My son called another boy on the school bus a name. I heard about this from my child – let’s call him “Bob” – when he came home from school one day. “Mom, this kid was calling me ___________. So I said, ‘Oh, yeah? Well, you’re _________ because ______________.”
“Oh, no, Bob,” I said (or would have, if his name was really Bob). “You shouldn’t have done that. Even if someone calls you a name or makes fun of you, don’t respond in kind. You can choose to ignore what he is saying to you, and if you just can’t stand it, talk to an adult. If you call other kids names, you will wind up in trouble and it won’t matter who started it.”
Sure enough, the next morning I received a call from the school principal. Bob had received a bus referral for calling another child on the bus a name. “That’s true,” I told the principal “He did it.” Bob was guilty as charged. And so, end of story. Until yesterday when we received our official letter from the school, notifying us in writing of the bus referral. This is the letter copied to a long list of people and placed in the student’s permanent record. And this is the exact wording from the letter, explaining Bob’s offense:
“(Bob) was calling other students ________ which caused another student to call him a name.”
Wait. What? He caused another student to call him a name? Is this an example of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy? Or perhaps we’re not free moral agents and I’ve been lying to my children for all these years? Every time that I’ve told them that they have the power to walk away from a bully, to not strike back (either verbally or physically) – maybe my entire moral philosophy was built on sand?
Goodness. How am I supposed to teach my son that his name-calling was not, under any provocation, justified, if the school justifies the behavior of someone calling Bob a name? Am I nitpicking to have called the school about this? Possibly, but words matter. Clearly words matter, since words are what got Bob into trouble in the first place.
Try harder, public school administrators. Try harder.