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AIBU: I am so annoyed by my kids' unwarranted detention?

216 replies

SueDomym · 17/03/2023 22:26

Hi people, I hope this message finds you well.
I have moved for one new year to rural France and I are taking one year of school here. They are 11+12yr old boys who have not hit puberty in any way yet. One still sleeps with a giant teddy... to say they are lovely kids - context I think, is relevant here.
My eldest was given detention on the first week of school for the 'destruction of property'. Apparently, someone had ripped some sellotape around a broken ping-pong table. So DS was given a detention. I asked my son, but he said he had done nothing. I spoke with the principal and he said that there was at least one person who had seen him doing this, a student. It was a detention and there was no more talking about it. I accepted but explained that I felt it was unfair in my son's first week of school in a place where he doesn't speak the language. I also said I believed my son.
5 months later I innocently asked two kids at the school if they knew what happened - they both told me it was the boy who did rip the selotape who blamed my kid to not get into trouble and that the principal had punished him once he found out. I had not been told this and my son was not apologised to which I felt would have been fair.

Fast forward to 2 days ago, a note was sent home with a stamped signature from the school principal. It said: Your sons were climbing a school fence and will receive one hour's detention.
So, I asked my boys about it and they said that during the long 1.5-hour break they were hanging off a grill-fence. A 'surveillante' was watching them, she said nothing and walked away.
The day after that I get an official letter with the artices of the law this punishment was under: one hour's detention for climbing on the school fence. And that the youngest son can remember to be better behaved towards his community in future. I ask my boys again, politely to see ifthey will tell the truth. They know I better with the truth than not, getting caught out for lying is worse in my opinion. Also they other boy who was with them also has his parents writing back saying they did no harm to any school equipment and would have got down had they simply been asked.
I believe my boys and want to know how to contest this decision when the boys had not been given a verbal warning first.
So, I call the school and I happen to get one of the people who watched the boys climb the wall. I asked why they didn't simply ask them to get down. She replied that there were two adults watching them. I asked if the other person had asked the boys to get down, and she replied "well they should just know". Basically, I argued with her asking why they couldn't have spoken to the boys.

She asked if I wanted to speak to her boss and I said no. I said I would like to speak to a parent-teacher representative. She told me she couldn't give out their phone numbers. She also told me if I wasn't happy with the school to take them out of this one. She finished with "I wish you a very good day" and I replied " I don't believe you.". It felt like a nasty argument.

I had some time this morning so I looked up the school rules: they have to start with a verbal warning. Detention is once parents have been spoken with.

I also spoke to two other people about this and they said that this isn't worth fighting because this is the way it is and I will not get them to back down.

I spoke with an official mediator and she said not to bother with this. If I kick up a fuss over this small punishment I will bring down the whole establishment on the boys heads - my complaints will make them suffer. Can you imagine?

Am I unreasonable in thinking that this is unfair behaviour by the school? It's a little, rural school. Everyone knows each other. I have a mobile phone. They could easily speak with me.
AIBU for expecting better communication first for such a minor offence?

Or am I just being unrealistic about the world today? (Be kind if you think so - but honest!).

I just wish I had a way of feeling less alone. I showed the letter from the school to 2 friends and they both said they have never seen a letter with a paragraph of law articles on it explaining how this detention was official. I mean.. really.

I wrote to their class teacher and the HR manager - I had no reply today.

Thanks for listening if you got this far.

Personal detail redacted by MNHQ

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?


You have one vote. All votes are anonymous.

Chickenly · 18/03/2023 08:22

Sugarfree23 · 18/03/2023 08:17

@Notonstrike has hit it on the head, the school doesn't want the extra work of two non French speakers.

You either suck it up or leave. But don't make it harder for your kids.

After this long in France, children of that age should be fluent.


Sugarfree23 · 18/03/2023 08:26

That depends on how much French they had before moving to France and how much talking French they are doing outside class.


Brefugee · 18/03/2023 08:27

have only read OPs posts but. You took them to France for a year, send them to french school, and they can't speak French?

But anyway. Stop fighting the school and tell your kids to behave or accept the punishment. You will get more out of the time in France if you do as the French do not fight it and try to impose your Britishness


Duddlepucks · 18/03/2023 08:33

I agree, why did the teachers not tell them to stop! It's very odd to watch them and not say anything and then give a detention for it the next day.
Very odd situation.


Vallmo47 · 18/03/2023 08:40

I can relate to your feelings OP because my son is in secondary education in U.K. and has been given a couple detentions for things completely out of his control - one time the teacher admitted the homework had not been assigned to my son due to a “technical glitch”, but due to him not having done it she still had to issue a detention. Another time he was given a warning for taking one hand off a ruler to cover his mouth to sneeze - they have a strict rule of two hands on ruler at all times when reading. I was “that parent” and contacted the school, not because it’s the end of the world to get a detention but because I wanted to hear their side of the story. Both times they admitted they’d got it wrong. He’s been in this school for 4 years now and never had a detention - there ARE well behaved kids who do as they are told, no matter how much MN doesn’t want to believe it. No, my son isn’t perfect and on the occasion he did forget his book and got a negative, I did tell him tough luck, it was a mistake and he will learn from this. Just because I know I have a good kid it doesn’t mean I think he can never ever do wrong. I just think sometimes the schools get it wrong too and that’s not okay.
This is a school in England so it’s not just happening in France - schools vary hugely in terms of discipline.

If your sons had been told not to climb the fence and they still chose to do it and were punished, fine. If there was no communication I’d be unhappy about it too. For those who say the kids should know better - kids are allowed to stand on the bottom part of the fence in my child’s school, no one has ever said a word about it. Sometimes they’re just holding onto something to lean back and let their hair blow in the wind - not a remarkable offence. If my kids were told to get off, they’d get off. I think that’s quite a normal expectation - if we do something wrong, we are told about it and if we THEN don’t listen, that would warrant a detention in my opinion.
But maybe they have previously spoken to all the children about not climbing fences and your children didn’t understand the language? That could be a possible explanation.

Good luck


ReneBumsWombats · 18/03/2023 08:49

they have a strict rule of two hands on ruler at all times when reading.

What on earth?


notbloodylikely · 18/03/2023 08:51

Rules applied arbitrarily are frustrating. My DCs’ school has become very strict, it’s bewildering sometimes as the process (verbal warning first etc) isn’t applied consistently and my son got sent out of the PE lesson with no warnings for dropping a ball.

That said, I work in education and I know that sometimes our children do not exactly tell us the whole truth. So, better to just leave it. There will be bigger issues to deal with and sometimes it’s best to just draw a line under it.

And yes, I’m sure (in fact I know because I work in schools) lots of kids do stuff like hang off a fence every now and again, despite what some posters are saying!


MysteryBelle · 18/03/2023 09:00

I’m surprised at the responses. I agree with you, Op. Falsely accused and no apology when the kid who did rip the tape was discovered, then actually watched your boys climb a fence and didn’t tell them to get down then laid down the law and acted like it was the crime of the century.

The fact is, their ethics are twisted if they think it’s ok to falsely accuse and punish a child for something another kid did, and then not make it right afterward. So in effect, especially as the adults with power, they are much more in the wrong.


MrsJamesofSutton · 18/03/2023 09:01

It doesn't matter if you think it is unreasonable @SueDomym

If the school decree that smiling on Mondays is against the rules and that detention will be given to those who do then that's the rule. They don't make you attend that school do you?

Abide by it or take them out of that school-they've kindly offered you that option already.
Maybe school them yourself-if you don't like what's on offer- or, if the Czech Republic-that outlaws detentions according to you-suited you better than go back there.

I wish more schools in the UK were like the one you describe in France. Maybe teachers would be retained.


Mirabai · 18/03/2023 09:15

This is what French schools are like - you must know this being part French.

If you think this is bad try having ASD kid in mainstream school in France. (I don’t but a relative does).


DysmalRadius · 18/03/2023 09:16

If hanging off the fence is dangerous, surely the adults looking on should have intervened to prevent injury.

If hanging off the fence is going to damage the fence, surely the adults looking on should have intervened to prevent damage.

I can't imagine a rule that's only important to enforce after the event.

Sorry you're dealing with such dickishness from the school and on this thread, OP.


UnshakenNeedsStirring · 18/03/2023 09:22

Schools are just institution OP. The public education system we currently know has been around for more than 150 years. However, the basic schooling model remains the same. 30 kids stuffed into a classroom taught by one teacher.
Children are still taught in a standardized and industrialized way. I agree with you when you say that your boys shouldn't have been punished for something so minor i.e. climbing the fence. The supervisor should've just asked them to climb down. Its a shame that you are having all these issues, maybe change schools or can you home school them?


Pixiedust1234 · 18/03/2023 09:23

If you don't agree with the school rules then change schools. Otherwise accept their punishments for breaking their rules.

Its ridiculous that you are kicking off about this fence situation as children that age should have already been taught (by you) not to climb over other peoples property.


UnshakenNeedsStirring · 18/03/2023 09:24

MrsJamesofSutton · 18/03/2023 09:01

It doesn't matter if you think it is unreasonable @SueDomym

If the school decree that smiling on Mondays is against the rules and that detention will be given to those who do then that's the rule. They don't make you attend that school do you?

Abide by it or take them out of that school-they've kindly offered you that option already.
Maybe school them yourself-if you don't like what's on offer- or, if the Czech Republic-that outlaws detentions according to you-suited you better than go back there.

I wish more schools in the UK were like the one you describe in France. Maybe teachers would be retained.

I thought that the OP's description of school in France was outdated, draconian and downright obnoxious. Im surprised that you want schools in the UK behaving int hat manner?


2bazookas · 18/03/2023 09:25

SueDomym · 17/03/2023 22:47

If every time a kid did something this minor they were put in detention the school would be a detention centre.

The fact is isn't, shows that the vast majority of the kids KNOW discipline is strict and adapt their behaviour accordingly.

Yours need to do the same. Having a mother who defends/justifies daft misbehaviour (climbing on fence) as minor/unimportant, and calls one-hour detention "disproportionate" is doing them no favours at all.

What you permit/condone at home is irrelevant. At school, they need to comply with the behaviours expected and required at school.


purpledalmation · 18/03/2023 09:30

Punishment, could also be described as facing the consequences of your action. Rephrase it for yourself in this way, to call it punishment is labelling it inappropriately. No one can go through life believing consequences are punishments, that's a narcissistic way to look at things. Teach you child appropriately


OneCup · 18/03/2023 09:30

When they say if you're not happy, take your kids somewhere else, they are really hoping you will.
Parents don't interfere with detentions or school life in general in France. The teachers/SLT must have been befuddled you requested a meeting about it.
The best thing to do is to accept the culture is different. Presumably this is one of the life lessons you wanted your children to learn so lead by example on this one.


Heronwatcher · 18/03/2023 09:34

These are really minor things. I don’t agree personally either but if I was otherwise happy about the school I think I would accept that the school’s culture is a bit more disciplinarian than me and explain that to the kids and tell them to be careful when e.g they see someone watching them. They are old enough to understand that the school sets the rules. Especially since they are only there for such a short time, I really wouldn’t obsess about this.

If you really want to help I’d suggest getting more involved in the school yourself, like helping out at events, trips, going to meetings etc- that way you find out how to exercise soft power, get an inside line on the rules/ culture etc and get the teachers onside.


BMW6 · 18/03/2023 09:35

It doesn't matter that you don't agree with the school rules OP. Your opinion is irrelevant.

The school has the right to set out their rules and pupils who disobey will be punished.

You have rules in your own home I'm sure. That is your right.

Wherever your children are they need to learn to follow the rules and conventions of that particular place. A valuable life lesson.


Zonder · 18/03/2023 09:40

Chickenly · 18/03/2023 08:22

After this long in France, children of that age should be fluent.

They've only been there a few months! It's a myth that children learn a language in no time. Having said that I'm assuming they already spoke French before they went, with a French mum.


Goldenbear · 18/03/2023 09:44

YANBU, ridiculous, just tell them to get down, it is overly punitive. Is France a strict country though? I remember in the London Transport museum seeing a French child get punished by his Mum for something like attempting to climb on a train before another child, he was just being a bit over excited and for that she made him stand facing the wall for about 10 minutes. She had her back to him so he couldn't move away. He was only about 6 so I thought it was a little ott.


Chiconbelge · 18/03/2023 09:47

As someone who lived in a french-speaking country for a long time and speaks pretty good French - unless French is your mother tongue one of the most difficult skills to acquire is how to complain in a way that carries your point successfully without sounding rude and even aggressive. Other posters have pointed out that you are not tuning in to what is considered OK or not OK locally but imposing your standards of what is right or fair. From what you say I think it’s possible that in addition you are sounding much more rude than you realise when speaking to staff at the school - you clearly were angry when you spoke on the phone to the person on playground duty but from what you say I suspect that you were much more offensive than perhaps you intended to be.


Kamia · 18/03/2023 09:47

Eyerollcentral · 18/03/2023 01:52

Ach come off it, no 11 and 12 year old children at a school think they are allowed to hang off a wire fence, there’s no language barrier involved!!! There is no culture clash, there is no school culture in the world that thinks it ok to let children hang off a fence.

She didn't say it was a wire fence she said it was a fence. I've worked in schools before children have climbed fences that are low. If it was dangerous they should have told him to come down immediately he should have been given a warning. The way they handled it is odd. If I had a new child at a school I would immediately tell them to get down and communicated to them our expectations and warned them of the consequences.


Goldenbear · 18/03/2023 09:48

That said, Britain was probably similar 50 years ago as my parents state that your parent would never get involved. I think that changed when I was at school as my Dad did question a detention I had for him making me late every day as he gave me a lift due to them being divorced it was the only time I saw him in the week. Anyway, that was mid 90s and they still ignored him but agreed to let it go another time.


FirstnameSuesecondnamePerb · 18/03/2023 09:50

I think that if schools had those kind of punishments day one, their lives would be much easier. Dd forgot her homework week1 of school and got lunchtime detention. Never forgot it again.
Just saying.

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