I’m an on-the-go dad. Like you, I’m busy and hardly ever sitting down in front of my computer checking for comments as much as I’d like on this blog. But my iPhone is literally on 24/7 and I do respond almost immediately if you want to reach out to me on Twitter. Ask me a follow up question, weigh in and let me know what you think or just stop by and Tweet me hello…
Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of confrontation. Nor am I quick to anger. In fact, on the rare occasion that my wife and I have an argument, I always seem to think of great one-line come-backs a few days after the fact…But in situations where my children are in danger, being treated unfairly by non-family members, strangers or otherwise, I have been known to transform into what is popularly known at our house as “papa bear” and it isn’t pretty. Do you know what I mean? My wife says my eyes turn all crazy–big and dilated…
The other day at the public high school in South Orange County where my two older kids attend I had a tussle or papa bear moment with the vice principal, and later the principal. I’m actually writing this a few weeks after this incident because I didn’t want to write in the heat of the moment. I wanted to share some insights and also get your feedback when I had some clarity.
So what happened…? The short version of the story is that my older son was legitimately sick and absent from school for 2 days. The school has a policy that they make a courtesy call to check at home to verify and confirm the absence. A parent must call back within 3 days or else the absence is not excused and the student is marked truant. This is a fair rule and helps protect both school, parents and children. Kids who “ditch” school and get caught are required to sit in detention [think Breakfast Club from the 80's] as well as come to Saturday school repeat another detention.
When the school called us to verify our son’s absence we weren’t home but got the message on our voice mail. We returned the call the next day and left a message with one of the women in the attendance office. We confirmed that he was sick and thought nothing more of it. The following week my son sent me a text saying that he was being pulled out of his AP Psychology class by the vice principal to sit in detention all day for an unexcused absence the previous week. I quickly called the school and tried to fix what was an obvious mistake. The office staff deferred to the vice principal who proceeded to tell me that my son was truant and that we failed to call in within the 3 day grace period.
I calmly explained that we had called in and I assumed that one of the office admin women recorded that our son was sick that day. He turned rather rude and explained that HIS staff doesn’t make mistakes like that and that my son was going to have to pay the price for ditching. As my blood started to boil I imagined the vice principal, Dick, from The Breakfast Club.
It’s worth noting that my son is a senior, a good student and in the four years of high school has never had a run-in with the law (aka the vice principal)–until now. Let me just say that I excused myself from work, jumped in my car and raced down to the high school to straighten things out. When I got to the school the vice principal and principal where both waiting for me in the office. They sat down but I could only stand. They repeated the same nonsense and told me that I had failed to call in and so my son was truant. I explained that he was legitimately sick and that we did call but it was obviously missed by the office. The discussion was like a dog chasing its own tail. I tried to reason with them by asking for an explanation about why the policy is in place. In spite of the evidence that my son was innocent, they were more interested in having him sit in detention rather than attend AP Psychology class.
I lost it–but in a good way like a trial lawyer shredding the lying witness on the stand and making his case.
What happened next is still kind of fuzzy but the end result was positive. My son was exonerated and allowed to return to class. Have you ever had a tussle with your child’s teacher or school faculty? How did you handle it? What did you learn? What would you do differently? For me, it was a reminder not to get caught up in the trap of pride or stupidity that can cloud judgement, like in the case of the vice principal and principal on the day of my tussle.
Let me know what you think!