Pizitz Middle School Revisited

January 14, 2004
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From Jim Metrock:  Those that have followed our efforts to raise awareness about Channel One News know about Pizitz Middle School in Birmingham, Alabama. I think citizens in all states can learn much from how this school has reacted to the call of citizens to remove Channel One. Pizitz’s principal David Miles has always had a close and creepy relationship with Channel One and their lobbyists.

I recently wrote this letter to Pizitz teachers hoping just one of them would stand up FOR the students by standing up TO the very pro-Channel One principal. I emailed this to 90% of Pizitz teachers on January 10. It has been almost two weeks and no teacher has responded in a positive manner. Three teachers emailed me to tell me to stop sending them emails. It seems that new facts were not going to change their minds.

Many people get discouraged after going to their school board asking for Channel One to be removed and they are met with indifference. They think that common sense would dictate that the school board and administrators and teachers would agree that Channel One and its commercials have no place in classrooms. But what happens many times is a superintendent, principal or school board gets defensive. How dare a mere citizen suggest that they have been doing something wrong for years. You have to put yourself in their position. It take a big person to admit he or she has not been paying attention to Channel One and its content.

Of course there are teachers who will fight to keep Channel One News because it is a one-hour a week PAID break for those teachers. A handful of lazy teachers can derail the effort of citizens to remove this nonsense. It is better to anticipate your school acting like Pizitz. Hopefully, they will be more responsive.

January 10, 2004

Dear Pizitz teacher,

On Monday, January 5, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement (http://aap.org/advocacy/ releases/jansoftdrinks.htm) calling for the restriction of soft drinks in schools. An AAP policy statement carries considerable weight. It urges pediatricians to go to ask their local schools to not only restrict the sale of sweeten soft drinks in schools but to eliminate the classroom advertising of such drinks. There is only one way that soft drinks are advertised in classrooms and that is on Channel One News.

Yesterday, Friday, January 9, the lead editorial in the Birmingham News praised the AAP’s statement and mentioned Channel One. As you may know the News has called for the removal of Channel One News from schools.

The issue of keeping Channel One in schools is now very much a health issue. For years, Pizitz has advertised junk foods and soft drinks to children while they sit at their desks. I know that Mr. Miles has no problem with soft drink commercials in Pizitz classrooms. At the board meeting in 2002, Mr. Miles laughed off Britney Spears appearing in Pepsi ads in Pizitz classrooms. He called them “tasteful.” The issue now is not whether Mr. Miles approves of how much clothing Ms. Spears is wearing, but that children are being shown specially selected motivational films to encourage them to consume more soft drinks when we have a major problem with overweight students.

Last January, Pizitz showed students a two-minute documentary-style commercial to introduce students to Pepsi’s Sierra Mist soft drink. You may remember it. The marketing VP for Pepsi begins the ad by saying “Pepsi made this film just for Channel One students.” I am sure some of you weren’t laughing when Mr. Miles approved Twinkie commercials for your students. Some teacher has to speak up. It just takes one. Wonderful things happen when one person stands up. It didn’t take a lot of courage to wear a “I support David Miles and Channel One” button. There was no career downside to that. But it will take courage for a teacher to stand up among your peers and say, “That’s enough.” I hope Pizitz will end this controversial show, like our high school did, before more attention is focused (for all the wrong reasons) on our middle school.

Eight Vestavia Hills pediatricians signed a letter in 2002 asking Superintendent Blair and the board to remove classroom commercials from Pizitz. The board dismissed the concerns of those doctors and didn’t even mention their letter in the minutes. Our high school ended Channel One, not because our school board or Superintendent understood that school time was more valuable than Mountain Dew ads but because TEACHERS refused to make time for this advertising gimmick even though our board had signed a contract requiring them to show Channel One to the students. The board won’t help. You have to do the right thing.

With every news article about overweigh children, the pressure will only grow on Pizitz to end Channel One. Please take positive action now. Tell the board that you won’t make time for Channel One anymore.

Sincerely,

Jim Metrock

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