Thursday, October 23, 2008

Zero Tolerance?

The events of Tuesday seem like a good first post on parenting.

I was just about ready for work Tuesday morning when the phone rings. It is the assistant principal at the middle school calling to tell me that my darling son had accidentally brought his scout knife to school and had come to them to turn it in. After much discussion with the principal and superintendent they made the decision not to suspend him but to simply give him a warning. I was to come and pick the knife up immediately. I responded as all good parents would, I began to gush to her how proud I was of my son for being able to correctly problem solve what to do when he realizes he pulled on the pants he wore to scouts the night before and didn't check the pockets. I told her how as a parent you wonder if they are learning anything and would he know what to do when a situation arose. I was thrilled to know he had made the right choice. Yes, yes she thought that was very nice but remember, He Brought A Knife To School. Oh Yea, sorry about that.

So I go get the knife and am laughing and thinking about it all day. On the one hand I do understand the severity of the situation and feel very blessed that he simply recieved a warning and not a suspension. On the other hand as I thought about what to say to Jake when he got home I realized that I was faced with a moral delimma. If he had simply left it in his pocket or popped in in the bottom of his backpack nobody ever would have known and he wouldn't have a warning in his file at all. I wanted to tell him should it happen again to do just that. Yet I knew he had made the right choice and I wanted to reinforce that decision. I wrestled with it all day long. Mad that I was having to think about it at all. I was venting about it to my husband when suddenly I stood up. He asked me where I was going and I told him, to email the assistant principal.

And this is why I like to tell people I am an annoying parent:

"I know you don’t know Jake or me but I can tell you Jake is a very good kid and we are very involved in his life and in parenting him. He was well aware of the knife rule which is why he brought it to the office when he realized he still had it in his pocket. I am very proud of him for making what I consider to be the right decision in how to handle this situation when it happened. However, I am now faced with a moral quandary. If he had hidden the knife in the bottom of his backpack until he got home it is almost guaranteed you never would have found it and there would have been zero consequences. But since he was given a warning and should it happen again would get a harsher punishment I feel tempted to tell him that if it does happen again he should just hide it. Now I don’t believe it will happen again. He has had knives for years and none has ever gone to school with him before. It was a simple oversight on his part as he left early for a bible study. But it is frustrating that I am faced with a situation and a society in which I am tempted to tell my son to do the wrong thing should it come up again. It is causing me to ask myself what he is really learning at the public school. Deception?"

Yes that is right. I sent that to her. Now should you want to send an annoying email to one of your childs teachers or principals I will tell you the secret. Sandwich it between two paragraphs of compliments and understanding about their job.

So when Jake came home I asked him what he had learned from the experience. What would he do if it did happen again? He looked at me and then said, "Hide it in my backpack?" I thanked him for learning exactly the lesson they had taught him. Then I told him if it happened again to do exactly the same thing and we would have fun together during his suspension. At the end of the day I have to be consistant in my parenting and I have always tried to teach Jake to live out his faith. It isn't always easy to do what you know is the right thing but it is still the right thing.


  1. love this dissertation. it highlights all your best qualities.

  2. Bonehoefer a devout christian minister of the gospel lied to the police and said he had no one in his house, had he not lied to the police the Jews in his house would have been arrested and more than likely killed. Today we must use wisdom so other people do not have to suffer consequences we aspire to be moral.

  3. While I know that Bonehoefer is a respected Christian of his time and don't want to discount that, I have to ask if he wasn't limiting God's ability to show his power by lying. Maybe God would have done something amazing if he told the truth. I don't think we can ever justify immoral behavior. I would go against a government law that disagreed with my faith but I would hope I had the courage to live my faith even in the face of consequences as severe as the haolocaust.