School rule: punch someone, get suspended. Simple enough.
This also happens to be a highly controversial rule. Last week, one seventh grade boy said something very disrespectful to a classmate, who turned and punched him. A fight ensued, and I suspended both of them. The family of the kid who punched first is up in arms. They believe that their son was disrespected and had no choice but to fight, making it self-defense. Dad has gang tattoos on his neck and was visibly scornful when I tried to explain that punching is never an appropriate response on a school campus. Mom yelled at me that her son isn’t going to be anyone’s little bitch. I eventually quit trying to explain myself and just announced that this is policy and it isn’t negotiable. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Now I have a kid who has heard his parents argue with me, support the punching, and staunchly disagree with the school rule. He’s usually really sweet, but now he’s holding his parents’ stand and refusing to let me sway him. As part of the suspension, he had to write about his plan to improve. After hours of refusing to write something, he finally wrote, “I’ll only respond verbally like a little baby and then I’ll go run away and cry to my mommy.”
Time for the big guns. I called in a favor with one of my office regulars, who is popular, athletic, tough, and never one to shy from a leadership role. I said, “I’ve got a younger student who is confusing being a man with punching people. Think you could help him out?”
My office regular transformed into the maturest version of himself, and the angry kid actually listened. While I shamelessly eavesdropped from the next room, I caught this gem:
“I get it. You don’t want to be a punk. I’ve been there, trust me. But if you don’t do anything, then it isn’t your fault and you won’t get in trouble. Who’s the punk when he’s in the office? Who’s the punk when he’s suspended? Who’s the punk when he’s in juvie? You see, man? It works out better for you when you do things right.”