Guilty verdict in elementary school: boy vs girl

Learning that life is not fair is a hard lesson for any kid to face. Hearing mixed messages from educators at school, parents and other well-meaning adults makes it all the more confusing for them. With the current social climate of #metoo, I  worry how we’ll navigate the upcoming teen years. Don’t you? Even if your kids aren’t teenagers yet, they will be…

The following story happened to my son when he was about 9 or 10 (so approximately three years ago), and I have permission from him to tell this story here. Your feedback is both welcome and encouraged, especially if you’re parenting the same age group as mine.

I would really like to know what parents, like me, think about this.

* * *

The rules on the school bus are simple:

Stay in your seat, speak quietly, don’t eat or read or get up and walk around.

The bus driver’s primary responsibility is to drive the bus safely. His or her eyes should be on the road at all times. The bus driver is not a babysitter.

This is common knowledge and all of us, parents, teachers, bus drivers, even board administrators discuss this with the kids.

But we are dealing with kids here. This isn’t an excuse, it’s just a fact. Kids don’t always obey rules, and they get themselves, and others, into trouble. Often unintentionally.

Because they’re kids. They don’t always THINK before they ACT.

What bugs me is the mixed messages that are coming from the school system.

Here in Canada, the message is loud and clear:

We are all equal. Treat everyone the same.

But when it comes down to it, the school does not follow this message at all.

Unfortunately I’m not making this up.

This does not mean I don’t respect teachers and principals who guide and teach our students today. I have nothing but respect for them. In my son’s case, the principal manages a school with 900 kids; this is no small feat. 

And still, the mixed messages are continually perpetuated toward our elementary students.

May I illustrate?

Will you read?

Will you think about this?

So my kid is on the school bus. He’s in grade 4 or 5, I don’t remember exactly. Most of the kids who board the bus with him are kids he’s known since Kindergarten. They grew up together, live in the same neighbourhood.

He’s sitting there and a girl he’s known since JK is sitting behind him.

I don’t know who started the fun but at one point, the girl snaps my boy’s hat off his head and throws it down the aisle of the bus.

While the bus is in motion.

My kid may have said or done something to cause this action, I have no idea. It wasn’t clear, from speaking to both kids (via the girl’s parents) about who did what to whom.

The girl did admit throwing the hat.

You know how kids are. I can imagine clearly how it all went down. Kids being kids, not thinking about the bus driver or the rules.

But. It was ultimately my kid who got up and retrieved his hat. It was a hockey hat, he needed it for hockey later that day.

He was worried it would get trampled on if he didn’t pick it up right away. Or worse, someone else will pick it up and throw it further away.

As soon as my kid got out of his seat to pick up his hat, the girl made a big, loud fuss.

She admitted this too.

Of course, the bus driver saw my kid get out of his seat, and reported him to the school. It was my kid who then got pulled into the office of the Vice Principal.

It was my kid who, along with his dad, had to talk to the VP about the whole ordeal and go over the rules again.

“Stay in your seat”, the VP told my son. “You didn’t, so now you’re sitting in my office.”

To me, the VP had no rudimentary understanding that she understood the behaviour of 9, 10 year olds. Or gave any kind of indication that she could understand, on some level, why my kid got out of his seat.

All she saw was that my boy broke the rules.

She made him and his dad sign a letter of reprimand.

My partner brought this letter home to show me. He said he tried to get the VP to issue a letter to both kids.

She refused. It was only the boy who ‘broke the rule’.

Did he?

As a 9, 10 year old kid who worried about his hat and getting out of his seat to retrieve it, did he commit this crime?

He did. He left the seat.

But what about the girl?

Was she innocent?

Later, when my partner picked up our son from the bus, he saw the girl and her dad. They spoke. There was no issue between them, just two dads talking about what kids are like today.

The dad said the girl cried about the entire incident. But she never got into trouble, didn’t have to speak to the principals, wasn’t issued a letter of reprimand.

My son said nothing. But his body language told me he was mad. Angry at the unfairness of it all.

A few weeks later, the girl started taking the public transportation.

My son too switched over to the city bus a bit after that. He is now in grade 7, and most of his friends from the old ‘hood take the transit to school now.

What do you think the moral of the story is here?

The school, who goes on and on about gender equality and treating everyone equally, they are giving mixed messages to the kids. They act completely opposite to what they preach in their endless assemblies, skits, performances and assignments they dish out.

Mixed messages.

The two trouble makers were only 9 or 10 at the time…

The letter of reprimand for my son, but not for the girl, taught my son that he will be at fault for something that took the two of them to participate in. The result, one kid visibly breaking the rules, alleviates the other kid from responsibility. That is the message he’s learned here. Despite her contribution, and possibly being the instigator, she is not at fault.

This is what my son has learned.

If the same situation happens between my daughter and my son (and it has) I would have punished both of them equally.

I have in fact pulled over and kicked both of them out of the van when the shenanigans got out of control.

“Walk home”, I told them. “I don’t care who started it, I’m driving and I can’t concentrate this way.”

But the school declared the girl innocent, and my son guilty.

I hate that.

Given how long ago this situation happened and I’m only now writing about it should give you a hint how much this bothers me.

My son is almost a teenager. My daughter isn’t far behind. How are we going to navigate all of this?

What do you think?




One thought on “Guilty verdict in elementary school: boy vs girl

  1. Definitely sure that the girl should have been given the same punishment – she even admitted her role! My experience with 13-18 year olds is what they hate more than anything is inconsistency and lack of fairness. It is a shame the school missed their opportunity to be even handed in this case. I would have been livid and insisted she was punished. I think my husband would have been more inclined to say leave it. A difficult one.

    Liked by 1 person

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