So on the way to dinner, my son told me on Friday that he’d tied a guy’s shoes together (the kid fell down when he tried to get up at the end of class, and was late to the next). I asked, and this was a) a friend, b) a prank (the latest volley in an ongoing series), c) the boy wasn’t hurt, but d) was amused. Unacceptable, still. It was potentially dangerous, interfered with school operations, and consequently inappropriate. I chided him to that effect, and thought no more about it. Until my wife let me know Monday night what the school administration had done as a consequence.
Three teachers, together, had reported it, not one of them talking to my son directly. So he was called into the office, and the Vice Principal who handled it decided on lunch-time detention for two days, at a special table in the cafeteria. We weren’t involved until afterwards, when my wife heard about it, and then talked to the VP on the second day. OK, what he did wasn’t the smartest thing to do, and we absolutely believe that consequences are an appropriate response. As my wife said, 95% of the time she’ll side with the teachers (her dad was one). So it’s not that there was a response, it’s just what the response was. Our issue is with the process used, and the punishment.
Let’s start that he’s a good kid, who gets good grades because it’s expected of him, despite the fact that the current school situation is such that the content is dull, and the homework staggering (he’s opting out of sports because he doesn’t feel he has the time). He’s bored at school, as the work’s too easy for him, and the repetitive drill is mind numbing. However, no argument, his action wasn’t acceptable. In his case, being called to the office at all was probably enough, as the only previous time he’d been was to recognize him for something good he did. Having a talking to, for a first infraction, likely would weigh on him enough. Some time for reflection and even writing an apology to the friend or the teachers or just a treatise on the folly of the act would be rehabilitative, useful, and understandable. Instead, we have a punitive action. “You’re bad, and we need to punish you.”
My wife talked to the VP, trying to point out that while intervention was certainly called for, public humiliation wasn’t. The VP denied that it was public, saying that the table is off to the side. Yes, in the same room, and obviously the location of the ‘bad kids’. As my son told us, a number of his friends walked by and commented. I’m not buying it; it’s public humiliation, and that doesn’t make sense as a first recourse (if ever), particularly in a case of behavior that was bad judgment, not malicious.
So either I’m over-reacting, or the process they applied (the teachers not talking to him about it), and the result it came up with (public humiliation for a first offense) is broken. While I admit it’s hard to be objective, I’m inclined to believe the latter. Shouldn’t we be using misbehavior as opportunities to show how to respond appropriately? We may have societally moved away from rehabilitation in our penal system, but in our education system? What’s his lesson here? I mean, we don’t put people in the stocks anymore! Though I’m tempted, with a certain VP. Of course, showing up (albeit it unnamed) in a blog post may be the same, eh?