sent it to their parent before Thornsbury could explain otherwise and parents distributed the letter on social media “as if it was fact.”

Thornsbury said the emotion that the letter evoked from students to be more proactive was just the kind of “real world connection” that educators want.: “Any time the government talks about taxes, we all listen.”

Nonetheless, social studies teachers contacted parents to clear up the confusion.

Will the assignment be taught again?

“It is something that we are going to have to reflect on and maybe refine, but I think there’s lots of lessons that can be learned from it,” Thornsbury said.

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