Updated — Bill Would Replace ‘Negative Labels’ with ‘Kids at Hope’

12:33 p.m.: This bill (Download PDF) came to my attention through Peter Callaghan on the (Tacoma) News Tribune’s Political Buzz site.

Nine Democrats, including state Sen. Derek Kilmer of Gig Harbor, want to remove references in state law they believe cast negative labels on children. From the bill:

“The legislature finds that too often children are labeled in a negative context because of these differences. Such negative labels can be devastating to children by making them feel defeated and helpless about what the negative label says about them. The use of negative labels creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that many adults unconsciously adopt. The legislature further finds that it needs to redesign the negative labels, especially those labels that the state uses for children. The legislature finds that instead of the negative labels such as “at-risk,” “in-poverty,” “from-poverty,” and “disadvantaged,” a positive characterization should be used. Using a positive descriptor will help children to see themselves differently and help adults more accurately define a child’s capacity. If the state is going to label these children then the state must label to enable the children to have hope.”

The new term: Kids at hope.

3:24 p.m.: Kilmer called. He said he signed on to the bill, because he was told by the sponsor (Rosa Franklin) that this was something important to the Boys and Girls Club. In fact, if you go to the Bremerton Boys and Girls Club site, you see that the kids there do the “Kids at Hope” pledge every day.

“I am a kid at hope.
I am talented, smart and capable of success.
I have dreams for the future, and I will climb to reach those dreams and goals every day.
All kids are capable of success.
“No exceptions!”

Kilmer said that in retrospect he probably wouldn’t have co-sponsored the bill, because, “To me the best way to give kids hope is to give them a good education and a good job.” He’s working on about a dozen bills that do that, he said.

Kids at Hope is a national movement. Brynn Grimley said that when she was reporting in Virginia she did a story on efforts there.

26 thoughts on “Updated — Bill Would Replace ‘Negative Labels’ with ‘Kids at Hope’

  1. Psst….. Hey guys (legislators). If you really care about kids, how about you stop spending time, sitting around coming up with this sort of crappy, feel good legislation and instead figure out a way to better and more efficiently fund education in this state.

    This is just more of the constant, whitewashed, sanitized, and deliberate dumbing down of the children in our community via the Public Education System. Removing ALL negativity, individuality, diversity and adversity, from the education environment, is causing these same children to be ignorant and ill prepared when they eventually go on to face these same challenges as adults. As adults in a real world where they will be constantly labeled in a true sense. Where they will be challenged by their difference. Where they will be expected to face up to their individual situations and shortcomings.

    What the heck are you people doing? Mr. Kilmer, I both support and respect you on most issues, but you are blowing me away by wasting time on and supporting crap like this.

    If you guys are really into correctly labeling things and getting the wording right, how about you get your butts in gear and start fixing the wording attached to state apportionment funding? How about you fix the wording that causes the average school district to not even control decision making over 80% of their own budget? How about you fix the wording on basic education and how it should be funded? How about you pressure the Federal Government to fix the No Child Left Behind wording? How about you fix the wording so that districts know in a timely manner what the cuts or changes in the budget are going to be well before the start of the school year?

    HOW ABOUT YOU GUYS DOING A BETTER JOB when it comes to kids and education?

    Thanks for posting this story Steven and shinning some light on this kind of junk legislation and the people who are cranking it out.

  2. vis-a-vis the update and Senator Kilmer’s call…

    I wonder if Senator Kilmer is going to vote for Rosa Franklin’s other bills without reading them (you know, the ones implementing a state income tax)?

  3. And, mayhap, if things like Kids at Hope were kept to venues like Boys and Girls Club and not implemented into state law we wouldn’t “need” a state income tax, Senator Franklin. Ditto, Derek.

  4. With all due respect to Mr. Kilmer and you Steven, the tie in perpetrated by Ms Franklin, with the Boys & Girls Club pledge to advance this garbage piece of legislation is insulting.

    As a parent who has been very involved with Boys & Girls Club and has a child who has attended for 4 years who has said the pledge every day I can say that it has nothing to do with legislative wording or labeling of children at the State Level. That it was used by Ms Franklin and superficially accepted by Mr. Kilmer is insulting to me, to the Boys & Girls Club Organization and to what is supposed to be in informed process on the part of my elected representation when it comes to sponsoring and signing bills.

    How can we continue to put any faith in education decision making in the hands of elected individuals who do not and will not education themselves on the issues before them? Very disappointing.

  5. HB 2476 dealing with mute swans and HB 2470 dealing with vet techs were a few bills brought out early by 35th district elected officials. Then Kilmer comes in with this latest effort by our elected legislature to do nothing, but put on a good show while the ship sinks.

    Where are these elected officials living and breathing? It seems at times they are on another planet and have no connection with the real world the rest of us live in. What part of the job we elected them to do is not understood? Loss of jobs, increasing costs of health care, unfunded mandates for schools, business’s would rather leave the State of Washington than invest in the State of Washington, and the best our leadership can do is mute swans, vet techs, and the crisis of negative labels?????????? What am I missing?

    They have a 60 day session and if the past is any indication, we, the voters and taxpayers in Washington State, are headed into trouble with a capital T. When you add in the problems we have now and the solutions to problems we did not know we had (the bills discussed above), that capital T is with a 72 font.

    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  6. heybooboo: Hope is a place. It’s the recently opened, beautiful Boys & Girls Club Hope Center in Gig Harbor.

    I don’t associate Gig Harbor with having tons of underprivileged children, but what do I know. I live in South Kitsap. We’re still trying to get a park.

  7. Karen, South Kitsap is currently has 2 operating after school Boys & Girls Club programs. One at Sidney Glen and one at Orchard Heights. Both are a part of the South Sound region which includes the Bremerton program as well.

    For Bremerton it was Mr. Jerry Reid, Mr. Ed Wolfe and Mr. Norm Johnson who were pivotal in getting the program off the ground at Naval Avenue. They donated a lot of time and personal money to make this program a success. Mr. Reid makes sure that every sale Reid Real Estate makes a portion of the commission is donated to the local Boys & Girls Clubs.

    The first HOPE center in this region opened in Tacoma a couple of years ago and was sponsored in large part by the Milgard (windows) Family.

  8. So the “Kids at Hope” phrase really applies to some program at the Boys and Girls club? To replace commonly used expressions of “at risk,” “disadvantaged,” etc. for a commercial type thing like “___ at Hope,” even if it’s a good cause, nonprofit, blah blah blah, this seems ludicrous. Why not call them “Kids at MacDonald’s” for goodness sakes!

    Or, for the religious types, “Kids at church.” How about that?

  9. And will the Boys and Girls Club pay for the free advertising associated with this nifty new PC phrase? Or will the state have to pay a license fee every time someone utters or writes out this phrase?

  10. Thanks for reminding me, Colleen. My community is moving forward, we’re just a little behind the curve.

    Heybooboo, I agree, the relabeling is kind of weird, but the intent is probably good. I think the slogan was at one time “a place for kids” and that seems to sum it up pretty well. Actually, calling the Boys & Girls Club facilities Hope Centers bothers me. What is hope? Why not call it Perseverance Center or Determination Center? That would be more appropriate.

    You can’t know how important these clubs are to young families unless you’ve had to move often for a job or are in the military. It’s a constant, a mainstay, a way of life. They’re not really for disadvantaged youth, they are for families, so getting away from that preconceived notion, if there is one, is a good thing.

  11. “…
    “I am a kid at hope.
    I am talented, smart and capable of success.
    I have dreams for the future, and I will climb to reach those dreams and goals every day.
    All kids are capable of success.
    “No exceptions!”…”

    I’ve heard good things about the Boys and Girls Clubs and agree wholeheartedly with ‘hope” though I believe that of all kids…even the ones who know nothing about the club, much less belong to it.

    Is the club for primarily disadvantaged children? If ‘disadvantaged’ children is out of favor, what word replaces it?

    “help adults more accurately define a child’s capacity. If the state is going to label these children then the state must label to enable the children to have hope.”

    “…help adults more accurately define a child’s capacity…”

    Capacity for what, exactly? Ability? No one should judge a child’s spirit and capacity.
    Which adults will do the job of judging the children’s capacity and how are they trained to do the judging?

    Churches and a belief in God teach Hope. Life teaches the Human Spirit…not the legislator and her/his name changes.

    Who will enforce the name changes and what happens to the person who forgets and uses the old label?

    Why not call the Boys and Girls Club the Boys and Girls Club? Name change of a superior product seems counter productive…leave the name alone…They’ve done rather well so far, why change it?
    Sharon O’Hara

  12. I don’t care how noble the purpose of the Boys and Girls Club is. To take its commercial venture program trade name, and apply it to commonly used and understood terms, is nonsensical and ridiculous. Look beyond the program, folks! Just because it’s great doesn’t mean we have to change our language to recognize it.

    It’s like calling alcoholic men “AA men.”

    Where will all of this PC stuff end?

  13. In the slim hope that our “representatives” are paying attention, let’s use this as – what’s the term-du-jour? – a “teachable” moment.

    1. By allowing pablum like Kids at Hope to enter, what should be the august halls of congress, our elected officials disrespect their office, their constituents (who are concerned with far bigger issues) and the general institution of government. Those officials who do this should not be given the respect traditionally accorded the office they hold. Nor should they be allowed to do so in the dark.

    2. Congress should pass no laws that do not apply equally to all citizens of the state of Washington.

    Representative John McCoy – a Tulalip tribal member – has introduced a bill to require the state of Washington to enter into “government to government” relations with tribes, whereby the latter is seen as equal to the former. Another bill by Mr. McCoy will delete a section of the Revised Code of Washington. Part of what Mr. McCoy wants stricken says this:

    “The people of the state of Washington declare that under the Indians Citizens Act of 1924, all Indians became citizens of the United States and subject to the Constitution and laws of the United States and state in which they reside. The people further declare that any special off-reservation legal rights or privileges of Indians established through treaties that are denied to other citizens were terminated by that 1924 enactment, and any denial of rights to any citizen based upon race, sex, origin, cultural heritage, or by and through any treaty based upon the same is unconstitutional.

    No rights, privileges, or immunities shall be denied to any citizen upon the basis of race, sex, origin, cultural heritage, or by and through any treaty based upon the same.”

    Legislation like this attempts to further a “separate” and unequal race-based policy into our state government. Members of congress who tolerate this should be held accountable.

    As a tangent: I believe our state representatives take an oath of office in which they pledge to defend the constitution of the state of Washington. How is Senator Rosa Parks bill on “fiscal reform” (state income tax) – which at this point is unconstitutional – not a violation of her oath of office?

    3. As Senator Kilmer professed; he didn’t even read the Kids at Hope bill before putting his name to it. Again, if you – as an elected representative – so disrespect the position with which you have been entrusted – you are not due any of the courtesies traditionally accorded the office. Read the material, Senator! You spoke – in your defense – of your belief in education. Well, if your kid took another’s work, put their name on it and turned it in, they would be called “cheaters”. Ditto here. A traditional punishment for cheating is expulsion.

  14. Terminology and perception are important “at every level”. Our families should be treated as “customers” in our schools because they ARE our customers.

    With that same reasoning, consider how we label and perceive kids in our schools and communities with the terminology we use. Are they “children at risk” or “Kids at Hope”?

    It is important for the language of our legislation to reflect our intent. That includes using and upgrading our terminology so that it is consistent with the outcomes we intend. It may seem like a small gesture, but as we get the small gestures in line, they will snow-ball into great forward progress.

    Kathryn Simpson

  15. On a personal level, yes, Kathryn, maybe. But when we incorporate gestures into state law it is the budget deficit that “snow-balls”.

  16. Kathryn, I still maintain that if our elected leadership wanted to focus on correcting wording in a way that would not just benefit the “perception” of children but actually accomplish the next step which is improving some part of those children’s real world situation, then they, our elected leadership should focus on fixing the wording that restricts the spending control on education funding.

    I don’t know about elementary children in Port Orchard, but my experiences with Bremerton children have taught me that most of them are unabashed realists. As a volunteer at the school they would openly and in a non-solicited upfront manner tell me everything from “we don’t have any money”, “my dad was arrested”, “we don’t have a car” and so on. They will point blank tell you how it is for them without fear or hesitation.

    Children do not know how to be ashamed until someone teaches them that they should be. The continued focus on labeling them correctly with this kind of legislation teaches them to be ashamed of their situation no matter what words are selected to be used.

  17. And changing wording on the form from “students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches” to “kids at hope” does nothing to improve the parent’s ability to provide lunch.

  18. After reading and rereading the article and blog comments I have one final comment.

    Education in our State is in poor shape. Unfunded mandates by both the State and Feds. Unequal opportunities for the young, education quality base on where you live. Many, many things that could be improved in K-12 education and the best our elected officials can come up with is a bill to “replace negative labels”? This is like trying to stop a landslide by repainting the fog lines on the road.

    I think it might be best to replace some of the elected officials, they seem very disconnected with the voter and taxpayer. Those in office have had since the last session to come up with ideas and solutions for the States many problems. Concepts like discussed in the blogs may be worthwhile, but only after the core problems have been solved. Public safety, public education, and public infrastructure are why the legislature exists. When all three are satisfied, then by all means improve the overall status as you can, but get the basics done first!
    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  19. Changing words is about as silly as you can get. The idea is nice, but it is the parents and guardians who need to give the positive message, the school and the outside world should be providing reading, math and history. If the children are accomplished at English, reading, math and history, they will advance and do well in this world.
    Poverty hurts kids, spend the money against the Education Unions that allow perpetual employment of under preforming teachers. Poor preforming teachers should be let go, and not promoted to administrative jobs, or continue to teach. Use the money for after school homework help. We have the tools to save the children in poverty, but we do not take advantage of the tools, we spin our wheels making up nice names and labels. No one has pride or self confidence with out ACTION. All the nice speech and labels will not make some feel pride or obtain self confidence. The kids need to earn their grades, the kids need to earn pride by hard work. Hard work will bring accomplishments that will enhance the poorest kids self confidence. If the children work hard and become accomplished they will break the bondage of poverty. If we give them nice positive labels but do not demand hard work, we rob the children of their future.

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