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How hard to you punish 'stupidity'?

(79 Posts)
pasanda Thu 29-Jan-15 13:51:53

I have just received a call from the headmaster of DS's (13yr old, Yr9) school.

DS has written explicit words on the cover of a friends homework planner. e.g. I love boys, wanker, cunt, I am gay etc etc. He has obviously been caught.

DS was in the head's office when he called me and he was put on the phone to me. I asked him if it was a friends book. It was.

I know DS. He will think doing it was a joke. Apparently the friend thought it was a joke. Basically boys being silly boys. And not thinking of the consequences of being silly. The teenage brain and all that...

As far as I am concerned, it was a stupid thing to do. A stupid thing to do, for which he then got caught. (If he had done it on someones book whom he doesn't like, as a nasty thing, I would be thinking differently btw).

The head told me he was extremely close to an 'exclusion' shock but as it is, he will be put in isolation for two days. And he hopes I will enforce serious consequences at home. I have called his dad and told him (he doesn't live with us, but good relationship etc) who thinks his phone (ds's lifeline!!) should be taken off him for two weeks.

I am more of the opinion that he is being adequately punished at school (and I know will have been bricking it in the heads office!). I will take his phone off him for tonight, have a good chat with him about it all and then move on.

I am not going to tell my dh because as it is he thinks I am 'weak' with 'no boundaries' with ds when afaic I try to do the trying to understand and then talk approach, rather than the bollocking, sanctions, ranting and raving approach.

Any advice…?

madeinkent Thu 29-Jan-15 13:56:49

I think you have done what I would have done. Schools have to be seen to be dealing with all potential bullying. You say 'apparently the friend thought it was a joke'. I would check up on that part, even if it means contacting the parents. I've heard a nephew say that his friend hadn't really minded being glued to the seat of his chair - but he seriously DID mind.

An apology may be needed from your son to them, if so. But these things pass.

chocoluvva Thu 29-Jan-15 15:35:49

I would explain to him that his friend's jotter is likely to be seen by other people who will be offended by it. Writing rude words likely to only be seen by people who won't be offended is different.

The head will be concerned about the reputation of the school being tarnished by people seeing this.

Does your DS perhaps have form for using rude words in inappropriate contexts?

Pupils and their teachers have a right to be educated/work without having to see offensive language - perhaps your DS didn't think about that (perhaps, highly likely given that he was only 13)

I wouldn't punish him either. But I'd have a proper chat about respecting other people's sensibilities.

chocoluvva Thu 29-Jan-15 15:41:31

Don't know why I wrote 'proper'. 'Serious' would have been better.

As long as you don't trivialise it - which you clearly aren't going to - I don't see why the head should require you to 'punish' him twice either.

MarianneSolong Thu 29-Jan-15 15:42:16

I don't think homophobia is a joke. Personally I don't like words that show disrespect to women's bodies. And I think defacing other people's possessions is unacceptable.

Having said that, I think the really important thing is that a person comes to understand that what they have done was more than 'stupid,' and is prepared to modify their future behaviour.

I am not a great one for huge sanctions that go on and on and are likely to cause a defiant reaction.

IHaveBrilloHair Thu 29-Jan-15 15:47:49

Meh bit of stupidity, no big deal, quick talk about not being a bloody muppet, the end.

Hakluyt Thu 29-Jan-15 15:48:18

I have a 13 year old.

He would be grounded and bollocked for this. I have a zero tolerance for homophobic and misugynist language.

And I would be on the phone to the friend's parents to find out just how much of a joke he thougt it was before I decided how long the grounding was for.

Hakluyt Thu 29-Jan-15 15:49:32

And obviously he would pay for a new planner.

Koalafications Thu 29-Jan-15 15:54:07

I would address the labguage he used, completley inappropriate and offensive, too.

averythinline Thu 29-Jan-15 15:57:54

I think he was lucky not be excluded that sort of language is horrendous extremely bigoted not 'funny' or 'stupid' I don't think taking his phone off him for a day is serious consequences...

I think you are underplaying this, am with Hakluyt more serious punishment would happen here..- what if his friend is gay? chances are other boys in his class/year are.... not so funny then

MarianneSolong Thu 29-Jan-15 16:08:57

I guess the important thing is that parents and school are backing each other up. Seeking to minimise what he's done is not helping the school to clamp down on behaviour which on a number of different levels is disrespectful.

UptheRhine Thu 29-Jan-15 16:11:46

I would be furious with my DC if they did something like this. It's more than "explicit words". The language chosen is indicative of homophobia and mysogony. On the homophobia front there will students in your son's classes - perhaps including his friend - who are beginning to realise/suspect they are gay and this kind of behaviour adds to the difficulties they already face? It is a form of homophobic bullying. The c* word in this context also reinforces nasty attitudes towards girls.
I know many 13 year olds say and do stupid things but actually writing this on someones folder seems to me to go beyond impulsive and stupid behaviour. So on this occasion I think the school are right in taking it seriously and you should do what you can to support them.

Kleinzeit Thu 29-Jan-15 16:15:52

I would act absolutely furious - which doesn't have to mean ranting or raving. I would tell him I felt ashamed and humiliated that any offspring of mine could think it was OK to write homophobic abuse on a friend’s book. And I would act furious on both counts – that he could use homophobic insults, and that he could think it was OK to write any kind of insults on the book of someone who is supposed to be a friend.

I am sure your DS is didn't mean any harm but that's not the point. His friend may have thought it was a joke but if your DS gets in the habit of making insulting “jokes” then sooner or later someone’s feelings are going to get seriously hurt. And you don't have any way of finding out whether his friend was badly hurt or not. Probably not, but boys don't always want to admit that someone they count as a friend has gone too far.

So I don't think taking his phone away for one night is enough. Two weeks is heavy though – compromise on one week?

youarethequarry Thu 29-Jan-15 16:29:06

I think I would do what you have done. Talk to him about the seriousness of what he has done and how certain words may be perceived. I don't think your 13 yo was being homophobic or misogynistic, just immature. You can use this as a chance to explain how those words may come across.

As an aside, I have never thought of the c word as offensive to women personally but you live and learn.

WhatWouldBlairWaldorfDo Thu 29-Jan-15 16:32:43

Tbh the swearing wouldnt bother me too much, but the use of 'gay' as an insult would. Why does your son think calling someone gay is on the same level as calling them a wanker? You would never say 'oh you're so straight' would you?!

Claybury Thu 29-Jan-15 16:35:00

At this age sometimes they just don't think ! The first time DS went shopping with friends and without me I gave him £10 and he came came with a Tshirt with the word 'motherfucker' across it. When I pointed out that he would NEVER wear it and what was he thinking, he said he hadn't noticed the word and just liked the picture ( of a machine gun ) ! Then he cut the word out with scissors. What a waste of £10.

I personally would use this as an opportunity to discuss the implications of what he has done, who might be offended and why, and maybe get him to apologise to the friend and the teacher. I don't usually impose punishments for stuff like this, just a big lecture. I don't see how a punishment would help.
I did something similar when I was at school, lots of crude jokes on my exercise book, my parents were horrified and made me cover it. I don't know what I was thinking!

IHaveBrilloHair Thu 29-Jan-15 16:37:56

One of my favourite phrases for times like this is "you are far more intelligent than this dd".
Gets her every time!

Hakluyt Thu 29-Jan-15 16:51:31

"As an aside, I have never thought of the c word as offensive to women personally but you live and learn."

So it's never crossed your mind that using a word for women's genitals as one of the most insulting things you can call someone might be just a bit offensive to women?

pasanda Thu 29-Jan-15 17:02:59

Thanks so much for all the replies.

He has just got home and we have had a good chat. He sent a text from the bus simply saying 'sorry'. I asked him how he feels about it all and he said 'worried'.

I asked him why he did it. He said he didn't know. He has to buy a new planner for the boy. He is one of his good friends and ds told me he didn't mind, it was a joke (although I am aware that is only ds saying that, and maybe he does in fact mind).

The head shouted at him and threw the planner across the room. Then told ds to get out, he didn't want to see him anymore. He then got sent to sixth form for isolation for the afternoon and is in isolation again tomorrow.

I honestly don't think ds is homophobic. He would not have written that in a deliberate homophobic way. In that respect it is not 'homophobic abuse'. He is just immature. And I have read his phone before now. They all say stuff like this. It is what they do. Whether I like it or not, teen's (at least those that my ds is friends with) swear a lot.

I will however talk to him about the use of gay (more than the swearing, which I think is par for the course unfortunately) as because I didn't see it like that, I didn't think to mention it - so thank you for pointing that aspect out to me.

He has a history of self harm recently, he says bought on by his hatred of school and I really hope that this doesn't set him back into a depressive state. He recently started seeing a psychotherapist who has helped enormously with that and he seemed so much happier...

Claybury Thu 29-Jan-15 17:09:23

Not impressed by the head's behaviour ! School punishment sounds harsh to me.
No punishment by you needed, I'd say. He sounds sorry.
He probably did it without any thought at all.

IHaveBrilloHair Thu 29-Jan-15 17:09:24

He sounds a lot like my dd, right down to the swearing and self harming, she is having counselling, loves school though, well at least the social aspect of it, her issues relate to her being my carer and my illness.

Floggingmolly Thu 29-Jan-15 17:17:40

At DD's school; their planners have to be signed by the parents on a weekly basis. If its the same at yours, why don't you ask the boys parents if they minded, or just found it a bit of a harmless joke???

PeaStalks Thu 29-Jan-15 17:28:12

I think the school's reaction is OTT. Teenage boys are stupid and thoughtless and rude. Most of all Year 9 boys.
He has been more than punished.
As you say he may need reminding that the things he said sound homophobic even if he didn't mean it.

Hakluyt Thu 29-Jan-15 17:31:08

"I think the school's reaction is OTT. Teenage boys are stupid and thoughtless and rude. Most of all Year 9 boys."

Really? I don't agree. I do think that they live down to expectations, though.........

Clobbered Thu 29-Jan-15 17:36:54

The Head shouted at him and threw the planner? Really? I think that's way out of line. Total loss of control and inappropriate behaviour.
The self-harm is worrying isn't it? What is your son worried about? Is it further punishment/repercussions or is he worried about his own reaction to what has happened.
Personally I'd be having a chat with him about the language he has used, but I don't think draconian punishments are called for. He has been ranted at by one adult already. That's enough. Time for a bit of understanding and 'concerned Mum' rather than more telling off, I think.

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