The mother of an incoming kindergartner in Connecticut has persuaded officials to revise their school forms after speaking out about a question that she says got too personal. The inquiry: “Type of birth: Vaginal__ Cesarean__.”
Cara Paiuk was at an introductory event for her son’s upcoming kindergarten class at Aiken Elementary School in West Hartford when she and her husband were handed a packet of forms to fill out. As her husband began to answer questions, Paiuk says she noticed one particularly alarming request for information. The question, in a section about “birth history,” asked whether her son was delivered vaginally or via C-section. “I ripped it out of his hands and said, ‘You can’t answer that, it’s none of their business,’” Paiuk tells Yahoo Parenting. “This is kindergarten, and they want to know about my vagina! I don’t understand — there’s no correlation between the two for me.”
This school form, which Cara Paiuk refused to fill out, asks all parents of incoming kindergartners about the child’s type of birth. (Photo: Cara Paiuk)
Paiuk says she wanted to speak out about the question at the April meeting but was hesitant to make a stink before her son had even entered the school. “The teachers were there and they were checking out the parents as much as we were them,” she says.
A few days later, Paiuk, who wrote about the incident in a recent New York Times essay, called the school district and was told by a nurse that if there were any birth traumas — like the umbilical cord being wrapped around a child’s neck or an emergency C-section — they needed to know. That way, if the child presented with any issues at school, teachers or administrators could refer to the form. “I thought it was BS,” Paiuk says. “Yes, birth trauma can result in developmental delays or disability, but that can happen through vaginal birth or a C-section. And if there are delays or disabilities, shouldn’t that be diagnosed by a doctor, not an administrator? Wouldn’t it be crazy if I thought something was wrong with your child and went back and looked at a form and said ‘Oh, it’s because she had a C-section’?”
Paiuk was directed to the school’s outside medical adviser, who said the form had been used for at least 20 years and that Paiuk’s was the first complaint he’d received. “Let’s say it was added 30 years ago, there weren’t that many C-sections then, so maybe it might have been indicative of a birth trauma,” Paiuk says. “You might have been able to justify the question 30 years ago. But now there’s such a higher rate of C-sections that it’s not immediately indicative of birth trauma or developmental delay. The fact that this has continued for all these years just tells me that people are blindly filling out forms these days.”
While it’s not unusual for schools to require information about incoming students, the questions asked on those admission forms are not universal. Still, Paiuk says she’s heard from mothers in other states who’ve been asked to answer the same question, and have complied.
West Hartford Schools Superintendent Thomas Moore told Yahoo Parenting he intends to reevaluate all school forms for the next batch of incoming parents. “This question has been on our questionnaire for at least 20 years, and thousands of people have filled it out and not noticed it or brought it up. The best I can say is that the question was put on years ago so that we could identify any possible trauma,” Moore says. “But I’ve asked principals and teachers if they’ve referred to it, and they said they didn’t even really know the question was there. So we are going to review all our forms, and questions that don’t seem to help us get to know kids or educate kids will be changed or eliminated.”
Moore says he was glad that Paiuk pointed out the question, as even he — as a parent to two students in the district — hadn’t particularly noticed it. “Discussions with parents are important to me, and the last thing I want to do is make people feel their first tie-in with our school is in any way intrusive,” he says. “I don’t believe it was anything nefarious when the question was first asked. But did it ever have any real utility? Maybe it did, but it doesn’t now, so there’s no reason to have it anymore.”
Though Paiuk has still not filled out the form, and says she refuses to do so, her son will still be attending kindergarten at Aiken Elementary in the fall. “This isn’t even about my son,” she says. “It’s about mothers and it’s about privacy and it’s about looking at what you’re filling out and thinking about who it’s going to. If you want to fill out these kinds of questions, fine, but think about it.”
(Top photo: Cara Paiuk/Facebook)
Yahoo Parenting has chosen this story, originally published on July 1, as an example of one of our best of 2015.