Schoer said bell ringing is something that's very easy for kids to do, and they get a big kick out of doing it, especially when people fold up dollar bills to put into the red kettles.Lots of students in the Madison school district volunteer for the bell-ringing, but this is usually done on an individual sign-up basis. For these third graders, the teachers made the decision to volunteer for the entire class, and that really does present a special problem, so the parent who complained should not be demonized. But rather than give up on a valuable and rewarding experience, the school ought to just structure things differently, with a choice of activities, and let the children, with their parents' help, decide what they would like to do.
"It's pretty exciting to a little kid when someone puts a $1 bill in, and when it's a $10 bill, they feel it's the best thing in the world," she said.
Schoer said it's disappointing that people believe the Salvation Army, founded by a Methodist minister in England in 1865, is simply a religious organization.
"All of the money we raise goes to feed, shelter and clothe people," she said. "It doesn't go to promote religion."
The word "volunteer" is just that when it comes to bell ringing, Schoer said.
"I don't want to attack the person who won't allow kids to do this," she said. "We don't want anyone to be forced to do it, but it would be nice for kids to have the right to ring a bell if they want to."
December 9, 2005
So said Ruth Anne Schoer, speaking of the decision to cancel a field trip for third graders here at Chavez Elementary School that would have involved, as in past years, ringing bells to collect money for her organization, the Salvation Army. This year, a parent complained about school children helping a religion-based charity, and the school administration chose to avoid the controversy: