Monday, March 26, 2007

Signs: Alex is suspended

GOD, Please GRANT me serenity! It's been a rough week.

(Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; the courage to change that which can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.)

I've felt DEVOURED by recent events!

I've recycled arguments! I've recycled memories.

I'm looking for directions. They're somewhere, buried or hiding!

Steve and I feel like we've asked for help but that the responses are as confusing as the problems we face.

In a nutshell, Alex was suspended. It happened last Wednesday. We were summoned to the principal's office--both of us, despite the fact that the administration knew this meant our business had to close immediately. We were, we were terrified. We knew that just the day before the Dreher High School staff found out about the MySpace profile that Alex had created for the principal. (From time to time, I've monitored Alex's MySpace. We had no idea he'd created this new, slanderous profile.) We thought he'd be expelled. Fortunately, he was only suspended for three days, Wednesday through Friday. We couldn't say anything. For all we knew, this meeting was an attempt to gain more evidence against us---slander, libel, lawsuits went through our minds...lose of our home, business, etc. We were told that his missed homework could be emailed to him....did they actually think he still had access to the Internet? Yes, they did! They seemed totally shocked that we would deny Alex a password as a punishment for Internet infractions. So, I handed the school officer my business card and requested all homework to be sent to my email address. We were instructed to collect the assignments in the school office on Friday afternoon. We were told to be grateful (Steve and I were) and that all the school's actions were in Alex's best interests.

We left, with Alex, mortified, embarrassed, and still scared. Only one teacher wrote to us; the drama instructor promised the missing assignment would be in the office. There were more than one "knock down/drag out" and tearful fights. The MySpace profile included the "JK" for "Just Kidding" and said it had been hosted by the first amendment. Alex was shocked to learn that such actions aren't covered in the first amendment, but he knew (and could recite as if he possessed a law degree) that ignorance of a law was no excuse for breaking it.

This was also report card day. Alex managed to take his first good interim grades in years and turn them into a dismal result. From four As, two Bs, and a C he dropped to one A (100% in speech---cute teacher that he likes), one B (drama), four Ds and an F. He likely had to try to fail this miserably! I have no idea how else this could happen.

The grades weren't the worst of it. He lied. He managed to convince Steve that the grades would be good enough for Steve to book the airline ticket to England. Alex conned his Dad into spring break with Mathias.

Of course, the trip has been cancelled. Alex is grounded. We are reeling in depression---how could we be such horribly irresponsible parents? Steve and I held on to the words, "This is in Alex's best interest". (At the Gallery80808/VistaStudios art opening on Friday night, a Dreher teacher gave Alex a "high five" for his efforts.....great help for parenting.)

On Friday afternoon I went to collect Alex's assignments. None were in the office or with the attendance secretary. I checked with the school officer; yes, the email requesting assignments had been sent on Wednesday afternoon. No one bothered---Alex's best interest.

Well, the yard sure benefited. Alex became manual labor for the yard Steve always wanted. It looks great. Carolina jasmine have been planted in the beds in front of the garage. All the other flower beds were raked and cleared, weeded and mulched. There's a cute edging around the century old oak tree. Impatiences ring the tree trunk. Poppy seeds from a vineyard in California line a fence. They bought a stand for the hammock. Plants are out front too. The yard has never looked this good.

Alex also wanted to learn to make pants. I bought a really, really cheap unisex pattern and insisted he use only material in my studio for the first pair. The result is totally hilarious....but it was created following the instructions by Alex. I guess the yard and the sewing were in Alex's best interest. Our arguments (which naturally Steve and I won---though with difficulty....Alex is brilliant despite his grades and very good at debate!) were also in his best interests.

At the same time, I feel like parenting is like following most of the signs I saw in California. The directions are just not obvious. I'm at a loss, feel helpless, and rather pathetic most of the time.


Miss Canthus said...

One of the things we learned from a similar situation, is that young people hear slander on TV all the time (eg David Letterman, etc). How are we (let alone teenagers) to know that where to draw the line at whom we can make "slanderous" comments about and who we can't?

We found out that public figures are fair game. Hmmm, a school principal could well be considered a public figure....

In our case the police removed my son and a female friend from school. It was absurd!!!!! He was a leader in the school so they accused him of leading a ring of bullies!!!! It is pretty hilarious when you think of it. He was the really nice guy in the school and the so called bullies were simply putting some comments on MSN. Much worse gets said verbally but when it is written there is a problem!

My son is very well-known in our town and the good townsfolk came to his rescue with wonderful words of encouragement. The principal told me that he couldn't go downtown (in our tiny town) because people were so angry with him for suspending my son.

All is well now and my son is experiencing the kind of success that the good townsfolk knew was coming.

Others have asked me if my son felt scarred by the experience. He is such a mature young man, with a remarkable understanding of human nature that he definitely appears not to be.

I asked him what he learned from his experience and his reply was "I have learned that there are adults that are willing to sacrifice a 17 yr old to protect their jobs." Those are the kind of people out in the school system.

Three other leaders in our community came to me with similar stories to my sons - they were suspended for slanderous writings. Two were teachers. Ha! One pointed out that it is tough being a leader. Everyone is looking to find fault with you.

We totally supported our son throughout the ordeal as we know without a doubt that he does not have a bully-type cell in his body. As a matter of fact, he is a defender of the bullied. Kids in the school recognize that and one wrote a letter to the editor pointing out that he "was a friend to every student in the school."

So bad things do happen to good people and as our lawyer pointed out, look for what you can learn from this experience. Turn a negative into a positive... By the way, going to a lawyer was the smartest thing we could have done. His advice was incredibly helpful.

Many more ugly things happened in our situation, but I will spare you the details. We considered a lawsuit against the police and could have won, but it would have kept the ugliness around a lot longer and we wanted it to go away for my son's sake (I was so angry I wanted the police taken to court. Like I said there is much more that I haven't told you about).

You sound like you are dong the right thing with your son by supporting him and bringing him in even closer to you. It is true that many good things come from situations like this. We always had an excellent relationship with our son, but we came to have even more respect for him due to the way he handled himself (few adults would do as well in the same situation). If he hasn't already figured it out, the adult world is not an easy place and he has learned a lesson early, which will actually give him a leg up on the other young people.

Truly, there are things to be learned and gained from the experience. I suggest that the three of you sit down together and discuss them.

Susan said...

Thank you for your compassion and the willingness to share your story with me and others. It is so comforting to know that stressful situations will pass, that many people understand the pressure, and that there are even strangers who care! Thank you so much.