Boston Marathon Dad Scolds Media Over Principal Letter Coverage

Says he'll be on the Today show and Fox and Friends on Thursday.

Montco dad Mike Rossi crosses the Boston Marathon finish line.

Montco dad Mike Rossi crosses the Boston Marathon finish line.

On Tuesday, we told you about Montgomery County’s Mike Rossi, the Dancin’ on Air host-turned-47-year-old suburban dad currently embroiled in a fight with his kids’ principal over a stern letter she sent regarding his decision to take his children to Boston to see him run the Boston Marathon. Oh, sorry, did we use the word “fight?” Strike that.

The principal’s letter and his response to it went viral over the weekend. (Short version: Dad takes twin third-graders out of school for three days to go to Boston, principal sends him a terse letter saying the absences will be unexcused and warning him of running afoul of Pennsylvania law, dad posts a response on Facebook that begins “Dear Madam Principal” and argues that the policy is basically dumb.)

Now various media outlets have been covering the battle. Sorry, not battle. The story. And while Rossi continues the, er, friendly debate with Rydal Elementary School and the Abington School District, he’s also taking the time to scold, er, reprimand, er, make mention of his disappointment with certain members of the media and their coverage of his plight, er, predicament.

First came Fox 29’s story on Monday night.

Headline: “Daddy Takes on the Principal”
Mike Rossi Responds: “I’M NOT TAKING ON THE PRINCIPAL! It’s this one little school district policy I have an issue with. Headline writers….ugh”

Then there was the coverage:

Headline: “Principal Shames Dad Over Kids’ ‘Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience'”
Mike Rossi Responds: “For the record, she didn’t ‘shame’ me. Jesus…headline writers…SMH”

And then there is all of the commenting going on, and, apparently, Rossi hasn’t learned the golden rule of keeping your sanity when you’re the subject of a story that has gone viral:


Here’s one of our favorite comments, from someone going by Yertle8:

This is a complete non-issue and this guy is loving the traction his non-story is getting because he received a brief FORM letter.

Let’s look at this as if Mike Rossi approached this reasonably. A reasonable person wants to run in the Boston Marathon and take his kids with him. He knows that this will mean his kids will miss school, but he reasonably believes that they will learn more on this trip than they would have had they attended school those days, so he goes ahead and does that. They all have a good time and afterward he’s sure that he was right about those days in Boston being more educational, so when he receives the form letter quoted above, he shrugs, tosses it on the recycle pile, and never thinks about it again. This is a reasonable response.

But Mike Rossi is not acting reasonably. He thinks that the school district should evaluate whether or not his trip was educational enough to be considered school attendance. They’re not interested in that, which is something he knew when making this decision. School districts are strapped to begin with doing their primary function – providing a basic education. They don’t and shouldn’t be inclined to rate the educational value of his family vacation. The good news is that he, as a parent, is free to do that. He is even free to educate his own children completely as he sees fit by removing them from public school and homeschooling them, during which time he can take them wherever he wants, whenever he wants, to learn whatever it is that he thinks they will need to succeed in life. But that’s not what he wants. What he wants is for the school to cater specifically to Mike Rossi, the special snowflake, and his special snowflake children.

With these unreasonable thoughts and expectations in mind, he responded to a form letter that had literally no negative implication for him or his children. And because he is a special snowflake, he could not simply do it privately, but he needed everyone to know what an injustice had been thrust upon him in the form of a 100-word form letter. Now he will consume the school resources unnecessarily with a meeting because the school didn’t deem his three-day Boston vacation worthy of evaluation, because they simply don’t do that, because it doesn’t make sense for them to do that. No one pays property taxes in Abington so that the school can hire someone to look through Mike Rossi’s trip itinerary and see if his kid’s cuisine exposure is equivalent to 15 long division problems and a spelling quiz.

Here’s how this should have played out:

Mike Rossi runs into a neighbor while mowing his lawn and the neighbor asks about his Boston trip. He tells the neighbor it was great and the kids enjoyed it. Then he mentions that the school sent him a letter about how the kids are going to be charged unexcused absences for the days they missed. “But I think they learned more in Boston than they would have if they went to school,” he says. “You’re probably right,” the neighbor says, and Mike goes on mowing his lawn, enjoying his day, and not getting upset over an impersonal form letter that means nothing.

Yeah. It would have been nicer if he was reasonable, instead of tagging the end of what was probably an educational trip with a lesson about the positive aspects of being self-absorbed.

Touché, though the whole “special snowflake children” thing might have been a bit much.

In any event, Rossi has been reading the comments. He even responded to one left by veteran Daily News writer Ronnie Polaneczky.

And here’s what Rossi had to say late on Tuesday night in a Facebook post:

Just to clarify a few things:
I am not angry,
I don’t have any beef with the school, teachers or principal.
We did not ask for our kids to be “excused.”
We will take them out of class whenever we see fit.
I did not make this viral.
I don’t like coconut.
Thank you.

No, we don’t know what the coconut thing is about, either.

Rossi and his wife met with the school’s principal, a representative of the superintendent’s office and at least one school board member early on Wednesday morning to discuss the fracas.

“They stand by their policy, and I’m OK with that,” says Rossi. “My biggest beef is the clarity or lack of clarity of the policy and then the way and the tone and the accusatory nastiness of the letter. How many days unexcused is it before I get a knock on the door from the police? They couldn’t answer that. But as far as the letter is concerned, they said they would look into that.”

According to Rossi, a school board member asked him to stop posting on Facebook and talking to the media about the situation, and the principal told the couple that she received over 100 nasty messages.

“I do feel bad for the principal,” he says. “Lots of personal attacks. But I am getting them, too. People I’ve never met before reaching out and saying, ‘You’re a douchebag.’ Or ‘your kids are entitled.’ And ‘your kids are going to grow up to be brats.'”

But Rossi says that he’s not going to be silenced.

“My wife spoke up and said, ‘This is an important issue, and we are going to keep talking about it,'” says Rossi, adding that he’s expecting to do Fox and Friends and the Today show on Thursday morning.

And then, he insists, he wants this to be over.

“I hope that tomorrow is my 14th minute,” he says. “Because all I really want to do is run.” He’ll be competing in the Broad Street Run this weekend.

The school’s principal has not responded our request for comment.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.