Unfair Punishment

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by judeegreeneyes, May 8, 2012.

  1. judeegreeneyes

    judeegreeneyes New Member

    Hello-brand new to the sight, and not sure I am in the right spot so bear with me please. I have an 11 year old son who was accused of "initiating a clap chant" in the cafeteria and given a half day in school suspension by the new principal of his elementary school. While my son admitted to clapping, he was very adamant that he did not start it. No one else received any disciplinary action other than my son even though the principal confirmed other children were clapping. My concern is when the principal called to inform me of the incident on March 21st, she on the phone said that he would come home and say he didn't do it, but she is telling me he did. No other information other than how the act was inappropriate and he needed to be disciplined before heading off to middle school next year. When my son came home, he told me he admitted to clapping, but not starting the clap. He also informed me that his teacher who was informed of the incident asked him in the classroom in front of his classmates- what happened and why did he do this. My son said he didn't, it was started by someone else. To which the teacher replied- so what, I'm supposed to believe a student over an adult? And then his classmates (not just one, but the class) defended my son and said no, he did not do it. i confirmed this with several parents of children in my son's class.
    I immediately contacted the principal and she was 1. annoyed at my call 2. beligerent informing me he did it while raising her voice during our conversation. The principal admitted that no further investigation was done despite my informing her of what I found out.
    My son out of "respect" for the principals authority served his suspension the next day, which I now regret.
    I since contacted the Board of Education (March 23rd, the day after his suspension) bc my son informed me after coming home that day he overheard the principal talking outside her office to another adult female about my phone call to her. My son was serving his suspension in the principals office. My son said the principal was talking to the adult and said "Can you believe his mother called and wanted to know what was being done to the other students?!? I said Ritchie is my concern. I'm concerned about Ritchie and what he did- he should be punished for his behavior!"
    The Board of Education played the phone tag game with me and several days passed since the incident occurred. I finally spoke to a Board Member a week later and he was very indignant telling me how sometimes kids do things they shouldn't and can't "fess up" to their parents bc they are afraid to disappoint them. The usual child psychiatric. mumbo jumbo.
    In any event, I went to the Board to discuss the matter and was told on 3/28 they would look into the matter and report back their findings.
    Long short of all this, that was March 28th. As of 4/16 I had no response back. I sent a certified/'registered letter to the Superintendent which was unaccepted/refused, so I hand delivered a letter requesting a personal meeting.

    I finally me with the Superintendent on May 3rd to which an amazing amount of "new information" came forward. The principal now claims that my son admitted to starting the clap (although no mention of this in either of our 2 conversations or written notification), was identified by two adults as having seen him do it and was a result on an ongoing history of disrespectful behavior towards adults (to which I had no "reporting" of this questionable behavior from the principal).

    The Superintendent stands firmly behind her principal making it seem as if my son is "trouble" and this was a long time coming. She also told me that since I am his mother, it is understandable that I would believe my son and that "adults don't lie". She wanted me to inform my son that while his mother believes he didn't do it, this should prove a lesson as to what could happen if you partake in inappropriate behavior.

    I am fuming mad! I know I will get no where as they are all in my opinion covering themselves and their acts. To say that two adults wouldn't lie, but a classroom full of children will is absurd!

    Wondering if anyone out there has any suggestions as how to handle this.

    There are a few other details I've left out. My son also had a personal item of his taken away last year in the lunchroom. District school policy is to return the item if it is taken away. My son had the item taken away and then watched as the teacher threw it away as well. She deemed it inappropriate and threw it in the garbage.

    You tell me it doesn't appear that my son is being singled out & treated differently than other children.

    Oh & another incident re: bullying. My son was cleared of any charges, but was brought up on potential "bullying" of a classmate. The classmate wanted to meet my son at a local park and fight. The classmate called my home phone and my son put it on speaker phone so I overheard the whole conversation. The boy asked to go to the park and fight and my son said he couldn't bc my mother is standing right here. The principal got wind of it and called to inform me of an investigation that would take place. The minute I informed her of the conversation and my hearing it, and that I could produce a phone record of the call, the charges got dismissed.
    And get this...........the boy who was accusing my son had to go to counseling for anger management. He was in therapy after the incident and had to carry around a squishy ball and squeeze it during times of overwhelming stress and anger.

    Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

    Looking forward to hearing back from any one with suggestions!
  2. keista

    keista New Member

    Welcome. I have no suggestions. I'm still reeling from the fact that a clap chant is off limits at your school! Our teachers actually start them if the cafeteria gets too rowdy. It creates an organized rowdiness and when it's done, the kids all seem to settle down.

    The lesson your son is really learning is that innocent ppl, in the wrong place at the wrong time, most certainly can get convicted and punished for crimes they didn't commit. Sad but true.
  3. buddy

    buddy New Member

    Oh man, you know, I am probably the worst person (or maybe one of the best) to chime in because I have felt the wrath of an unjust system for so long now and am in a place of heightened sensitivity to it all. What are we trying to teach our kids after all? Makes you wish there were video cameras in the lunch room so they could see the truth. As soon as something like that would start, my son would be quickly up and doing it louder and longer than everyone else and would likely be blamed then and punished. I highly doubt a teacher actually saw every single child and knows which one actually started it. Your child may have stood out though.

    I assume you dont think your child is an angel or never does things wrong, but it seems maybe he is being treated more harshly or frequently than others. If he is a kid who is more outgoing or louder he may be noticed more. Kids who are more sneaky can be far worse in behaviors but they get away with it.

    He is in elementary school, it is not like he wont get into college over this. I have had so many issues I will tell you what I have had to do. Some of them I have had to just say my piece, document everything and then let it go and move on. (not saying you have to do this just what I have done at times depending on the situation).

    I would press the issue on the right to privacy, no one is to talk about a student's private affairs including punishments. It does not sound like your child is a special needs child or anything...does he have any kind of issue (adhd or anything?) that would add protections to his cause? Is he a minority? (another issue that many of us face here...our kids stand out even more with disabilities and being children of color) This principal needs to respect children more. He did not investigate? He just taught your child and all of the kids who told what they saw that authority can't be trusted.

    My girlfriend/former co-worker has a son with bipolar. He was jumped in his high school and he went crazy on them fighting back. Charges were pressed against only him saying he attacked these kids who were of another ethnic minority and it was put in the news as a hate crime. The reason he was charged? A teacher SWORE she saw the whole thing. After lots of money, attorneys and finally going to trial turns out the district with held information... a VIDEO TAPE. The whole thing showed that they had been hiding behind lockers and jumped him. The teacher came out AFTER that and so was telling her truth but missed what started it all. Do you think anyone printed a retraction or cleared his or the families name? He is still considered a racist. It was so awful. Your situation is a much less serious matter but the attitude could lead to a similar problem.

    OK... way off subject and you can just say it is not an issue if it is not. Some kids who have challenges (adhd, high funcitoning autism, emotional-behavioral diagnosis's, or just are spirited types of kids.....etc) who do not have it affect their school work so are not in Special Education. end up being mislabeled as behavior problems, rude, disrespectful, have parents who are clueless, etc. It mostly seems like these sudden issues the principal is bringing up are CYA statements to justify their actions, but is there any chance that he does struggle in some ways?

    Is this the right school for him? Are there any charter schools around that you would like for him? Maybe he needs a fresh start?

    Anyway, I am really sorry this is happening and I know how all consuming it can feel to fight things like this. It does help me to post here and gain some perspective. To vent with people who get it and also who get that sometimes you just can't educate some of these administrators who are so ignorant. I hope you get what you are seeking from them, and that your son can just continue to learn and grow in a safer environment.
  4. Bunny

    Bunny Guest

    Just out of curiosity, what was so bad about the clap chant? Were the kids saying something that was inappropriate? Is there a rule against starting them? I don't see why something like a clap chant is so bad unless the words were bad or they are just not allowed.

    First thing is that I want to say that I am sorry that your are dealing with this. I have several people in my family who are teachers and from what I know from them, in cases like this the school district will ALWAYS side with the teacher. If the student in question gets punished they assume that the teacher is always in the right and that the student is always in the wrong, even though there was a classroom full of students who said that your son did not start it. Their opinion will always be the students will defend another student, and unless the punishent is something so horrendous that there is a public outcry about it, there is not alot that you can do about it. I don't agree with it, but unfortunately that's just the way it is.

    Why was your son singled out? Has he had other problems in school? Does he behave in the classroom? Have there been other run ins with the principal?
  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Can you please explain to all of us why a clap chant is worthy of any child being suspended? Did it continue when the teachers told the k ids to stop? Did they swear or talk about sex? LOL. I just kind of shook my head when I read it. So much crapola goes on at school and they target THIS?

    On the bully front, I can tell you that although my kids were never involved in a bully incident in either direction, I have a co-worker whose daughter was bullied mercilessly in high school and every time there was a fight, even if five k ids were kicking her daughter's tail and her daughter was only trying to fight back, she got suspended along with the rest of them for fighting. I thought t hat was totally outrageous. Finally, at a football game, these kids started up with her and a cop spotted it and arrested the bullies so the school finally believed that she wasn't equally at fault. Before that, the parent going to school all the time and even talkilng to the superintendant did no good.

    I'm really glad my youngest is going to be a junior in high school next year. It gets crazier and crazier each year, and I wish I had advice for you, but I don't.
  6. judeegreeneyes

    judeegreeneyes New Member

    Frustrating to say the least. Worst part is, if you could see the size of the lunch room and where the "accused" lunch aids were standing, there is NO WAY anyone could have singled my son out. Granted, he is NO angel, but come on, a suspension for clapping? Oh and right around the same time, a 3rd grade lunch class had started a food fight and NO intervention from principal at all- it was handled by the teacher. This came from a parent who's son was involved in the incident.
    You are all correct- the superintendent will always side with the teacher and shame on me for questioning their authority. The magnitude of the clapping was minimal at best as well- they made it seem like a prison riot with unruly children taking over the room. So not the case.

    The odacity of the super to infer that my son should learn a lesson from this even though "me, his mother" doesn't think he did it. What lesson? That during a trouble time a student can no longer look around and see a teacher standing in their corner? I see it as a child who did no wrong- said he did no wrong- served punishment for doing no wrong- was vindicated from classmates that he did no wrong now looking at the accusing adults who refused to "investigate" the matter ie. asking the teacher or his classmates what transpired as not worthy of dealing with. Can't trust them, so why bother?

    While I know I will get no where, it's the principal of the matter. I will have the last word and am diligently looking for online resources to point me in the right direction.
    There has to be something I can hit them back with that will make them realize they are not these megagods with complete and absolute power.
    Thanks for all your support!
  7. Well this is a difficult situation and I"m sorry you are in it.

    On the one hand if you pursue it things could get more difficult for your son. But if you don't pursue it what are you teaching your son?

    I would definitely have a conversation about the privacy issue at the very least. That is inappropriate and I"m sure it was hard for your son to deal with. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do about the punishment as he has already served it.

    I wish you luck with this and hope it turns out well.
  8. judeegreeneyes

    judeegreeneyes New Member

    Honestly, the lunchroom in my childs school is the ONLY place where kids can "let loose" and by that I mean, talk freely, move freely, interact with other kids. The new principal is a tyrant who has "authority issues" and cannot stand when the noise level gets too loud. I've served lunch duty as a volunteer many times and while it is loud, what would you expect from 100-200 kids in a room each period? The incident occurred when the lunch aid asked for quiet. Told the 5th grade class to quiet down. Then at that point a "clap was initiated" with many students joining in. Really a dig against their authority as I see it. So in a room full of 100+ students, my son was singled out for starting the clap. I had questioned who saw him and were they standing there unquestionably without a doubt witness to the action...........to which the principal never responded. Avoided directly answering my question, just stating that one adult had seen him do it. Then weeks later it was 2 adults and that he admitted to doing it. Now mind you, he's an 11 year old boy- the principal claimed he admitting to starting the clap and then when told his mother was being called, he denied it. I WISH I had such unwielding power over my son lol. So not the case. My son has always been honest when dealing with staff, admin. at his school and if he did something, he would admit to it. Calling me had no bearing whatsoever on his decision. I think the words got twisted and the principal was looking to set an example so when he admitted to "doing it" they attributed it to starting the clap which my son denied. Let's see- unthinkable for an adult to "trick" or coerce a boy into saying something he didn't mean? Of course not- teachers would never do such a thing right?!?

    My son is a red head, freckled, very outspoken and well liked child amoungst his peers- so he definately stands out for sure!

    The principal on the other hand- numerous lectures in the lunch room to 3rd- 4th grade students about how she was picked on in school- had long stringy hair and was missing two front teeth. She was picked on and had told the students "will not tolerate anyone being bullied" as she knows first hand how it feels.

    You tell me- my imagination or perhaps some envy here that my son is liked and has friends and she as child was not. Another case of absolute power being used for past "issues" as a child?
  9. DaisyFace

    DaisyFace Love me...Love me not

    What is it that you are looking to do exactly?
  10. judeegreeneyes

    judeegreeneyes New Member

    Good question. I guess bc my son overheard the conversation between the principal and another adult female I feel there should be some accountability on the part of the education system to address the lack of professionalism on the part of the principal. While I can't go back and "undue" the suspension I made him serve, I do believe it was wrong for the administration to not follow through on the information I had presented (the children telling teacher he didn't do it) and to allow so much time to lapse.
    It's really the principal of the whole matter- before people accuse other people of something, or in this case, the word of an adult being thought more highly of than a classroom full of students, it should be known if the accused is being treated fairly or not.
    I realize it's the "education system" against me, but call me stubborn, I just can't get over the "smugness" of it all and the condescending tone/attitude of the administration.
    At this point, all my calls/letters, etc. have been documented, however none of my concerns addressed. I'm guessing since my son is in 5th grade and will be leaving the school next year, it's assumed ignore her and she and her son will soon go away.

  11. ksm

    ksm Well-Known Member

    Some times you just have to pick your battles... and if it was me, I'd probably let this one slide. Talk to your son and explain that you feel it wasn't fair, but sometimes in life, you have to take the lumps and keep going. I have had jobs like that... but I needed the job bad enough that I took the "punishment". Other times, I would stand up and even give my notice (twice) but it was at a time I could financially do it. I guess I had to decide in the long run, do I want to make my self worked up over it for months or let it go. Sometimes, it is worth letting go. And it is a good lesson for your son too. OK, he participated. OK, he took the punishment. I'd say his friends are probably thinking "he's the man!" by now that he didn't rat anybody else out. Too bad the students didn't speak up and say who really started it... or better yet, that student man up and do it himself. But it is over... school will be over in a few weeks... he won't return to that school...

    It might be one of the post important lessons he learns, is that you believe in him... you stood up for him... did it keep him from getting punished, no. Did he learn that you believe in him, yes! That is the most important part... you got his back! Anyway, just my 2 cents... KSM
  12. TeDo

    TeDo Guest

    I agree with ksm. It might be better to have the honest discussion with your son about the whole situation but then let it slide....for now. I fought a losing battle for over a year with our school principal over accommodations for my son with an IEP. I realized in the end that I was not going to change him and that he had the whole "system" behind him and ultimately it was my son that paid the price. Needless to say, I pulled him out of that school because it was painfully obvious that the principal's agenda was to force my son out and was willing to do ANYTHING to make that happen. I was like you for a long time....fighting for my son's right to be there and to show the principal that he wasn't "god". In the end, the fight wasn't worth it.

    My son is MUCH happier now and is actually enjoying life and is learning in an environment that is free of egomaniacs with power.
  13. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Did you say your son is done with that school at the end of this school year? or... not until the end of next school year?
    That is a huge difference..
    If he's done this year, and starting somewhere else next year - definitely let it slide. You can't fix the world.

    If he is NOT done there for another year... then maybe you need to find a way for him to go somewhere else next year.

    You can't win against a principal. Not in my experience. Unless the principal is personally involved in direct and provable child abuse, they are untouchable.
  14. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    If you need to continue with this, there is a third option (when Option 1 is let it slide; Option 2 is continue to fight every inch of the way). Option 3 - write a letter to super, to principal and to anybody higher up that you can reach. Your letter needs to state that you now consider this matter closed as far as it relates to your son's punishment. State that you require them to accept that you simply will not agree as to what happened, but sentence has been passed and served. Acknowledge that there were two adult witnesses (I presume anonymous) whose evidence is contradicted by a room full of students, but hey - PEOPLE lie. It becomes one group vs another group and you can never get to the truth under these circumstances. People also make mistakes, especially in a noisy, crowded room.

    Also, of course children lie, especially to get out of trouble. Of course parents tend to be blinkered about their children.

    HOWEVER - the remaining concerns needing to be addressed, are as follows:
    1) Why was a clap considered an offence worthy of suspension? What is hoped to be learned by the perpetrator by suspending him? Other schools actually use a hand clap to restore order in the canteen, so the community at large is sending mixed messages to the students.

    2) When a parent has concerns, there should be someone at the school, preferably the principal, who will listen politely and discuss calmly, the issues. You did not merely base your belief in your son on what he told you, but you had in fact received independent information which threw the school's position into doubt, and your concerns were never appropriately addressed. Failure to address these concerns at the level of principal as well as superintendant, shows a serious lack of duty of care and lack of concern for the truth. Instead, it is "discipline at all costs" even above and beyond actual truth. Some individuals (and, sadly, they often end up in positions of authority) see the dispensing of discipline as a minor thing, because they do it so often. They will get meaner if pushed and can end up causing you a lot more grief if you fight them.

    Trouble is, you've already fought back and now you and your child will be labelled as troublemakers. You could back down and grovel. "I was wrong, you were right. Please accept my humble apologies," but chances are the result would either be the bullies crowing about your backdown, or even more use of you and your son as scapegoats. A lot of parents take this option because they get too tired to fight on, plus this sort of battle becomes huge and scary if you persist. This is what the bullies count on - being able to outlast you.

    So the next option - once a fight has begun and you can no longer manage to slip back below the radar, you have to continue the battle. But narrow the parameters, don't fight on too wide a front. And here, the actual crime is now past and to hang on with dogged determination will only brand you as a troublemaker who will not let go of a dead issue. YOU need to be seen as the sensible, sane person here. Not a nut job. You want the principal to be exposed as a bully and a blind devotee of discipline at all costs and often without cause.

    So to continue the battle, focus on what you want fixed NOW. Also, go high. As high as you can get. Not the media though. I often do advocate going to the media, but this would be seen as too trivial. No, go to your state Dept of Ed (or whatever passes for it) and discuss the professional ethics involved in how your concerns were mishandled, and how you were dismissed when you had genuine concerns. Mke it cler that your son has moved on despite feeling aggrieved at the injustice. Make it clear to your son that injustice happens, and if he had not been clapping at all, he would have been in a better position to avoid getting caught up in this. But also show him (by your actions) that he matters to you, that justice matters and it is risky but honourable to take a stand against injustice. Then show him the right way to take such a stand. Show him what the tools are, and the right way to handle it.

    Warn him that this is now almost completely unwinnable.

    One last thing that I think you now MUST do - this is why I said to go high. When you go high, be as generous to the school as you can be, but intransigent on what concerns you (the way the principal spoke disrespectfully about you in the presence of your child; the way you were shouted at by the principal and the way your concerns were never investigated, because it was easier to simply stick with the outcome of a possibly hasty decision than to admit a mistake). Make it clear that this is not about adults (or children) lying, it is at worst about hasty mistakes. "Act in haste, repent at liesure" and a possibly too harsh approach to discipline in this school to the point where perspective is lost and damage is done to children's trust (all the children, all the other kids observing this lay out) in the adults involved with this school. The schools claims to be tryin g to resolve bullying problems, but this will never happen while those in charge use bullying tactics on parents, students and staff.

    Back off form wanting the truth of the clapping incident. That's a dead issue. But contact the highest people and get them on side.

    THEN - make it clear to the principal that you have friends in high places who listen to you and who you will go to at the slightest hint of your child being penalised inappropriately simply because you have made a fuss.

    I did this with our local school (years ago, when easy child 2/difficult child 2 was trying to get into school at age 4). I said, "You now know I have connections. I also know that you and other staff believe I'm a paranoid troublemaker. Please be aware - if you are correct and I AM paranoid, then I will immediately assume the worst of you if my child is disadvantaged in ay way, and I WILL use my connections to take action against you. And if I am not such a bad person as some of you seem to think, then you need to realise that I am in fact a reasonable person who is not deserving of any punishment for past expressed concerns."
    In my case, I suspect the school chose to believe the former. I don't care what people think of me, if it means they give my child an even break.

    In summary - I have said to a school (when severely pressed), "I have connections. I can use them to help the school, or fight the school. I could be your best friend or your worst nightmare. The choice is yours."

    I have then followed through and fought battles on behalf of the school. And won, where the school could not. THAT scares them!

    But if your child will be moving on in a few months - don't bother with any of this. Just walk away and try to slip as far below the radar as you can. And wait out the cow. if it gets bad and the radar ceiling is now at ground level, pull him out and home school for the remainder of the time. I'm not kidding - it could be easier in the long run, less painful.

    by the way, our local school here currently has a clone of your principal. I have tried to stay in touch with the school and donate my services, but she has been pointed in her refusal of my offers. A number of good things have now collapsed in ruins because of this attitude. I get people (community) coming up to me and asking me what I'm doing about my past initiatives. I point them to the non-school options with which I am involved and make it clear - the principal does not want me, and I will not intrude where I am not wanted. Instead I have taken my expertise and contribution elsewhere, where it IS welcomed. Far less effort for me; far better outcome for those I can help.

    Sometimes you just have to stop dealing with the nasties of this world.

    by the way, our local school has been losing enrolments at a terrifying rate. People vote with their feet. Eventually someone has to say, "What is going on here?" and investigate.

  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Oh, nobody is untouchable. I've overridden principals many times, but that was when the school district was not following the rules and I went above their heads and won (or, like I care to believe, my kids won). However, this issue is not something I think is worth fighting over. Life isn't fair, after all, and this won't be the last time this child or any child will be unfairly accused of something. In issues like this, I usually just talk to my child and ride it out. There are times to go over the social district's head and times to just let things cool down. In this case, as silly as it is and as much as I feel they are wrong, I personally would let it go. (by the way, nobody ever picked on my kids for going over the school district's head. In fact, they were afraid hub and I would do it again and my kids have always been treated exceptionally well).
  16. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    MWM... 5 principals. 3 school divisions. For our family? principals 5, family 0.
    There was nothing I could do about all sorts of unfairness, including damaging approaches.
    The ONLY thing that over-rode principals was strongly medically backed dxes.
    But... that's how it is where WE live.
  17. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    It's really hard to decide what to do or say when you have initially followed your gut and know that the situation is not fair. Like others I have been there done that.

    Bottom line in my humble opinion is deciding what truly serves your child's best interest in the long run. For me I had to accept that "the systems" have a life of their own that does not allow "outsiders" to input. This is true of schools. This is true of law enforcement. This is true of most levels of Goverment. Is it right? Heck, no. But those entities have the power because they have the numbers. They can and often have made sure that a juvenile suffered harsher consequences than could ever be deemed reasonable. Other parents often have their children avoid contact with targeted children because they fear their child will be targeted also.

    I am an assertive Mother. Sadly I had to accept that I had little power and that the best way to protect my child was to volunteer, observe, keep my negative opinions to myself and pray that they got thru the system. I know other Moms who didn't let it go and inadvertently they ended up labeled as "trouble makers" with "troubled kids". It's not fair but that has been my experience. I'd also advise that you end the incident by talking with your son alone and telling him "Hey sometimes life is unfair for kids and for adults. Let's let this subject go and be extra careful to follow all the rules since the school is strict. I love you and I'm proud of you." Then say prayers that the school let's it go.
    Hugs DDD
  18. judeegreeneyes

    judeegreeneyes New Member

    Thanks for the words of wisdom. I guess those who have been saying "let it go" are probably correct and after a day or two of venting it out, I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. I did what I could for my child and should be happy that I attempted to "rock the boat" and speak out, which is more than many would do. And understandably so. You are so correct when you say the entities have power in their numbers- it is myself & my child against the whole education system and we all know in the end they are the ones who inevitibly win out.
    I have had the conversation with my child that while I do believe him and think the end result was unfair, that's life! ie. that's why I made him serve the suspension in the first place.
    I truly appreciate your opinion and advice as it all rings loud and clear. Is pressing on really worth the label to both myself & my child? I can look in the mirror and sleep at night knowing I did what I felt was right, regardless of their opinions.