Creative parenting help needed
June 6, 2013 10:09 AM   Subscribe

I would like suggestions regarding an age- and behavior-appropriate punishment for my 14-year old son.

I just received a call from the assistant principal at my son's middle school advising me that son is suspended for the rest of the school year, which amounts to three full days and two half days. His crime was throwing milk in the cafeteria. (It's normally a ten day suspension, he informed me, and apparently there were more students involved.) My son is currently taking his last exam, and will come home at the end of the day on the bus.

I will take away electronics, including i-pod, x-box and television. We do not have a land line so I will have to find a way for him to keep his cell phone for emergencies when he is home.

Staying at home is going to be a pleasure for him, since he hasn't wanted to go to school at all for the last two weeks. What I want to do is to make the next week (possibly more) as uncomfortable and miserable as possible for him. He can come to my office for a few days. I'm not sure what I should have him do while he is here. I'm looking for creative solutions.

To top it off, the kid is smart as a whip. He just started public school last year, and because they don't recognize the testing standards he had in his other school, he was put in some of the lower scoring classes. What I mean to say is that he is in with students and teachers who in no way challenge him, and his grades have been mediocre. He knows this.

What suggestions do you have for punishing him and teaching him a lesson about consequences of ignoring rules? Honestly, I do realize this isn't the end of the world, and that this will pass, but it's not the first problem he has had with self control/following rules. Also, I don't want him to be happy about not being in school. I want him to WISH he was still at school.

Additional information: Single mom, barely involved dad, elderly grandmother, no other family nearby who can help. I'm on my own here. Also, I love this kid more than anything.

Thanks to all, and if you need any clarification, I'll be checking back periodically.
posted by littleflowers to Human Relations (72 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Are you punishing him for throwing milk or for getting suspended from school? I understand that you don't want the suspension to seem like a vacation, but ultimately, the crime you're punishing is milk-throwing, so don't overdo it too much.

If it was me, I wouldn't care so much about taking away his electronics (as you won't be able to enforce it anyway if you're at work), and I wouldn't bring him to my office (because it would distract me and my co-workers). I'd assign him bunch of chores to do, something that should take as long as a regular school day each day, and say his punishment is complete when he's done all his chores successfully. Basically, that's 32 hours of community service, which seems more than adequate for participating a food fight, and your house should be spotless by the end of the week.

I'm a single father, but of a much younger child than your son, so I'm not exactly basing this on personal experience.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:16 AM on June 6, 2013 [13 favorites]

Rather than setting out to make your son's life miserable, which is something I am sort of appalled to hear a mother say about wanting to do to their own kid, why not enroll him in multiple forms of community service so that his time during his suspension is spent giving back to his community and working on building up character?

I understand that you're angry and disappointed, but seeking to make your son want to go back to school by making his home life miserable is NOT THE RIGHT WAY TO DO THIS. You are setting yourself up for failure by giving in to such a knee-jerk reaction, and you will regret it later when he never wants to see you again because you made his home a place to feel unsafe, unloved, and unhappy whenever he made a mistake or broke a rule.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:16 AM on June 6, 2013 [33 favorites]

Is there some community service you can arrange for him to do, instead of getting to hang out at home? Or some work he can do from your office? That would seem a more positive way to deal with his time off school, and perhaps more representative of what not being in school entails: WORK!

I have to say that perhaps I am out of touch, but, a ten day suspension for throwing milk in the cafeteria?? That seems over the top to me.
posted by Joh at 10:16 AM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

What I want to do is to make the next week (possibly more) as uncomfortable and miserable as possible for him.

This seems like a good recipe for making him angry and distrustful of authority. Was he throwing the milk in anger or was this part of a (relatively harmless) food fight? Gross overreactions don't generally make people fall in line.

My teenaged niece got in trouble and she was assigned a project for the following few weeks (tearing down a porch and building a new one with her father). It deterred her from the behavior and gave her something productive to do with a tangible result. Is there something around your house that needs doing?
posted by desjardins at 10:16 AM on June 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

Volunteer somewhere like Goodwill, Salvation Army, Soup Kitchens, Nursing Home, etc...

If that can't be arranged in a few days, buy an orange vest for him, a stick with a nail in it and tell him you want at least 2 garbage bags filled at the end of each day.
posted by wcfields at 10:16 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Has there been any discussion as to why he threw the container of milk? Was it a peer pressure situation? Was he targeting someone and beaned them with it?

I'd want to know the why before concocting the punishment.
posted by Leezie at 10:17 AM on June 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

I strongly suggest you reconsider punishing him. The situation you describe -- a bright kid, being under challenged -- routinely fosters problem behavior. A better solution is to work on getting him some real challenge. I can recommend some support options, if you are interested in that angle.

It is extremely common for schools to insist bored, frustrated gifted kids must "behave better" before being given accommodation (like grade skips). This does not work. Getting them adequate challenge generally clears up the problem behavior.

I am very sorry your are dealing with this. It sucks when a broken system actively turns people into "bad guys."
posted by Michele in California at 10:17 AM on June 6, 2013 [22 favorites]

Also, you need to get a grip on what's going on in your son's life and realize that if you punish him for throwing milk, you're telling him that it's his fault his life at school sucks. It is not the student's fault when school is failing them!

If he is not being challenged, if he is actively being deterred from thriving and learning in his school environment, you as his mother need to go to bat for him so that he can be put in the right classes so that he doesn't have to engage in rule-breaking in order to find some release for the frustration and anger he is likely feeling. Him throwing milk is a symptom of a greater problem, and that problem isn't your son's fault. He's likely reacting to a shitty situation in the only way he knows how, and he needs you to step up and show him how to get what he needs so that he can start being at school and feel like it's a place to grow rather than a place to decay.

You're missing the bigger issue here.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:21 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Your son is already being over-punished. Throwing milk in the cafeteria, once, should be at a "clean it up in front of everyone and then pay for dry-cleaning" level of punishment. Maybe he could spend some of the time advocating for himself and making sure he gets put in to the right class next year?
posted by chrillsicka at 10:22 AM on June 6, 2013 [21 favorites]

My son was suspended to the end of the school year for starting a food fight in the cafeteria a few years ago...he had to go into the school for a week after classes ended and help the caretakers clean out all the lockers, haul garbage, wash stuff...if you can arrange that, I think that it is a more "constructive" punishment than only withholding stuff.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 10:23 AM on June 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

Oh man...I'm so not trying to make him MISERABLE in a real way. I just don't want him thinking that he can do whatever he wants without consequence! Sheesh, guys. This kid adores me and I adore him. I'm not wanting to abuse him.

What about bringing him to work and making him do a research project, read, etc? Topics?
Community service by those under 16 is not permitted in my locale. Checked that already.

And to make it perfectly clear, the punishment is for doing something he knows he should not be doing, throwing milk, getting in a food fight at school and getting suspended.
posted by littleflowers at 10:23 AM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

To top it off, the kid is smart as a whip. He just started public school last year, and because they don't recognize the testing standards he had in his other school, he was put in some of the lower scoring classes. What I mean to say is that he is in with students and teachers who in no way challenge him, and his grades have been mediocre. He knows this.

it's not the first problem he has had with self control/following rules.

I've been him, and let me tell you: the boredom you want him to experience by taking him to your office? He's been dealing with that same level of boredom every day for the past school year, probably with a hefty side helping of condescension from teachers and teasing from fellow students. No wonder he misbehaved. His time is being wasted, his potential is being quashed, and I guarantee you he knows it. He knows the school doesn't respect him or value his abilities. Why should he, then, return their lack of respect with obedience?

My behavior problems waned and eventually vanished once I was put in an appropriately challenging school environment.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:24 AM on June 6, 2013 [22 favorites]

I think you need to dig deeper into solving the problem at school. The way to make him "wish he were at school" is not to have a situation where school is miserable but home is worse. The way to do that is to make it so that home is a supportive, loving place, and school is also an awesome place to go that is exciting and fun, so that he looks forward to both. Making everything in his life terrible is a recipe for more acting out and less academic effort in the future.

You need to stand up for your son's right to an appropriate education, and you need to be a support system for him while he's going through this difficult time. At 14, he doesn't know how to handle his emotions of frustration, anxiety, and anger, and throwing milk is a symptom of that. It seems here as though you're punishing him for having feelings. The school has grossly overreacted, and it seems as though they're ignoring his real needs. You need to figure out what the real problem is and deal with that; taking away privileges is not going to fix this.
posted by decathecting at 10:24 AM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Have you asked him what he thinks the appropriate natural consequence of his actions should be? This can sometimes be a good way to start.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:26 AM on June 6, 2013 [23 favorites]

You can get him a GO phone/burner and not activate it. It should be able to call 911, but that's it. You can call your cell phone provider and see if they can block his phone for only the numbers you want him to be able to call.

10 Days suspension for a food fight seems excessive on the school's part, but it sounds like a melee and they probably want everyone who's a hassle the hell out of there anyway.

You can get him books from the library and task him with reading them and with providing you a written report on each one. It's not punishment, it's school substitute. You can pick biographies, histories, literature, etc. Alternatively, ask for the work from each of his classes and have him do it. If there is any. I was pretty lax the last days of school when I taught.

At 12, I was responsible for doing the cooking for the family dinner every night. Perhaps this can be a new responsibility for your son. My mom's philosophy was, "if you can read, you can cook." I started out with simple stuff like my Mom's pre-cooked homemade sauce on pasta with a salad or roasted animal, with baked potatoes, veg and salad. Then I graduated to more complex stuff, now I love to cook!

Speak with your son about his expectations for school. I wish I had a $1 for every kid who whined at me, "But Miss, it's so BORING!" School isn't for being entertained, it's for learning how to learn. That said, you might work with him on some strategies for when he's not challenged. I made an agreement with my teachers that once I was done with the work that I could read quietly in class. Would that work for your son?

This isn't really about the suspension, it's about making him a responsible human. What are some of the things planned for summer? Perhaps he can get a part-time job. Can he bag groceries? Mow lawns?

At 14 they look adult, but they're idiots! They have no understanding of consequences and they can't see beyond NOW!

I think a gentle, guiding approach is the appropriate way to go here.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:26 AM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

I just don't want him thinking that he can do whatever he wants without consequence!
If he's smart as a whip, do you think this is really going to pass him by? When I was 14, I was also smart as a whip and also dreadfully underchallenged by my school. Of course I already knew that actions had consequences. I also knew by that point that I could simply choose to accept those consequences if I thought the punishment was worth it. Escalation would have been a doomed strategy.

For me, what would have worked was a discussion of my motivations, a token punishment, and presentation with opportunities to fill my boredom constructively. In fact, it did work.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:27 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

To clarify, I've tried MULTIPLE times to get him in higher level classes. The school system doesn't promote kids who make average grades, no matter what I've said, or even the observations his teachers have made. Next year is all set. He will be in higher level classes only because his father's girlfriend is best friends with the principal.
posted by littleflowers at 10:27 AM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd go for chores--and let him see what the world of work without an education is like. Picking up trash, raking leaves, weeding, and all that stuff. I'd find a place that needs a strong volunteer back and have him work off his suspension.
Sure, he's bored, he's frustrated, and all that stuff, but throwing anything at other people isn't acceptable. Everyone alive has been bored, frustrated, and 14. If he's so smart, let him show it, rather than hiding behind the "I'm bored so I'm fucking up" line.

And yes, ask him what he thinks is appropriate.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:28 AM on June 6, 2013 [12 favorites]

Staying at home is going to be a pleasure for him, since he hasn't wanted to go to school at all for the last two weeks.

he is in with students and teachers who in no way challenge him, and his grades have been mediocre. He knows this.

Give him schoolwork to do then. Make him read a few adult-level books and write reports on them for you, or research some period in history and write a summary. If they're good books/interesting topics, it might even be entertaining for him (the reading part, at least) but it won't be like "Yay no school!"

Suspension is such a stupid punishment, I've never understood why schools don't know that kids don't want to be in school anyway.

(On preview, Ruthless Bunny beat me!)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:29 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

What about encouraging your kid to get his GED so that he has more of a future than at this school? I see no reason to punish further. Unless the milk had anthrax in it, a mountain has already been made of this molehill.

Think about who will care about this kid in ten years and act accordingly; it’s either you or the school’s administrative staff (actually, it’s just you).
posted by oceanjesse at 10:29 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Can you enroll him in a community college class? Or a class teaching something with physical results, like welding?
posted by small_ruminant at 10:30 AM on June 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

Do not bring your bored teenager to your office and inflict him on your coworkers.
posted by crankylex at 10:30 AM on June 6, 2013 [25 favorites]

Without more information, I think we should just take the scene at face value. Being gifted and bored does not excuse stupid, boorish behavior. And I think it's a bad message for a parent to send. If you think a ten-day suspension is out of line (seems like a lot to me but I don't know extenuating circumstances) then you fight that battle at the school without giving your kid the privilege of feeling like a martyr.

I love the community service idea. It covers a lot of area neatly and keeps you from being the "misery maker." I think you should continue this through the summer (though let him choose his service job) as it's a great age for soaking up responsibility and learning how to work and give. I'd also have a general conversation with him about what he thinks the punishment should be. If you want to keep him in school, maybe have that conversation with him and the principal so that they can come up with a compromise.

And I KNOW that this is way beyond your question but if there's another school that might be a better fit or give him a fresh start, consider that for next year. Possibly the high school is a different administration anyway so that point is moot.

Good luck with this!
posted by amanda at 10:30 AM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

A decent work through exercise book will entertain and stimulate and can be presented as a punishment.
posted by BenPens at 10:32 AM on June 6, 2013

You're right that children should not view suspension from school as a reward; I think chores are probably a helpful way to do that, though I wouldn't focus on making him miserable.

What I would suggest, however, is having him take point on fixing this problem. He needs to research the school rules and write an essay explaining what rule he broke, why that rule is important, and what strategies he will use in the future to have better self-control at school. He needs to write letters of apology to the principal, whatever staff members were involved in supervising lunch, and to the janitorial staff for the mess he made.

And then he needs to come up with an action plan for getting him into appropriate classes for his level. You may need to call and find out the procedure and outline the steps he needs to take for him, but HE needs to make arrangements for placement testing. HE needs to call the principal and schedule a meeting to discuss (with the three of you) a more appropriate classroom placement. HE needs to come to the principal with options for how he might show he should be in higher-tracked classes (summer school? online classes? placement tests? a semester-long trial? a year in standard classes with As and Bs?), and he needs to find out from the principal what he will need to do. HE needs to come up with a plan for better study skills, behavior, and achievement in school, and HE needs to follow up with the school to find out what resources are available. Obviously you should help him out, because he'll need to learn how to navigate this bureaucracy (and when to push when he gets put off), but HE takes point, makes meetings, comes up with plans and ideas, and chooses the best course, with input from you and his principal/teachers/whatever.

To me, the key thing that needs to happen here is that he needs to take responsibility for the situation, fixing it, and ensuring it won't happen in the future. He needs to have ownership of his behavior and the consequences, which means he needs to be the one out in front taking responsibility. Most kids either bloom immediately when they realize they're not going to be babied through this sort of thing anymore, or they're terrified and it scares them straight. Either way it is a good experience and kids who feel adult responsibility for their school performance tend to take it more seriously.

The root problem of a smart kid underachieving needs to be addressed, however, and you may need to go up the chain of responsibility to get to someone who can help.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:32 AM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

re: giftedness. Are you in the US? If so, you have the right to demand that he be formally tested for academic potential. You may have to frame it as testing for disability, but the testing itself is the same. Once you have the actual data in hand you'll be in a better position to negotiate.

re: 'punishment' -- please don't make him do any form of "chores" as a punishment. This was inevitably how my mother punished me (weed the garden was a big one) and now I fully associate doing those necessary tasks with being punished, and therefore am a less functional adult.

I strongly agree with the "your suspension doesn't mean you're done learning" school of thought. Over the weekend, take some time and create some lesson plans for him: history, reading, math, science. (Lots of homeschool stuff on the web; also talk to him about what he's interested in.) Then, give him the assignments to do while you're at work. Grade his work, and discuss it with him, every evening. It enforces the idea that this isn't a vacation, but also lets him do work that is interesting to him.

And then he needs to come up with an action plan for getting him into appropriate classes for his level.

Don't do this. This is not his fight, it's yours. He's still a kid.
posted by anastasiav at 10:34 AM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

As a mom of a teen boy, electronics being taken away has worked. And it is possible to do even if you are at work. I have friends who take their modem and all cords to tvs, xbox, etc with them to the office! Of course, this assumes he has no way to go to a friend's house all day.

I think a reasonable amount of chores at home would work as well.

As for community service, my daughter's school instituted hours for graduation beginning in 10th grade, and it has been practically impossible to find places that will take someone under 16, which meet their requirements. She isn't turning 16 until after the school year ends.

Good luck!
posted by maxg94 at 10:34 AM on June 6, 2013

I see from your update he will be in appropriate-level classes next year. You may then want to focus on study skills and him coming up with an action plan for his study skills for next year. Have him read some books, practice some strategies. Talk to next year's teachers and find out what he can work on to get necessary skills now. Get enrichment reading. Etc. The school probably has a study skills person who can work with this. If his problem is boredom and underachievement, then he's going to fix it by learning how to engage and achieve.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:36 AM on June 6, 2013

I also agree that 10 days suspension for throwing milk is a bit over the top. And I also agree with the idea of talking to him first about exactly what happened.

If you hear his side and agree he needs extra punishment then I am wondering about negotiating it with him? (Hear me out...)

I feel sympathy for you as a single mum doing your absolute best for him, and I understand you want him to follow rules about conduct, and you think if he somehow enjoys his time off school it will be a reward for his behaviour. However, he doesn't sound like a bad kid, but he really sounds bored. He really doesn't want to go to school - have you talked to him about this? Is there some end period to him being moved into a group of his academic peers? Does he know what he has to do to achieve that? If he's in a low-scoring class and now he's scoring low too, he'll stay there. Has he made this connection? Can you work with the school to find a way to help him? You might arbitrarily punish him for this - taking away his Xbox etc - but it won't take away what is driving his behaviour.

Now, if he needs punished, and he's bright, what about asking him exactly what he would do in your place, and why? If he comes up with something not exactly punitive, negotiate with him until you both agree it fits the crime. Ask him does he understand what point you're trying to make. Ask him what would he consider a good way of getting that point across to someone. It's kind of like a conversation, creative project and punishment in one (as he actually has to carry it out.) But it might get him thinking a bit deeper about what's happening, rather than just thinking "whatever", sucking up whatever you devise for him, then going back to school and doing it again.

This is a link to a great home schooling website. I'm not suggesting home school for him, but there are suggestions and activities and there might be something you can "assign" him, so he's still getting a bit of learning while he's at home.

Good luck by the way and kudos for trying to do the best for him.

On preview - I see he'll be moving next year. Hope he's happier there.
posted by billiebee at 10:36 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

You say this:
What I want to do is to make the next week (possibly more) as uncomfortable and miserable as possible for him,

but also one really important thing:

What I mean to say is that he is in with students and teachers who in no way challenge him

Look, his life is already miserable.

Nobody deserves to be in a situation where he's constantly under-challenged. No wonder he wants to stay home.
This totally needs to change, and it's a long term solution you're looking for here, not some petty measures that bring you through the next few days.

To answer your question, though, what to do from when he comes home and during the next days:

1) Ask him what happened, in an "I'm actually really curious" type of way.
2) Ask him why it happened. You may hint that you suspect that it might have been a plan for staying home these few last days.
3) Sit together and brainstorm about how the school situation needs to change to make smart-as-a-whip boy happier at school: to create a situation that makes his life worth living (as opposed to requiring to be - merely - tolerated).
4) Promise that you'll act upon whatever comes out of that discussion (like, talking to teachers, reverting the 'lower scoring class' verdict, changing schools, and so on).

Leave him his stuff and let him have a few calm days at home.

Guiding young people toward having a good life is an effort of pulling largely in the same direction as said young people. Nothing else works. Nor should it.
posted by Namlit at 10:38 AM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

I have four teenagers and have dealt with similar circumstances. What works for one kid doesn't work for another, and the way I've found that works for me is to think "What outcome do we want in a couple of months?" because often the immediate but useless outcome I want is a kid tearfully begging forgiveness and poems about how awesome and right Mom always is, etc etc because I am furious and annoyed. Longterm what you want is a happy kid who has learned from their stupid mistake and will make better, healthier decisions next time.

I really like giving my kids a project to work at so they can accomplish something as reparation. If I can't think of a project, I give them Community Hours at home for lots of extra stuff beyond their regular chores that they have to work off - usually with a daily minimum before they can do anything remotely fun.

I have also had good luck with required reading (short stories or little encyclopedia entries) and then to write a brief essay on the subject, or a daily essay on what they did and what they've learned. The first couple of essays are basically swearing and hateparentshateyouhateyou (read them, thank them for writing and say you look forward to tomorrow's essay) but then after a while, they can open up on paper about what's really going on and why they did something so dumb.

Making your kid miserable doesn't last because they get used to a level of misery and you have to make it steadily worse to keep the same level of misery, and wind up somewhere bad. You sound close to him - your calm disappointment will be a better spur to him than anger he can write off as unfair.
posted by viggorlijah at 10:39 AM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'd talk to him about how his behavior isn't appropriate, even if he is bored and frustrated with school, because he will be in many more boring and frustrating places in life (DMV, waiting in traffic, admin tasks at any job). Ask him what he thinks the appropriate punishment would be. In my mind, making a mess means you need to clean up a mess. So help him come to the conclusion that cleaning after making a mess and apologizing to the folks at the school who had to do the extra cleaning via a note are appropriate consequences. Once that's done, just drop that part of it.

Point out the other problem he created is he's home without productive things to do or learn before vacation and you just simply weren't ready for that. So the consequence is he needs to do something productive that will keep him occupied during school hours. Ask him to identify things he'd like to learn (coding? finance stuff? genealogy?) then let him do some online classes or reading to learn. Ask him to produce something (give him the choice to decide so he can pursue his interests) to demonstrate what he learned. Personally, I think this would be a great time to have him start to learn some principles of personal finance and how to make a resume. Overall, though, the key is to make sure the two separate issues (making a mess, being out of school) have matching but distinct consequences.
posted by adorap0621 at 10:40 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Smart kids need to learn not to throw milk too, thats a red herring. I'd either leave him a list of chores at your house to do each day or volunteer his services to the grandparents. Mostly to keep him out of troubled.

I'd also sit him down and have a talk along the lines of "if all tho other kids jumped off a cliff would you jump off a cliff?". Throwing milk at his age is ridiculous, he is either much less bright than you think or he is trying to fit in with kids who aren't afraid to hang him out to dry. This would be a real good time to talk about peer pressure, friends vs frenemies and other teenage things. Also might be time to get to know his friends better and to get him involved with a better crowd if you can. Summer sports? Summer job someplace nice? Friends kids? Cousins? Someplace you at least know what kinds of shenanigans are likely to happen.
posted by fshgrl at 10:43 AM on June 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

anastasiav: "And then he needs to come up with an action plan for getting him into appropriate classes for his level.

Don't do this. This is not his fight, it's yours. He's still a kid.

To be clear, the parent guides and verifies and coaches the child through the process, but the child is responsible for calling and arranging meetings, gathering information, etc. You don't just turn him loose, you supervise the whole process and help and hint, but it's entirely appropriate for the child to take point on coming up with his own strategies. Many districts now include children as young as 8 or 9 in parent-teacher conferences and discuss directly with the child what's going well and what isn't and how the child would like to address any problems. Children are included in all behavior conferences and behavior plans in our district, and must sign their own behavior contracts, along with the parents. The parents and teachers guide and coach, but the child makes final decisions about which strategy to use to address problems and has input into what's going on and what the options are. With most children it leads to a much stronger commitment to appropriate behavior and scholastic achievement.

When kids are in trouble, it also leads them to realizing it's a lot less hassle to stay OUT of trouble if they are forced to handle the annoying, bureaucratic parts.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:45 AM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Is there something he's really interested in? Maybe you could have him come up with and carry out a project that you both feel is worthwhile. Something that actually takes some work and commitment and has an end product. If he can come to work with you, have him work full workdays on it in your office.
posted by chickenmagazine at 10:53 AM on June 6, 2013

Unless there has been a pattern of behaviour, it seems like an incident of lapsed impulse control on his part. He made a mistake.

My approach would be to ban the electronics on the days that he's suspended.

I would also take a vacation day, and go to school and apologize to the principal with my son (I would make sure the principal was open to it first).

Then I would do something with my son that opened the lines of communication. Lunch someplace he likes, then do something fun, like go to a movie. Something to open those lines of communication and trust.

I don't think taking a hard line is really going to modify behaviour.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:54 AM on June 6, 2013

[Folks absolutely do not turn this into "unsolicited parenting advice" thread. Answer the question asked, take OPs follow-ups to heart and send off topic responses to the over MeMail. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:56 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

"vacation hasn't started yet. Here are your options for the assignments that need to be finished before your vacation starts. Pick two (three, whatever) or make up your own. In the future, don't do things that are going to get you suspended."

At 14, you will be well served by helping him feel like he has choices and agency, but still enforcing some standards. I'd only take away his electronics during school hours. It's not like he did anything very serious. If you over-punish, you run the risk of him thinking that it's total bullshit and flouting the punishment/your authority altogether- he's soon going to realise that telling you to go to hell and doing whatever he wants is an option, if he hasn't already.
posted by windykites at 11:12 AM on June 6, 2013 [13 favorites]

I rather like the idea of giving him chores that need to be done equal to say however many hours of school work he would have had to do during the time he's suspended. I probably wouldn't remove the electronics now, but you could explain that if he doesn't do the chores assigned then the electronics will be the thing to go. This would in my mind help with the whole actions have consequences thing more.

Maybe have him arrange a garage sale or fund raiser of some sort during the time suspended to earn money to donate to a food bank, that might help him understand food should not be wasted, or maybe for some other charity he is interested in.

I can totally see your point in not wanting him to see the suspension as a reward, my niece would be completely the same and be happy she got into trouble so her holiday starts early.
posted by wwax at 11:23 AM on June 6, 2013

Ugh, this sounds exactly like a situation i would have wound up in when i was around that age, say 12-14. I also went to both an elementary school and a high school that would massively over punish this kind of stuff, call in everyones parents, and make a huge production and drama out of the punishment.

And honestly, i think what my parents did in several situations like this was the right answer.

However, what i'm about to say hinges on this: Do you think this was a ridiculous punishment for the "crime"? And secondly, have you talked to him about it? Because being a very similarly underchallenged smart kid at 14, i would have definitely spent some time getting ready to field an argument that presented my side of what happened, and how i felt the punishment on their part was ridiculous and try and get my parents on my side.

I pretty much entirely agree with chrillsicka here that this is a ridiculous punishment on their part, and i really hope the fact that he got this punishment isn't factoring much in to your decision of how you should punish him. Focus on what he did, not what they did since it's frankly crap. And honestly, although i'm not trying to field some "boys will be boys" argument here, it sounds a lot like typical last days of school crap. Do you know how many other people were involved or if he initiated it? This isn't a riot, and participating in something 50 other people are doing that only really made a mess is not some horrible act to be honest. This is like a Serious Discussion level thing here, not a Major Punishment thing.

That said, i think it's fair to say "you have to do something education-oriented during those 3 days". Don't make it 10 days, even the school didn't. That's like making someone serve out the maximum possible sentence of paper for something even though the judge didn't sentence them to the max.

Off the top of my head, i could see this being one big project. Like let him pick a topic, do a bunch of research on it, and write a paper about it at the end of the 3 days. If he gets to the end and nothing has been accomplished then work on serious punishments. He's old enough that if he spends the entire time on his xbox then that's his own damn fault.

Give him a chance to essentially work this off in those 3 days, but treat it as probation. And be very clear that's what's going on here, that he can basically just get this discharged if he acts like a Big Kid about it.
posted by emptythought at 11:27 AM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

He needs to learn impulse control, absolutely, and a suspension shouldn't feel like a vacation. But at the same time: unchallenging school is a dumb waste of time compared to what he could be doing. I think this suspension is an opportunity--not to reward his rule-breaking with lazy days filled with TV and junk food, but to kick-start a new challenge, maybe even something he could continue throughout the summer. So I'd do something relatively small as "punishment" and then find a way to fill his time meaningfully with an intellectually engaging project--and don't consider the suspension a "failure" if he enjoys what he's doing.

I'd combine taking away a privilege (punishment for breaking a rule) with some kind of new, fun intellectual challenge. In other words, my message would be: it's not ok to break school rules, and at the same time you deserve to be using your brain and I know school hasn't been enough of a challenge this year. So, maybe for the duration of his suspension, he's not allowed to watch TV, and during that time he works through some type of online programming tutorial to begin learning to code. Or, maybe he's grounded, and during that time he reads up on the science of baking and tests out a few recipes. Or, maybe he's not allowed to play video games, and during that time he does a research project on something he touched on in a less challenging class and wished he could learn more about.

It's incredibly valuable to develop a sense that your intellectual life is something you have a major role in shaping--that it's not just about teachers/school imposing drudgery on you, but rather about taking what you're given (by teachers, by your community) and enriching it with your own choices, projects, and pursuits.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:31 AM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

If this is a first offense, I would accept that the school did give him consequences for his actions. More from you is double jeopardy (not really, but...) If it were my son, and it has been, and the school was over reacting like this, I would explain to the assistant principal that he is actually incentivizing my son to continue because he will be home and there should be a more in line approach such as making him sit in the office during lunch and recess. My son has no problem accepting doing the time if he did the crime. The key is not to punish, but to teach him why it is wrong and he should not do it again even if a suspension is not so bad. I would have a discussion with him about the right and wrong and have him help out a little around the house/apartment during the days he would have been in school or have him research something that is a favorite subject. Maybe he has to teach you about motorcycles, skateboarding, baseball, gardening or something at the end of his research.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:33 AM on June 6, 2013

Or require him to do a research paper on milk. All types of milk. What are the most nutritious kinds, etc.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:35 AM on June 6, 2013 [12 favorites]

tl;dr but as a troubled youth who was suspended for three days for telling a teacher to "stick it" a few days before my 15th birthday, I'd like to describe the additional punishment my parents thought were necessary. I very much doubt their intention was to "make my life miserable" but they did ground me completely and also gave me some additional writing assignments, kinda like Bart Simpson's writing "I will not..." on the blackboard any number of times, and just as meaningful in the long run.
posted by Rash at 11:52 AM on June 6, 2013

Do find lots of positive things for your son to do during the summer. Obviously, he is bored. Direct his energy to fruitful activities.
For next year, insist on a better placement in school for him, one congruent with his abilities. He had to deal with changing schools and being placed in dummy classes? No wonder he got in trouble!
posted by Cranberry at 12:00 PM on June 6, 2013

Here is Stanford's introduction to computer science programming methodology. The course is all online and it is free.

Here is the link.

Block everything on your computer except for this and its links. Let him earn back some of his other stuff by working through this course.
posted by cairdeas at 12:00 PM on June 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

I was nothing BUT bored and unchallenged all through school, but I never made bad (or average) grades or got in trouble. I had a do-my-work-and-keep-my-head-down attitude because I knew the only way I'd get to go anywhere I could be around people who weren't dipshits was if I made grades good enough (and kept my teachers liking me enough) to get into a great college.

Perhaps that's an angle that would work with your kid to get him to deal better with his school situation?

As far as this punishment goes...he threw milk. Milk. And got suspended. For throwing milk. What the actual fuck.

What I would probably do in this case is sit down, laugh with him about how the world is stupid and unfair, but dude, seriously, why are you throwing shit at school, cut that out. I'd have him write a letter to the school and/or to whomever he threw the milk at, saying sorry he threw the milk, sorry he didn't think about the fact that someone would have to come clean it up and how that's extremely disrespectful, sorry that he didn't think through the consequences of what would happen had it hit someone and injured them, sorry for etc. Hopefully it'll teach him to be a little more aware of the world around him.

But it may work in your favor to acknowledge with him that getting suspended for multiple days for throwing milk is some lameass buck-passing on the part of the school, and that even though he absolutely shouldn't have done it, it's still pretty silly.

That's what I would have appreciated hearing when I was a kid.
posted by phunniemee at 12:04 PM on June 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

Seconding everyone who thinks the punishment (especially the "this would have been 10 days aspect) is way over the top.

And just as I was reaching the end of the thread I see JohnnyGunn already suggested what I was gonna suggest: 1. a project on milk - research and presentation on what milk is used for, how it comes about etc, and then a practical part which is him making one or more milk products (butter, yogurt, cheese etc. - all can be made at home). Amazing if you succeed, and great even if he doesn't, since then he is well prepared for task 2. which is to follow the trail of milk, write about all the stakeholders, as it were, from the cow-owning farmer and his/ her aids, to the milk-men, cheese-makers, people in milk-product factories, people at the end of the line down to school kids and the people dealing with them, milk in other cultures etc. As a third task, maybe even write a little work of fiction, "One day in the life of x", where x is the farmer or another of the people connected to milk.

Should open up his horizon about how products get to us, what they involve, and allow him to come to the conclusion himself that it's a bit of a crappy thing to unwittingly take the piss out of other people's efforts. Thinking back a bit to my own childhood as well, and I think this would have had a much bigger impact than the "think of the kids in Africa" refrain, plus it wouldn't have taken me to reach 40 before I realise that stuff does not just float down from heaven, but that it costs: energy, effort, resources. Not a bad lesson, especially in our day and age.

I'd also not present this as punishment, but as consequences, and with no anger and upset - just as "clearly, there are things which need to be known and you/ we don't know, hence the incident, and here is how we deal with this lack in knowledge and understanding. And, by the way, when you're done, do share it, cause this is important stuff".
posted by miorita at 12:07 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, I also got suspended once (in-school suspension). Guess what it was for.

It was for excessive absences! I had racked up something like 40 that school year. Everyone knew why. I just did not want to go there every single day and I really didn't feel like I needed to. My grades were fine. I did not get punished for getting suspended (it was ridiculous), and I did not have "permissive" parents. I don't feel like there always needs to be a harsh punishment just because it's SUSPENSION(!!!!).
posted by cairdeas at 12:08 PM on June 6, 2013

Going to school is his job and he got fired. I'd take this summer in two stages. For the duration of his 10 day suspension he's on lockdown - no TV, x-box, ipod. He should have been suspended for 10 days and he gets to serve the full time.

The rest of the summer is about instilling an attitude that will help him succeed next year. I understand that you think he's under-challenged, but that means he could have done the work required and decided not to do it. A choice like that should have consequences. The consequence at school is that he lost the opportunity to go into higher level courses next year.

At home, the consequence is a greatly increased chore load for the summer. He didn't earn a summer off. I'm not suggesting you make the kid miserable, because that's not my thing. I'm suggesting that he spends his summer getting up early, spends his morning doing chores for you and your neighbors. When chores are poorly done he loses access to TV, x-box, etc until they are completed correctly. Ask to borrow textbooks for the summer from his two worst classes. In the afternoon he can do independent study on those topics.

Keep an eye on how it's going. If you see him improving then discuss easing up in the month of August so he gets some down time.
posted by 26.2 at 12:36 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Community service doesn't have to be organized. When we were kids in the middle of nowhere, "community service" was mom calling around to the elderly neighbors letting them know that we were coming over to do chores around the house and yard.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 1:01 PM on June 6, 2013

Once we were pre-teens, my parents were fond of punishment fitting the crime responses to bad behavior. For throwing food, I'd consider taking away all of his favorite gadgets and switching him to a dumb phone until he had completed a long research paper on childhood hunger issues. Maybe 20 pages, typed and with proper citations. He wasted food as entertainment. Make him spend a lot of time thinking about people who are hungry.
posted by quince at 1:04 PM on June 6, 2013

I'm going to go against a fair amount of the grain here and address what I think littleflowers is alluding to (correct me if I'm wrong, littleflowers).

Any kid who dislikes school for any reason (work is too hard, too easy, kids are mean, teachers are stupid, uniforms are ugly...whatever) and does something that causes a suspension will, on some age-appropriate level, perceive that suspension as a reward, period.

Hey, school kind of sucks and now they don't have to go? Awesome!

I'm not in any way insulting your son's intelligence, what I'm noting is that at his age, he's won this round. That's how kids his age see it (on some level). He needs to understand that oh no, he most certainly did not win, has, in fact, made a seriously dopey choice and demonstrated disrespect for his school, the staff and other kids.

So what to do? I like the idea of asking him what he thinks would be appropriate and go from there. But assuming he has no idea...

Well, the punishment should fit the crime, yes? Who had to clean up the food fight? I assume the school's custodial staff was left with the job.

My suggestion (as a single mom of three kids and as a teacher to kids with severe behavioral challenges) is this: of course being at home should be absolutely no fun.

Of course you should express your displeasure with his boneheaded decision to act before thinking.

Of course he should apologize to the school for disrespecting their property.

And if possible, he should do some type of clean-up in/around his school grounds (not during school hours). Write a letter of apology. Help the staff. Help teachers pack up classes. Help clean the floors. Whatever.

I'd contact the principal and ask if your son could do this as a form of showing his respect for the community and a way of making amends.

And of course, this is a great opening for discussing peer pressure, what to do when you're bored or frustrated, etc.
posted by kinetic at 1:06 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Ten days for throwing milk seems a bit much on the schools part. That said, since he is a smart kid, and I agree that him sitting inside for all that time playing XBox would be a waste of time. Here in Portland, there is a web site called Hands on Portland (link) that lists volunteer opportunities day-by-day. You could give him a similar list of volunteer options in your area and have him pick a few that sound the most interesting to him. It gets him out of the house, it helps others, and it may get him excited about some particular subject. Win-win-win.
posted by blueberry at 1:28 PM on June 6, 2013

I'm somewhat surprised by the responses here. It's not like he threw milk during math because he was so bored he couldn't take it anymore, right? It sounds like he was messing around in the cafeteria for fun or, possibly, getting into some spat with another teenager. Either way, he's 14, he should know better. I was one of those smart kids who was dreadfully understimulated at school, and I still understood (and mostly went along with) generally accepted standards of behavior. Being intellectually bored is why kids don't pay attention in class, don't do their homework, or text with their friends instead of completing a set of problems. Throwing milk is horseplay. Several days off from school is, no question, a wonderful reward for your son. When I was 14 I would have loved nothing better than to start my summer vacation earlier than all those other suckers.

At the same time, that many days of suspension seems like a very heavy-handed punishment on the school's part. So I don't necessarily believe that he needs extra punishment, it's just that the punishment they've doled out is not really an effective one for your particular kid.

I like the idea of giving him some meaningful work to occupy him for the next few days until it's time to start whatever else he was going to do this summer. It may be hard to find some formalized full-day volunteer experience on such short notice. You mentioned an elderly grandmother - is she nearby, could she use the help of an able-bodied young person (errands, cleaning, sorting)? I wouldn't frame it as a "punishment", rather, hey son, now you have some extra time before vacation starts, it's a great opportunity to help others. (If your kid needs an example of how this works in the adult world, to understand that it's not a punishment: my recently unemployed neighbor has been helping me, overwhelmed parent of a toddler, with some of the more involved yard tasks. He offered because presently he has the extra time. He doesn't have to do it, but he's taking the opportunity to be neighborly.)

I wouldn't bring him to your office unless that can be engaging for him - I think with a kid like that you really don't want to model that all school and work is just dull dull dull. Ideally you want him to have some excitement about the long-term possibilities - work, hobbies, learning.

As far as him being bored and whatnot - yay that he's going to be in advanced classes next year, but that might not be enough. Does he have other outlets in his life, hobbies or activities or that's not just hanging out? Children and teenagers do need their down time, but I think for the bored smart kids they need some outlets outside of school.
posted by stowaway at 1:31 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a former 14 your old who would get deliberately suspended so that I could get out of school I find a lot of this tread adorably naive.

The milk is 0% the issue. He very very likely knew it would result in suspension. (high-school kids know the rule-book, especially smart, bored HS kids)

I agree with the OP that he should not be allowed to start summer vacation early as a result of his actions.

Take the sim card out of the phone or have the phone provider switch that line to emergency calls only. (they can do that)

Take the ipad/xbox etc out of the house. Then he wont use them.

I also like the ideas about volunteer/charitable work. He may even like that, which would be a win win.
posted by French Fry at 1:44 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

In our household, if someone is suspended they don't get any screen time that day and they have to do some academic work. My kids are younger and can't be left home alone, so I'd still be with them, but I try to make the day kind of boring. So we might go for a bike ride but it wouldn't be an awesome bike ride, we wouldn't go to a coffee shop, etc.

The screen time can be earned back. For us, it works and seems to be helpful, plus it models flexibility and forgiveness. It might be earned back by doing a big chore or dealing with a difficult situation well or doing extra schoolwork.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:51 PM on June 6, 2013

Being gifted and bored does not excuse stupid, boorish behavior. And I think it's a bad message for a parent to send.
This a thousand times.
One of the best things I learned from my parents was that being challenged in life was not the responsibility of my teachers, school, or job. If I was bored or unsatisfied it was my responsibility to find someway to deal with it.
The one time my bored, overly smart teenage self got in trouble in high school, I was grounded from everything I thought was fun. No art, no books, no tv. All I could do was do chores around the house.
And I learned, there are far worse things than being bored. Being bored with no outlet is way worse.
posted by teleri025 at 1:52 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

If I was you I'd contact my local Humane Society Shelter, as they ALWAYS need volunteers to do such things as wash and groom pets, feed pets, and clean out stalls.
You could drop him off before work, with a packed lunch, and pick him up after.
But it might end with you having a new pet.

(any torturous punishment from this will be him experiencing unwanted pets being put to sleep. )
posted by QueerAngel28 at 2:30 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd only take away his electronics during school hours.
This is how it works at our house.

Does he get allowance/do anything to earn money? A $100 (or whatever amount you think is appropriate) donation to a food pantry could be worthwhile.
posted by Daily Alice at 2:40 PM on June 6, 2013

I'd ask him a. What were the circumstances? B. what he thought of his behaviour. C. What he planned to do next time and d. What an appropriate parent-driven consequence would be and why?

At 14, there's a couple of things going on, particularly for boys. Their brains are in such a flux, that they have the decision making capabilities of a 7 year old. They are under huge hormonal and social stress. They have in a lot of ways the intellectual (not decision) comprehension of an adult.

You want him to understand this is inappropriate behaviour? What better way than discussing it with him, as you would an employee in your charge? Also my kids hated these conversations, they were honest with me, but found themselves reflecting on their behaviour rather than having the responsibility for their agency taken over by me - so they were more likely to feel regret than resentment. And they usually came up with worse "punishments" than I would. Punishment itself is an ineffective method of changing someone's behaviour and attitude (see prisons and recividist behaviour). This is a learning opportunity for him to create self scripts when tempted to do something his peers are doing that he knows is wrong.

Pretty sure too I wouldn't mention starving children or hardworking cows.
posted by b33j at 2:49 PM on June 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ugh. I don't mean to sound like a teenage punk here, but the impact of throwing milk is cleaning milk up, not a 10 day suspension for disrespecting authority. The school administration sounds stupid on many levels, and while yeah, if a adult threw milk at work, they might get fired, they also have the freedom to not work at a stultifying place that under-challenges them and has over-the-top punishments. I wouldn't side with them; that's how teens end up deciding that "everything is bullshit."

So yeah, there are two levels of this: society / consideration of others, and the educational time lost. For the former, I agree with the idea of having him write a letter apologizing and asking to volunteer to help the custodial staff for a day. For the latter, I'd have his days off from school involve a self-guided learning, writing, or building project that he challenges himself to complete -- something that actually matters to him. It may well look like fun. Maybe he writes a graphic novel and builds a website to post it. Schools teach obedience, but the real world values self-knowledge, creativity, initiative, and innovation. Help him develop that by having him lead himself through a project in an area he wants to learn. He can spend five days in the School of Joe (or whatever his name is).
posted by salvia at 4:03 PM on June 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Assuming that he didn't have to clean up the milk (which is the sensible consequence for what he did - suspension is ridiculous), then have him scrub your ktichen floor and do an load of laundry. This is punishment for throwing the milk. If they've already had him do some cleaning, then no need.

Then, salvia has it for the rest of the time. I would make him come up with a plan before you go to work, and look at what he's done after you get home. Electronics removal for not doing a decent amount of work is a good idea.

If he gets suspended again, feel free to go more hardcore.
posted by kjs4 at 5:50 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here is what I do-
My son messes up, I take away everything that requires electricity except for the light. If he complains, that goes as well (only had to do that one once). He has to write an apology note to the offended party (he doesn't have to give it to them) and then he has to do icky chores until I am in a good enough mood to give him back his stuff. Basically, he is doing chores to cheer me up and can't have his stuff back until I'm in a better mood. I suggest the really bad chores that I never want to do myself like washing windows or cleaning hair out of the drain. Once done, he gets his stuff back and we go on our merry little way. It's good practice for when he gets married.
posted by myselfasme at 8:37 PM on June 6, 2013

A fabulous group home dad I worked with said "going to school is fun. Staying home with Jerry is haaaard." Boys almost always did the "getting suspended on purpose" thing once-and then realized spending all the school hours engaged in hard physical work on their farm was waaaay less fun than being at school. He was an incredibly nurturing guy, but he also believed strongly that he was doing these kids no favors by letting them get away with this shit.

I'd take all electronics away, set some clear daily chore expectations, and extend his home suspension by a day every day he blew off the chores. There could be a daily educational assignment, too. I'll let you be the judge re bringing him to work-you know better than we do what your set up is and whether you could find something for him to do.

I agree that he probably knew Exactly what he was doing. And I don't want to minimize it "as just throwing milk"-it contributed to chaos in the lunchroom, it may have gotten over some innocent bystanders-that would suck if it happened to me-and it was kids creating a mess with every expectation that someone would clean it up for him. Smart or stupid, people have to get over that expectation fast. You're on the right track!
posted by purenitrous at 8:58 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am a strong believer that punishments should not be a pain in the arse for the punisher. Taking him to work with you or making him do chores that you will just have to redo will just be a pain in your arse. So, short and sweet - fitness stuff like pushups and jogging in place and burpees, not taking more than an hour of your time and his on a daily basis. For a few weeks or a month. Will help him burn off some energy too and will increase his happiness overall. Alternatively, lines.
posted by Mistress at 4:02 AM on June 7, 2013

My son outsmarted all of us.

It turns out that he was provoked, and he retaliated (obvs still not the right thing to do). It got on two other people, and the PE teacher nearby reported it to the security officer. The SO took the two boys to the Vice Principal's office and told them briefly what happened, and he doled out the suspension without hearing the boys, or hearing the events from a party who actually witnessed the event.

Son's proposed plan of action: Let him meet with VP and explain what happened, and argue that it was too harsh a punishment, and request to be reinstated.


So that's the plan. I have an unavoidable event at work today, so his dad will be taking him. We all spoke together on the phone, and agreed we will facilitate and support if son will do the talking. I'll report the outcome. This morning, he is helping around the house, got up cheerfully and asked if he needed to write down the list of chores or if I had done it.

Thank you all for your input. Some of the suggestions were obviously from those in a different generation (I am 51). I have to's still veeeeery tempting to make him do a report on milk. Brilliant. I spoke to him about doing a project this summer, and he was excited about the prospect, so nothing but good came out of this.
posted by littleflowers at 5:32 AM on June 7, 2013 [7 favorites]

> Son's proposed plan of action: Let him meet with VP and explain what happened, and argue that it was too harsh a punishment, and request to be reinstated.

I like your son.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:36 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Your son sounds like a pretty good kid.
posted by amanda at 6:41 AM on June 7, 2013

I am not sure where you are located, but in NY State, in order for a student to be suspended for more than 5 days, it requires a superintendent's hearing. Check your school's policy and maybe give your son some ammunition.

By suggesting the next course of action, he made a great choice. Even if he is not successful in his appeal, he succeeded where it counts, in the game of life. And you succeeded as a parent.

The school on the other hand is crying over spilt milk. Their milk has gone sour.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:24 AM on June 7, 2013

Littleflowers, that's great. One suggestion...before your son argues the punishment is too harsh, he should ask the admin to explain why he received this suspension and if the admin feels it's appropriate after hearing the facts.

After listening, then he can put forth his case. Because otherwise, he may just sound like a pleading kid trying to wheedle out of consequences, and it's clear your son is not that.
posted by kinetic at 7:26 AM on June 7, 2013 [4 favorites]

Final update: Son and his dad met with VP, who addressed details that son had "forgotten". Son was quiet, and respecfully spoke to the VP and said he thought the punishment was harsh for the actions. VP said that a three day suspension would have been the punishment, but since days four and five would be half days, taking the rest of the year was the best option.

He assured dad that his grades were fine, and that the consequences were actually minor. Also, EIGHT kids were also suspended in this event. AND they had twelve more today. GRRR.
Sounds like the VP wants the school year over as well.

Again, thanks. Great suggestions and lots of ideas!
posted by littleflowers at 11:55 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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