Cara Paiuk wrote a story entitled ‘A Kindergarten Form Asks: Vaginal Birth, or C-section. Why?’ in a New York Times online parenting blog last week, and never imagined it would turn into such a major discussion.
By Ronni Newton
A West Hartford woman’s probe into the relevance of a question on a kindergarten registration form has turned into an issue garnering national attention this week after her piece in the New York Times caught the attention of scores of media outlets.
Cara Paiuk, a West Hartford mom who is a writer and a photographer, said Wednesday that she is amazed that she has sparked a national discussion.
Paiuk occasionally writes for the New York Times’ “Motherlode” blog, and said she knew when her editor said she had secured a Friday placement (June 26) for the piece, that meant it would get good attention because it would be in a lead position throughout the weekend.
Paiuk had spent several months working on the engaging article, inspired by her amazement that a West Hartford Public Schools form that she was given at Aiken Elementary School’s kindergarten registration session in April asks parents to provide the “type of birth” (i.e, vaginal or c-section) by which their child was born. Paiuk thinks that question, as well as several others on the form, are “absurdly inappropriate.”
Like any writer, she is always trying to find a subject that will resonate with readers and was motivated to express her opinion in a blog post.
“I knew it would potentially be big because it dealt with issues of privacy and birthing a child, and those are big issues,” Paiuk said. Although she said she doesn’t necessarily see a problem with the school wanting to know whether her son suffered trauma at birth, she thinks there is no reason they need to know if he was born vaginally or by c-section. That’s her own private business, Paiuk said, and really has no bearing on her child’s ability to be educated by West Hartford Public Schools.
What she was really set out to achieve through her writing was bringing enough attention to the form to “effect change in my own community,” she said.
She was shocked when friends texted early Wednesday morning to tell her that her New York Times piece was mentioned by “Today Show” anchors during the 7-8 a.m. hour. And then, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford spent several minutes discussing the issue during the Today Show’s 10 o’clock hour.
Also on Wednesday, a story about Paiuk was on the front page of Yahoo.com. It was also on Babble, the Huffington Post, Redbookmag.com, The Stir, Parenting, and many other sites. She was interviewed by several of the media outlets, but others just did aggregations of the story.
Early Friday morning a car is being sent to pick Paiuk up at her West Hartford home and bring her to New York where at 7:20 a.m. she will appear live on “Fox & Friends.”
“I’m just a regular person, and slightly overwhelmed with the response to the article,” said Paiuk. [Click here to read we-ha.com’s original article about the issue.]
She emphasized that she’s not on a mission trying to stir up issues, but is someone who has been writing about parenting for the past four or five years and always looking for a new topic that hasn’t already been “regurgitated” by the media.
“I’m not really a troublemaker,” Paiuk said. “I’m just a mom, a writer, a photographer.”
On Wednesday morning she even called West Hartford Assistant Superintendent of Schools Nancy DePalma, who has been fielding questions from reporters, to apologize for blindsiding the administration with the attention.
DePalma was out of the office, so she spoke with Superintendent Tom Moore instead. “He was absolutely lovely, very gracious. I feel like we’re on the same team,” Paiuk said.
“He knows I never meant to be malicious,” said Paiuk. She said that Moore told her the administration will be reviewing the forms. He hasn’t been able to determine where the birth question came from and said that and many of the other questions may have been on the kindergarten form for as long as 30 years.
Nothing on the form that has been the subject of attention says whether it’s mandatory or optional (and Paiuk thinks that’s also something that should change), and she said that although she knows that she can leave certain questions blank, she still doesn’t intend to complete the form at all. She said Moore knows that, but said he was anxious to assure her that no matter what, her family would “feel welcome at Aiken [the elementary school her son will begin attending this fall] with open arms.”
Paiuk knows that not everyone agrees with her, and although the response to her opinion – in comments on articles and texts and emails she has received – has been overwhelmingly positive, Paiuk said she welcomes hearing opposing perspectives.
Most of all, she’s happy that she has made people think and is effecting change, in West Hartford at least.
“[Superintendent Moore] thanked me for bringing it to the district’s attention, and he said the goal is to have new forms for spring enrollement,” Paiuk said. She said she has offered to do what she can, including working with other parents on a committee, to provide input into redoing the form.
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