A teacher in a Buffalo school district is under fire for sending a handwritten note to parents of her pre-K students telling them that their children in some cases smell and wear dirty clothes.

She also required that the note be returned signed by both the parent AND THE CHILD.

A wack-a-doo?

Or is she right in pointing out that some parents just don’t seem to care how they send their kids off to school.

The Buffalo School District is taking disciplinary action against a veteran elementary teacher from BUILD Academy who sent a note home with all her students last week complaining that several of her pre kindergarteners were coming to school wearing dirty clothes and smelling bad.

In a handwritten letter titled “URGENT NOTICE!!!”, pre-K teacher Sharon D. Perry Dunnigan asked all parents to address the cleanliness issue, saying, “It is a health and safety concern. It also makes it difficult for me to be close to them or even want to touch them. Enough said.”

School Board members and parents said they are upset and troubled that a teacher would choose to deal with a matter involving a few students in such a broad and shaming manner. The letter was not only sent out to all parents, but also required that it be returned to her with the signatures of parents and their 3- and 4-year-old children.

Board members discussed the matter in a closed session during Wednesday’s committee meetings and were unanimous in their agreement that the teacher handled the matter poorly and said she should face more than a minor verbal reprimand.

The district had discussed placing a counseling letter in the teacher’s personnel file, indicating that an administrator spoke with the teacher about the inappropriateness of her actions, but some board members and parents said they encouraged the district to take further action, such as requiring the teacher to receive further training and issue parents an apology.

Parent offers to diffuse the situation by soliciting donations for uniforms worn at BUILD, offering to wash dirty clothes and suggesting hygiene lesson plans were rebuffed by the teacher, according to Denise Glenn, the school’s parent facilitator, who met with the teacher last Friday, the day after the letter was sent home.

“She said, ‘What do you want me to do, apologize? I’m not going to apologize because I got my point across,’ ” Glenn recalled.

Dunnigan has taught elementary students in the Buffalo system for nearly 30 years, The Buffalo News determined. She did not return a message seeking comment Thursday afternoon and did not teach at school Thursday or Friday.

While hygiene and child welfare issues like this are regularly confronted and addressed by teachers in the district, they often involve assistance from a school nurse or social worker and/or a personal call home to the parents of the affected children.

When The (Buffalo) News broke this story on its School Zone blog Wednesday, some posted comments defending the teacher and blaming parents who are sending their children to school unclean. Many others said the way the teacher handled the matter was wrong.

Bryon McIntyre, vice president of the parents council, who alerted the district to Dunnigan’s letter, said that one child came home with the letter last Thursday and asked her grandmother if she smelled bad.

Aside from a letter in her personnel file and possibly other disciplinary actions, board members and parents said Dunnigan will not be allowed to send home letters to parents that are not first approved by the principal.

Having been around kids for 30 years must have taken its toll on poor Ms. Dunnigan.

However, I can imagine some of the frustration she must have felt having to deal with children, who through no fault of their own, are showing up to school in dirty clothes – apparently due to parental neglect.

Yes, she could have handled it more diplomatically than having written the note herself and sending it out unapproved.

Was the Buffalo Pre-K teacher out of line for sending a note home to parents of her students saying that some of them smell and show up in dirty clothes?