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Punishment fit the crime???


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#1 Momof24me

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:15 AM

I have a question. I have tried to find a legal answer and I'm not sure if there IS one. My son is 12 and in the 6th grade. Child A told Child B that his sister (Child A's sister) said a teacher at their school was a stripper. Child B then tells my son the same thing. Riding home on the bus, my son tells a friend that Child B said this teacher was a stripper. The friend tells my son she doesn't believe it. That was the end of the conversation. A few days later my son is called in to the office and asked about this. Evidently, someone on the bus overheard the conversation, and went to the principal. My son admitted what he said, and told the principal the whole story of where it originated. The "sister" doesn't attend the same school anymore, but Child A and B do. They all 3 get 3 days in ALC! I think this is ridiculous! The principal said it could have been worse. They could have had a hearing!!! I don't believe that at all. They are 12 year old boys. This is not unusual. It is expected. They did not say anything to this teacher directly. They were not trying to spread a rumor. They are all close friends, including the "girl" friend my son talked to on the bus. By the way, she is not the one who went to the principal. They have been friends forever and she was just as shocked that this escalated so far!

My question is this: Can the principal actually get away with this legally???? I think he overreacted. A warning and an apology were in order, but not 3 days in ALC. By the way, these are 3 GOOD boys, not troublemakers!!

#2 Ted_from_Texas

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 11:50 AM

I can't see that any legal issues are raised here. Whether the principal overreacted may be open to question, but even so the proper recourse is to bring it to the attention of the appropriate school district administrative personnel for possible disciplinary action in accordance with district policies and procedures.

A rumor is an allegation that is repeated by one person to another without proof or supporting evidence. If your son told a friend what child B said, he is by definition spreading a rumor. At the age of 12 he is old enough to learn when to keep silent about "facts" he can't support, and which can be misconstrued by others. He can use the time in ALC to think about what he's done, and how best to avoid doing it again.

#3 FindLaw_Amir

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Posted 06 February 2013 - 12:03 PM

Have you addressed this concern with the principle or local school board?
FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up! newsletter can provide you with the legal resources you need to make informed decisions when law touches aspects of your everyday life.

#4 Momof24me

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 06:55 AM

Ted, thank you for your response. I agree with you about his learning when to keep silent. I believe this will teach him that lesson for sure. My problem with this is keeping him out of class for 3 days. He does not learn from work sheets and extra writing assignment that are unrelated to anything he should be doing in class. He is missing 3 days of teacher instruction and interaction. Luckily, he has 3 of the best teachers, who are willing to catch him up once he returns. It doesn't help knowing that the teacher in question dresses inappropiately in her position. Teachers are role models. Twelve year old girls want to dress and look like her. (short skirts, tight clothes) Twelve year old boys.....well, who know what all they think about when they look at her! I know for a fact that the principal has sent her home more than once for wearing clothing that HE found to be inappropiate! These boys were thinking that what they were told might just be true, and that is no fault of their own!
Anyway, my son hates ALC. He is serving his second day today. I doubt he will put himself in a position to be placed in there again. My opinion is he never should have been placed in there at all for this incident. Unfortunately, my opinion is not the one that counts here. As for talking with the principal, I spoke with him on the phone yesterday before my son came in from school. At that time, I only knew what HE told me. I didn't have details. I believe he will stand firm on his decision. I'm sure he feels like he did the right thing. I don't want to blow this out of proportion. We have two more years at this school, and I don't want to cause any problems for my son. We can get through this, learn, and move on. Everything happens for a reason. This may save him from a slander lawsuit one day!

#5 Tax_Counsel

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 07:39 AM

The fact of the matter is that (1) they were spreading rumor if they didn't have any actual evidence to support the claim that the teacher was a stripper and (2) if the claim was untrue, it was potentially defamatory and had it caused the teacher to suffer some harm could easily have lead to a lawsuit. That would have been far worse than 3 days ALC, I'm sure.

It is usually within the discretion and authority of the principal to impose relatively minor punishments like this one. He wasn't suspended and he wasn't facing expulsion. His academic performance should not noticeably be affected over the long term by this either. As a result, I don't see much in the way of legal action you can take here. You certainly make make your feelings known to the school superintendant and/or school board that he overreacted. I expect in this circumstance, though, they'll probably back the principal.

I'll note that my personal observation is that parents often tend to think that punishment imposed by the school for misconduct is too severe. I think that comes from wanting to support and protect your kid, which is understandable. Rarely will it be the case that everyone will agree on what the "fair" punishment should be. Even if you're right that it's a bit unfair, this can teach your kid another of life's valuable lessons: life isn't always fair.

#6 Momof24me

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 08:04 AM

Thank you, Tax Counsel, for your reply. I questioned the legality of his punishment only when I could not find any disciplinary action that addressed this particular situation. I understand that the principal has a right to use his personal discretion in different situations. Everything is not written in black and white. I have accepted that this is the best way to teach these boys what is acceptable in the real world. I have always told both of my boys not to expect everything in life to be fair. It's just not possible!

I don't want to make waves with this principal. This is his first year at this school and he is a great improvement! The principal before him treated the students as if they were in boot camp. This one appreciates honesty, and talks to them like they are real people who matter. I am sure he did what he considered to be the best thing. Maybe he some insight I don't in this particular situation since he was once a twelve yr. old boy!

Yes, parents, especially mothers, are usually very protective when it comes to their children. I know that we tend to think with our hearts instead of our heads! I am ok with this punishment at this point. I agree that is could have been worse.

Thanks again!

#7 pg1067

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Posted 07 February 2013 - 08:22 AM

They all 3 get 3 days in ALC! I think this is ridiculous! The principal said it could have been worse. They could have had a hearing!!! I don't believe that at all.


First of all, you apparently are assuming we'll all know what "ALC" is, but that's a bad assumption (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ALC for a list of things that "ALC" might stand for, none of which appear to be relevant to educational discipline). Accordingly, I can't assess the reasonableness of your apparent outrage. That said, it is unclear why you seem to believe it would not have been impossible to hold a hearing.


They are 12 year old boys. This is not unusual. It is expected.


I agree it's not unusual. I disagree that such rumor-mongering is "expected." However, even if it were, that doesn't mean bad behavior shouldn't be punished.


They did not say anything to this teacher directly.


In my view, it would have been far preferable to go to the teacher to let her know that this rumor was working it's way around than to spread the rumor to someone else. Perhaps if your son had done this, he would have gotten a denial from the teacher.


They were not trying to spread a rumor.


Of course they were. Child A told Child B a rumor. Child B then conveyed that rumor to your son, and your son conveyed it to yet another child. What do you think that is if not spreading a rumor? That your son did this is semi-"public" place in which it was reasonably likely that he would be overheard makes it all the worse.


They have been friends forever and she was just as shocked that this escalated so far!


Then hopefully she (and the others) have learned a lesson about spreading rumors.


My question is this: Can the principal actually get away with this legally?


Assuming "ALC" is not some sort of physical torture device, and subject to the fact that you didn't identify your state so we can't know what the applicable laws are, I can't even conceive that the answer could be anything other than yes.


I think he overreacted. A warning and an apology were in order, but not 3 days in ALC. By the way, these are 3 GOOD boys, not troublemakers!!


You're certainly free to convey your opinions regarding school discipline to the principal. However, since he is the principal and you are not, it is up to him to decide what is "in order" within the confines of the applicable state law and local district guidelines.


It doesn't help knowing that the teacher in question dresses inappropiately in her position. Teachers are role models. Twelve year old girls want to dress and look like her. (short skirts, tight clothes) Twelve year old boys.....well, who know what all they think about when they look at her! I know for a fact that the principal has sent her home more than once for wearing clothing that HE found to be inappropiate! These boys were thinking that what they were told might just be true, and that is no fault of their own!


So...let's get this straight. Any woman who wearns "short skirts [and] tight clothes" must be a stripper or something like that? Perhaps your son is also in need of a lesson in logical reasoning. One would expect a teacher who moonlights as a stripper to act and dress in a way that would not give credence to any possible rumors. In other words, if she were really doing this, why call attention to herself in this way? That's the problem with a salacious rumor like this. People hear it and want to believe it's true (because it's more interesting than simply dismissing it as rumor) and then look for any evidence that, in their minds, corroborates the truth of the rumor (even if that evidence has no necessary connection to the truth of the rumor).

The bottom line here is that the principal was likely well within his authority here, and you should not be seeking to marginalize what your child did.




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