Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Apology Accepted

At the start of the year, there was an incident where one of my students threatened me with physical harm. Our school’s zero tolerance policy kicked in and the situation was presented at a superintendent’s hearing. I never had a problem with this particular boy previous to the incident and I truly believe his words were spoken out of adolescent frustration and impulse rather than intent to harm; nonetheless, my school decided that a more restrictive environment would be in the best interest of the student. The incident quietly resolved and the student was placed in an alternative education classroom at a school down the road.

I feel like this incident has hung over me all year. I never had a chance to speak with the boy and I wasn’t involved in any of the decisions that were made afterward. Granted, he had a long line of prior offenses and this incident was what finally tipped the scales, yet I still felt somewhat accountable.

I wondered all year how he was doing at his new school. For many students, the alternative school placement is often the first step to a life of consequences to poor decisions. How many don’t graduate? How many end up incarcerated? This kid is too smart and has too much potential for either of those things to happen to him. Everyone should be accountable for their own actions and he certainly said some things that he probably shouldn’t have, but what long term price will he now have to pay?

This morning I received a call from the front office. There was a student here to see me.

I walked into the office to find the boy who had, only a few months earlier threatened to kill me, standing awkwardly with a present in his hand. He had painstakingly carved a desk placard bearing my name. It must have taken him weeks to sculpt, sand, and paint.

We spoke only briefly. His demeanor had changed; he was quiet, respectful, almost reflective. He told me he was passing all of his classes and hadn’t had a behavioral incident in months. The alternative school was a good fit for him and he had requested to stay there for next year too.

He never apologized for what he said to me at the start of the year. But after I shook his hand and left with my gift, I knew exactly what that palcard really represented.

Apology accepted.

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