No one ever said being a parent was an easy job, and it’s never more complex than when you’re the parent of a teenager. You have to balance the notion that your child is still in fact a child, with the fact that they’re also becoming responsible for what they do, how they behave towards others and what they say.
So when problems arise, you can’t simply sit two teenagers down on a “naughty step” and tell them to play nicely. You have to tread carefully to be fair to all involved, while maintaining enough respect for them to actually listen to what you’re saying. Adults are reasonable, and must be reasonable when dealing with teenagers.
Only… that’s not always the case. Sometimes adults aren’t reasonable at all. And in other cases, they’re far too reasonable, even going to the extreme of what some people call being “politically correct”. Well if there was ever one story that exemplified the complexities of political correctness while dealing with teenagers, this is definitely it.
So here’s the situation… A mom is at work one day and she gets a call from the school telling her that they need her to come in because of her daughter. What begins as shock quickly turns into… well, something very different…
I’m an ER nurse. We’re not allowed to keep our phones on us; they’re to be kept in our lockers. A call comes into hospital reception on a private line for me.
Phone: “This is [Teacher] from [School]. There’s been an incident involving [Daughter]. We need you to come in.”
Me: “Is she ill or injured? Can it wait until my shift is over in two hours?”
Phone: “[Daughter] has struck another pupil. We’ve been trying to call you for 45 minutes. It really is very serious.”
I go to the school and am ushered into the principal’s office. I see my daughter, a male teacher, a female counselor, the principal, a boy with blood around his nose and a red face, and his parents.
Principal: “Mrs. [My Name], how kind of you to FINALLY join us!”
Me: “Yeah, things get busy in ER. I’ve spent the last hour administering over 40 stitches to a seven-year-old who was beaten by his mother with a metal ladle and then I had to deal with the police regarding the matter. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
After watching him try to not act embarrassed, he tells me what has happened. The boy had twanged my daughter’s bra and she had punched him in the face twice. I got the impression they were more angry with my daughter than the boy.
Me: “Oh. And you want to know if I’m going to press charges against him for sexually assaulting my daughter and against the school for allowing him to do it?”
They all get jittery when I mention sexual assault and start speaking at once.
Teacher: “I don’t think it was that serious.”
Counselor: “Let’s not over-react.”
Principal: “I think you’re missing the point.”
The boy’s mother then starts crying. I turn to my daughter to find out what happened.
Daughter: “He kept pinging my bra. I asked him to stop but he didn’t, so I told Mr. [Teacher]. He told me to ‘ignore it.’ [Boy] did it again and undid my bra so I hit him. Then he stopped.”
I turn to the teacher.
Me: “You let him do this? Why didn’t you stop him? Come over here and let me touch the front of your trousers.”
Teacher: “What?! No!”
Me: “Does that seem inappropriate to you? Why don’t you go and pull on Mrs. [Counselor]’s bra right now. See how fun it is for her. Or on that boy’s mom’s bra. Or mine. You think just because they’re kids it’s fun?”
Principal: “Mrs. [My Name]. With all due respect, [Daughter] still beat another child.”
Me: “No. She defended herself against a sexual attack from another pupil. Look at them; He’s a foot taller than her and twice as heavy. How many times should she have let him touch her? If the person who was supposed to help and protect her in a classroom couldn’t be bothered what should she have done? He pulled her bra so hard it came undone.”
The boy’s mom is still crying and his dad looks both angry and embarrassed. The teacher won’t make eye contact with me. I look at the principal.
Me: “I’m taking her home. I think the boy has learned his lesson. And I hope nothing like this ever happens again, not only to [Daughter], but to any other girl at this school. You wouldn’t let him do it to a member of staff so what makes you think he can do it to a girl of 15 is beyond me. I will be reporting this to the superintendent. And if you—” *turning to the boy* “—EVER touch my daughter again I WILL have you arrested for sexual assault. Do you understand me?”
I was so angry I gathered my daughter’s things and left. I reported it to the superintendent, whom I know from Church (it’s a Catholic school), and was assured it would be strongly dealt with. They were equally as horrified and assured me they would contact the school. My daughter was put into a different class for that subject, away from the teacher and the boy.
This story has gained a lot of attention, mainly for the big difference in how the school and the mother chose to deal with the situation. While of course violence should not be the answer to problems, claiming that the boy in this situation is somehow a victim is definitely questionable.
It would be nice if none of this behavior was occurring, and perhaps ideal that the girl were able to verbalize what had happened, maybe turn all the negative in this situation on to the person it truly should have been on. But you cannot blame her for reacting to such a violation, and so many people feel her actions were justified.
What do you think about this situation? Was the mother right in defending her daughter’s actions given the circumstances, or do you side with the school in their interpretation of the whole incident?