Sunday, May 8, 2005

Just Another Heartwarming Mother's Day Story

So the kid in Ft. Benning, Georgia gets a ten day suspension from school for talking on his cell phone to his mother, who had called him unexpectedly from Iraq.

No cell phone use is allowed at the school when it's in session, even though it sounds like the kids are permitted to carry them.

Allegedly the infraction occurred during lunch hour and the kid was outside the school. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Neverthless, the school starts getting calls about the harsh punishment. From all over the country. As a result of this outcry, the ten day suspension is reduced to three days.

Turns out the young man was also rude and profane, apparently, to the teacher who told him to give up the phone. He supposedly didn't tell the teacher that the call was unexpected or that it was his mom calling from the desert.  [One would wonder why his phone was turned on during school hours when getting calls was against the rules, but no sense in turning this into a Dateline investigation.]

Anyway, everybody's got a take on this one.  The school was too harsh. Ten days smacks of zero tolerance for an infraction that needed to be tempered with mercy. The boy should have been more forthcoming and less insolent. He wasn't really outside the school. He was inside. Whatever.

Here's what Mrs. Linklater thinks happened.

Kid gets a call. A teacher, who's idea of handling kids is to take an authoritative approach, demands that the little snotnose hang up and give him or her the phone.

Hey, you -- no cell phone use during school hours -- you know the rules -- gimme  that phone.  You're not supposed to be talking to anyone.

The kid just ignores the teacher and tries to continue the call, maybe with one hand over his other ear. He probably starts walking away so he can hear better over the teacher shouting at him.

For all the kid knows his mother will run out of time to talk to him if he has to stop and explain everything to the pissed off teacher.

Now the teacher is really getting annoyed.  And probably attempts to physically take the phone away from the kid. The kid gets mad and uses profanity to keep that from happening.

Dammit this is an important call.  Leave me alone.

It boils down to a struggle for control.  A teacher saying do it my way or else.  And a kid who misses his mom and doesn't want to lose contact with her. He also knows instinctively that the teacher is being an asshole.

They're both at fault.  But I blame the teacher who was probably aggressive and accusatory, because it sounds like the kid reacted like we all do when we've been verbally attacked before having a chance to explain ourselves.

There are probably a million other ways the situation could have been handled.  With a better outcome for the student, the teacher and the school.

Not to mention the boy's mother, who would have had a chance to tell him she loved him without an altercation taking place.

You know you're not supposed to be on the phone, son, is this an emergency?  It's my mom calling from Iraq. Well, why don't you walk with me down to the office so you can continue your call there.

As they walked the teacher could let others know that it was his mother calling from Iraq, which is a reason to celebrate, not a reason to punish. And there would have been an easy explanation for a rule being bent.

And it should have been bent.


screaminremo303 said...

An easy solution: Eliminate the suspension for using a cellphone, but give the kid three days for the profanity. Address the violations, not the violator.

I do parties, too.

swmpgrly said...

Im with you MRS.L

pattboy92 said...

Mrs. L,

I've taken a lot of heat for my position on this issue...but the bottom line, as far as I'm concerned, is that IF the student would have communicated better who he was talking to, the school couldn't have reasonably confiscated his telephone.

Your scenario makes sense...perhaps it was a power struggle.  But as I see it, the teacher -- not the student -- is the authority figure.  If the teacher is being unreasonable, the student still doesn't have the right to become beligerent and use profanity and expect there to be no consequence for that action.

It could have been handled better by both're right about that.  I only know that if I had been the student, I'd have definitely spelled out who I was talking to and why I was not going to stop the call, without using profanity to beef up my argument.   The rule SHOULD DEFINITELY have been bent.  But the student could have handled himself much better from the start and it likely would have prevented things from getting so far out of hand.


P.S.:  If you have a lot of time to kill, I clarify my take on the situation here:

ksquester said...

I think you are very witty and very smart!  Anne

blondepennierae said...

I love your take on this.  Pennie  

tdain2003 said...


jevanslink said...

Patrick -- Yes the teacher is in a position of authority.  And the position deserves to be treated with respect.  But the person who is wielding the authority must not use their position to abuse it. And the whole event smacks of abuse.  Which doesn't excuse the student's profanity, just explains why it may have happened. Standing up for oneself is a uniquely American trait. For good or bad. Knowing when to take a stand or just stand down is the lesson the kid needs to learn.  

Remo -- I agree, punish the violation.  But I don't think the violation was swearing.  I think it was treating the teacher disrespectfully.  And i wouldn't make the punishment a three day suspension. I would have the young man write three essays.  The first one would be about respect, what it means and who deserves it.  A second one would be about civil disobedience, when it is appropriate. The third would be an apology to the teacher. If he didn't do an adequate job, then he'd get the suspension.  See you at the party.  

Mrs. L

judithheartsong said...

I agree totally and having worked with kids for a lot of years, I do not believe that the iron fist approach ever works with teens. You give respect, you get respect. It is a concept my X never learned, he thought it was the other way around. This should have been handled differently, in my humble opinion. judi