I just had a very interesting conversation with the Assistant Principal at my daughter’s middle school. She was very polite and very pleasant to talk too, but I really don’t think I got anywhere. Elizabeth came home yesterday with a detention. This child has never had a detention in her life. Needless to say it was a surprise and I wondered what she had done? Even more of a surprise was the fact that it was a 60 minute detention. Now school policy holds that when a child is in trouble they get a warning, second offense they get either a demerit or a 30 minute detention, third offense you get a 60 minute detention. What did Elizabeth do to get slapped with a 60 minute detention? She walked out the school exit she has been using all school year to go get on her bus. There she was met by a teacher who gave her a detention for coming out the wrong exit. There is nothing in the school rule book that says anything at all about which exit is okay to leave by. There are no signs on that door or others denoting where a proper exit is. Oddly enough there are many, many other students who go out this door as well, yesterday they were given detention too.
I found it odd that Elizabeth has been leaving the school by the same exit to get to her bus for most of the school year and suddenly she gets a 60 minute detention. No warning, no nothing. So, naturally I called the school to speak with the principal. She assured me that the kids were told with in the first two weeks not to leave the school this way and to use the main exit/entrance. I brought to her attention the school rule book and the lack of any mention of this and also that Elizabeth had received no prior warning, despite many teachers seeing her and others exit this way. She very nicely said that three quarters of the way through the school year she expected the kids to know this by now and so was just going straight to the 60 minute detention. (Elizabeth was adamant yesterday that she was unaware of anything wrong with her leaving that way). She said she had to be consistent in giving all the kids a detention and would not waver, despite if they had been warned or not. She prided herself on being consistent with the kids.
OK, here is what gets me thinking: Why do people automatically equate consistency with something good? Especially in a school setting? I can be a consistently bad driver, that doesn’t mean that’s a good thing. I can consistently break into people’s homes and steal their tv’s, again, not so great. And if we really wanna go way out there, I’m sure Hitler prided himself on being consistent. Just because one is consistent in something does not make it right, fair, or just. If we are being so consistent then why now, three quarters of the way through the year, are we deciding to stop the kids from leaving the building this way and doing so with a detention? If you wanted to be consistent then perhaps you should have started handing out detentions during the first month of school rather than letting the kids leave the school like this all school year and then just handing out detentions one day. Is this a model of how consistency works out in the real world? Hardly.
Bottom line is this.
Will Elizabeth be serving her detention? Yes.
Do I think it’s right? No, not really.
Will this be an opportunity to discuss consistency out in the real world? Yes!