Zero tolerance for sergeant's son

A 17-year-old boy was suspended from his Georgia high school for 10 days because he refused to hang up on his mother, who’d called his cell phone from her post in Iraq. Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates is able to call about once a month, and managed to reach her son while he was eating lunch. From the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer:

(Kevin) Francois said he told the teacher, “This is my mom in Iraq. I’m not about to hang up on my mom.”

Francois said the teacher tried to take the phone, causing it to hang up.

The student said he then went with the teacher to the school’s office where he surrendered his phone. His mother called again at 12:37 p.m. and left a message scolding her son about hanging up and telling him to answer the phone when she calls.

Students are allowed to carry cell phones but not to use them during school hours, including the lunch break.

Francois had raised a failing grade to a “low C” but fears that the suspension will cause him to flunk the class.

His father is dead. While his mother serves a one-year tour in Iraq, Francois lives with a guardian.

Update: Francois and his guardian will be back in school Monday for a meeting with the principal; it looks like he’ll be returning to class.

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Comments

  1. P. Abel says:

    I’m a first year teacher with a son who just returned from 7 months in Iraq. My classes & administration knew if my cell phone rang, the class needed to quietly work on whatever we were doing or talk quiety amongst themselves as NOTHING was going to prevent me from at least saying “Hello” & “I love you” to my son. He called during class only twice during 7 months, but I treasured every call. I’m guessing the teacher nor the adminstration have family in Iraq. 10 days is excessive IMHO. Those of us who have family who served there know, every phone call could be the last. It’s a sobering thought.

    Another zero tolerance policy with no thought for the consequences. The first admonistrator gives a weak excuse of “having the those cell phones so that after band or after chorus or after the debate and practices are over they have to coordinate with the parents.” I’ll bet Francois would LOVE to coordinate after school activities with his mom ๐Ÿ™‚ And while I understand he got defiant… 10 days suspension? Geez.

  2. trotsky says:

    I find it hard to believe that the schools in Columbus, Ga., right next to Fort Benning, “Home of the Infantry,” would not be very sensitive to the needs of military brats during wartime.

    I’m all for giving mindless zero-tolerance policies the scorn they deserve, but I figure when they say the kid was being defiant, that’s a bureaucratic understatement. Hard to tell from the article.

  3. I wish that the kid had been more abrasive and defiant. If I were in his situation and teachers/administration responded the way they did, my reaction would’ve likely resulted in an expulsion, not a suspension.

    P. Abel, excellent story. There’s no reason that everyone – student or faculty – shouldn’t have the same opportunity that you did.

  4. Mike in Texas says:

    As always, there is more to the story than Joanne posted. She only posted the parts that made the school look bad.

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/05/06/phone.iraq/index.html

    From the article:

    “He became very belligerent and very threatening to her” when asked to turn over the phone, Phillips said.

    The teen, whom Muscogee County School District Superintendent John Phillips Jr., wouldn’t name, did not tell the teacher he was talking to his mother in Iraq.

    “He said he was 17 years old and he would do what he wanted to do,” Phillips told CNN-affiliate WTVM

    The teacher took him to the principal’s office, where “he became very unruly and out of control,”

    We are endeavoring to have the young man readmitted after a three-day suspension, which was the first option for him. It was only after greater defiance and profanity that the suspension was extended,” Phillips said.

    Sounds like a smart aleck kid who could’ve avoided this situation completely by using a little common sense. Instead he chose to curse at a teacher.

  5. Clark E Myers says:

    Current reports are reduced to 3 days served and back in class Monday. There are also reports that serving Fort Benning as they do the school does cooperate given proper behavior.

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    I don’t think the call was disrupting anything but the teacher’s equanimity. It is rude to order anyone to hang up unless their call itself is disrupting. The boy should go back, accept his reinstatement, then resign and go elsewhere. If I were talking to my mother and someone told me to hang up right now I suspect I might make improper statements to that person. The school owes big.

  7. superdestroyer says:

    There is also the issue where the kid claims that his mother can only call once a month but the mother managed to call back a couple of hours later. I bet if we had the details the kid is inflating the story about his mother to make himself look sympathetic.

  8. P. Abel says:

    Superdestroyer said: I bet if we had the details the kid is inflating the story about his mother to make himself look sympathetic.

    He is sympathetic without inflating anything. Dead Dad, Mom in Iraq, new school system to him, new area. Sometimes circumstances alone deserve sympathy and compassion.

  9. Mike…according to the local newspaper report “Francois said he told the teacher, ‘This is my mom in Iraq. I’m not about to hang up on my mom.'” Do you view a CNN report as somehow automatically more credible than one from a local newspaper?

  10. superdestroyer says:

    P. Abel

    Look at the quote:

    For Francois, he said he gets to hear from his mother once a month, and phone calls vary depending on when she can use the phone in Iraq. Francois said his mother calls as late as 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. and tries to catch him during hours he’s awake. He said the phone call Wednesday was the first time she called him while he was at school

    And his mother is in 203rd Forward Support Battalion. My guess is that his mother can call and e-mail a lot more often. Since his mother called back a few minutes later she obviously has more access to a phone than waiting in a long line of GI’s.

    My guess is that he talks to his mother every day or two just like all of the other support troops in Iraq.

  11. If his mother wasn’t off furthering yankee imperialism, this never would have happened.

  12. Caffeinated Curmudgeon says:

    Matthew Tabor, citing a CNN story, wrote:

    As always, there is more to the story than Joanne posted. She only posted the parts that made the school look bad.

    CNN quotes Mr. Phillips, the superintendent of the school district. Mr. Phillips’ account is third hand hearsay at best. The local paper quoted the percipient witnesses.

    This illustrates an excellent reason for the hearsay rules in courtroom testimony.

    Yet even Mr. Phillips’ spin admits enough facts to raise questions about the administration’s rationality. Mr. Phillips admits that “The student received the call … during a lunch break…”

    Then Mr. Phillips goes on to say, “We try to protect instructional time. We try to make sure the environment in the school is appropriate,…”

    Lunch hour is “instructional time”? In what universe?

    I agree with Walter Wallis.

  13. P. Abel says:

    Superdestroyer…

    I don’t know what troops you deal with but not all get to call home everyday or so. Regardless she is in a combat zone, the school has a provision for students to talk with deployed parents which IF the boy had known might have facilitated communication between Mom & son ๐Ÿ™‚ Another reason for students to read their student handbook ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Mike in Texas says:

    Walter,

    From the local story:
    Francois admitted he was partially at fault for his behavior but said he should have been allowed to talk to his mother.

    Walter also wrote:

    I don’t think the call was disrupting anything but the teacher’s equanimity. It is rude to order anyone to hang up unless their call itself is disrupting.

    Walter, I have a little thing I like to call the rule of 500. Anytime someone gripes about how harmless a rule is, I point out that if the school allows one kid to do it, they have to let every kid do it and what would the school be like with 500 kids doing it? Hmm, 500 kids running around yakking on cell phones, cursing at teachers.

  15. This sounds like a case of “he said, she said” to me. I read a report that had the teacher [directly involved] saying that Francois became unruly and cursed, and Francois saying that he did nothing of the kind. So why do we automatically believe one or the other? The teacher can definitely be lying to cover up her tracks. And Francois, too–his having all this crap going on in his life doesn’t make him any less likely to be a brat.

  16. Mike in Texas says:

    Do you view a CNN report as somehow automatically more credible than one from a local newspaper?

    If I remember correctly, there were no quotes from the teacher directly involved in the local story.

    But gee, teenagers never lie so it must have all been some overzealous teacher’s fault.

  17. Walter E. Wallis says:

    The rule of 500. Tell me please, Mike, you are not a teacher, because if we let just one teacher get away with being a zero-tolerance officious jerk, then…

  18. Mike in Texas says:

    Walter wrote:

    if we let just one teacher get away with being a zero-tolerance officious jerk, then…

    Since when should schools and teachers have to tolerate profanity and smart mouthing. I am a teacher and know much better than you what the consequences are of a school that tolerates this kind of behavior. The kid himself admits he should have handled things differently, heck I don’t blame him for refusing to hang up on his mother. But all he had to say was “My Mom is calling from Iraq”. Instead he chose to smart off to a teacher in front of a cafeteria full of kids and use profanity.

    Of course, what the kid really needs is some counseling to help him get through his mother being in a war zone. Hopefully Joanne will keep us up to date on this story.

  19. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Sorry, Mike but the teacher’s behavior was just as wrong and less forgivable since the teacher was getting paid. Someone whose first reaction to a problem is nuclear belongs in another line of work. It was back in 1949 when my leadership instructor explained the difference between commanding and ordering, and subsequent observations have proved him right.

  20. Mike in Texas says:

    Walter,

    Have you considered the possibility the teacher was merely doing her job as directed by the school’s administration? I haven’t seen anything about official condemnation of the teacher and that tells me she was doing what she was told to do.

    People rail against lax schools that don’t enforce rules, but yet when they do people complain also. I think a rule against cell phone usuage at school is reasonable, and from the stories I’ve seen about this the school had a policy to make exceptions for children whose parents are deployed overseas.

  21. Walter E. Wallis says:

    “Excuse me, but you are not allowed to use a cell phone on campus.”
    “I know, but I’m talking to my mom in Iraq.”
    “All right, but as soon as you are finished I want to talk to you about this; and tell your mother we appreciate what she is doing.”

    If the principal demanded instant obedience to every rule, then both the student and the teacher are well off somewhere else.
    Of course, If I were an obedient worker, I would not be 30 years from my last paycheck

  22. Mike in Texas says:

    Walter,

    Is that how you envision the conversation should have gone?