Parental Detention (or, I’m Making a Point for My Child)

 

In thirteen years of teaching, I haven’t ever had what happened on Friday afternoon after school. I had a parent “own” his child’s detention (child stayed too) and he wasn’t apologetic for it either. I am not really sure how I feel about it and I am still trying to process it. How would you take it?

Background

It was the 6th period of the day and there was only an hour left of school. The bell had rung and all the students were in their seats as we started. We had been talking and reading about the origins of the Vietnam War when Student A’s cell phone make a beeping noise, a text alert.

Now, we have a cell phone policy in our school that doesn’t allow for the use of cell phones during class. Generally though, most teachers don’t really follow the policy any longer because we would spend all of our time “policing” cell phone usage and very little time teaching. Plus, getting into conflict over a cell phone generally isn’t a great way to build rapport with a student. It’s an issue, but not one to die over. These days, I have taken the policy of letting them use it (unless blatantly disrupting their learning or someone else’s) because they are responsible for their learning, not me. If they are distracted by it, then it is on them. Plus, I actually require they use them occasionally for taking a survey by text or whatnot. However, I do draw the line when a cell phone becomes audible. Then I confiscate the cell phone for the class period and return it to them as they leave class. This all seems to work fairly well most of the time.

Student A’s cell phone make a sound after receiving a text. I asked her to bring it up. She protested a little with, “But Student B sent me the text!” Everyone in the room laughed because Student B is in the room too and she got her friend in trouble. Student A brought her phone up to me and while she did so I said that Student B needed to bring me her cell phone since she was the one who sent the text. Student B said she wouldn’t bring it to me. So, I went to the back of the room, held out my hand, and asked for it again. Student B flatly refused again saying, “No, I’m not giving it to you. My dad said to never give up my phone.” Now everyone in the room is watching and I’m thinking, “Well, this is interesting. Never would have expected this from her.” (Mostly because she is a GREAT student, straight A’s, always compliant, helpful, and respectful.) I asked again saying, “Come on, give me your phone. Is it really worth getting a detention for?” Student B’s response, “My daddy said to never give up my phone, so yes.” OK. I promptly turned, returned to the front of the room and wrote her name on the board. The class moved on as though it didn’t happen. After class and on her way out of the room she asked, “What time will you be here until today? My dad wants to come talk to you.” I gave her a time and Student B left the room.

The Parent

I was half expecting the riot act when the parent got there. But then again, this is a really nice family and all the kids are great kids so I wasn’t really sure what to think was going to happen. I was pretty sure, however, that I was going to get protestations about how the detention was unfair.

When the parent walked in all he said was, “I’m here for my detention! Where do you want me?” I responded that he could sit anywhere. Then he said, “I just want you to know that I am here to serve the detention since my daughter was following my instructions. With my background in law enforcement, I have instructed all my kids to never give up their phones. We will be dealing with her texting in class when we get home.” I said, “You know this is a bit unusual because I didn’t expect her to say ‘no’. We have a school policy of no cell phone usage in the classroom and if you need to get a hold of your student you can call the office and they will forward a message OR now you can actually call into our classrooms directly if needed.” His response was simply, “I know. that is just our rule for our kids.” Then he turned and chose a seat and sat down with his daughter. They sat there quietly talking for 25 minutes.

The End

There were a few minutes left in their 30 minutes and so I decided I should probably explain why she had gotten a detention a little more plainly that what his daughter had explained to him. So, I addressed Student B as I sat in front of them,” Student B I want to explain why you got the detention and how surprised I was that I had to give you one. The fact is that I like you and you are one of the best students I have in the junior class, that being said, I also can’t treat you differently than I would treat the other students in the room. The fact is, if you refuse to obey the instructions given to you by a teacher, I can’t just let that go. It sets a bad precedent for the others to see. You didn’t get the detention for using the cell phone. The detention was for refusing to give it up.” She said she understood.

Then her dad spoke up, “Listen, I understand why you gave her a detention and I am not happy with her because I had to rearrange my schedule to be here. I am not happy that she was using her cell phone during class and we will deal with that when we get home. But, I have to say, that I am proud of her for sticking up for what she had been instructed by her father to do, even in the face of adversity. We often wonder how our kids will react when they are put in a situation where they have to stand up for what they believe and when there is pressure to conform. She acted as I hoped she would, not in just this situation but hopefully in even greater, more serious situations. I am sorry she violated your policy and refused to give up her phone. That’s on me, but I wouldn’t want her to do it any differently. You did what you had to do and I respect that.”

We exchanged a few pleasantries about the weekend and out the door they went with a, “See you on Monday, Mr. Grenz!” from Student B.

My Questions

How do I take this? Was this a lesson for the child or was this a parent response telling me how ridiculous he thought it was that I gave his daughter a detention?

I am inclined to think it is the former, but there is still a part of me that thinks it is the latter. The words spoken seem to indicate this was a lesson for the student, but the tone in some of the words makes me think it was a lesson for me. I can’t quite put my finger on this and I haven’t quite settled on an answer.

So, tell me what you think? How would you have reacted to the teacher? How would you have taken this whole thing if you were the teacher? You can respond via the poll or in the comments.

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