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BOTD 12/31/16 "Not Signed On The Dotted Line" A DMK ivor Inspired Production

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David M. Katz

A DMK Production
Inspired by an ivor Production

This BOTD is a sequel to:

You are the principal of the local high school.  Yesterday a fourteen-year old freshman, Sam Bransom, was referred to you by Mr. St. George, the boy's English teacher, for having three tardies within a month's time frame.  Sam is a good student and has always been polite and seems to do his best to follow the rules.  It seems Sam has caught the eye of another student and he sometimes spends just a little too much time pursuing this interest between classes and that is why the tardies happened.

Your standard tariff for this issue is two swats with your paddle.  Sam agrees that this is fair and begins to ask what you need him to do to take his swats.  You tell Sam that the paddling will need to happen tomorrow. It is your practice to send notice to the parent(s) if CP is to be used and so you give Sam the notice to be signed by his father.  You tell Sam to see you first thing in the morning and to bring his signed notice.  Sam seems especially concerned; more so than most freshman are when confronted with two licks.

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This morning upon arriving at your office you have a message to call one Mr. Slipper. You return Mr. Slipper's call.  Mr. Slipper is Sam's neighbor and he speaks highly of the boy and tells how Sam helps him with various tasks without payment. Mr. Slipper has a disability and so Sam's help is especially appreciated.  Mr. Slipper says he was made aware of the paddling by Sam and he says he knows you cannot really discuss the situation but he simply wanted to speak on the boy's behalf. Mr. Slipper further tells you that Sam's father is quite harsh with the boy and that he suspects that Sam will be punished with a severe belting that evening.  Mr. Slipper thanks you for your time.

As soon as you disconnect with Mr. Slipper Sam knocks on your door.  The boy seems scared.  Sam enters your office and hands you the form but says he needs to tell you something. You note the form is not signed Sam says, "I just couldn't show it to Pa.  I didn't want to sign Pa's name because I know that is forgery.  I was hoping that whoever it is that sees these forms would just not notice it wasn't signed and move on. I am okay with the swats and I earned them and I am willing to take them."

Sam explains that his father is severe and Sam says he will be whipped by his Dad for this and that it will be an especially harsh whipping.

Sam asks, no begs, you to just accept the form and get the swats over with or, if you can't do that, to give him another punishment that his father won't have to know about.

What do you do?

Cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.


Especially if we are talking about 2016, I'm not going to paddle Sam, and will look for some other punishment.

I'm also going to have an, unfortunately, embarrassing conversation with Sam to determine how close to the line of abuse Sam's home punishments are. As a teacher/principal, I'm legally obligated to report suspicion of child abuse to the appropriate authorities.

While I have no interest in hurting any family, I have a legal duty to protect Sam from physical harm. A spanking is one thing, but based on these two scenarios, what happens to Sam at home comes awfully close to that line, and IMO actually crosses it.


Unlike Kier, I'm not going to bench the paddling. I am going to have the discussion first. If anything Sam tells me sounds like it approaches abuse, then I'll contact the authorities. I doubt that will happen (if Sam were going to admit to abuse, he probably would have already). I will help him understand what is or isn't legal, and what options he has.

The important thing here is that sending the note home is not a requirement, but my practice, so I have no trouble passing it up. I will discuss our options with Sam before making any decision, but he seemed okay with the swats, so he'll probably still get them, and a discussion about being more timely in the future.

"In the end, it's just a story. But if you ask me, it's all true."


Presumably, as a principal, I am an administrator of “justice” but I also know how to temper justice with mercy. Now, I also should, at this point in my career, be able to know when a student is telling me the truth versus when he is giving me a line of crock (i.e. not telling the truth, for those for whom English is not their native language). In this case, it is quite clear to me that Sam is not telling me any lie, and that he genuinely is very worried about what will happen at home far more than what will happen at school.

Moreover, to the best of my knowledge all states have mandatory reporting of child abuse cases that are revealed to the school teachers and administrators. Kier is quite correct about what this means I will have to do in terms of having a carefully guided interview with Sam. I also need to consider in my mind whether when my two swats plus what his dad does at home would then bring the total amount that the boy ends up getting “over the line” into what does equal out and out abuse.

Moreover, I will need to expect that Sam might tend to minimize his detail of what happens at home, as he will know that if I do suspect abuse, he will be removed from the home, and in a typical case of abuse, the child is very protective of the parent. So, I may not get a true accounting from Sam. The point is, Sam has a good record in school, and is all this worth anything to me as an administrator?

I see no harm in seeking an alternative to the paddling, and will assign that, in lieu of the two swats. I will, however, let Sam know that I am making a special arrangement this one time only, and that I expect no more tardies for the remainder of the term.


Editor Extraordinaire
I agree with Kier and 18Smacked.



Kat wrote:I agree with Kier and 18Smacked.

I agree with Kier and 18Smacked and Kat.  My choice would be to give him some lines to write and forget about the paddling and the note.  I do, however, need to have a serious conversation with Sam to judge in my own mind how close to reportable abuse his home punishments come.  I also need to make it clear to Sam that this is a one-time reprieve.


I like Jacks idea and I do wnt to know details of what Sams father will do but I do know that in some districts getting parental permission is mandatory. Problem is though that something that delays Sam going home or a Saturday morning is also likely to be picked up at home resulting in what we are trying to avoid happening. Additional assignments like line writing etc, also. and wouldnt a parent have to be told about ISS say. So is there something unpleasant enough to replace a paddling that wouldnt get back to Pa


squarecutter wrote:Additional assignments like line writing etc, also.

I think writing lines should be a safe punishment, especially if I give him a liberal amount of time to complete them.  He can do them at home along with his regular homework and I feel sure the father is not watching him every minute and questioning what he is doing.  Anything else I might do has a chance of getting back to the father.

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