Outcomes Offered

■ Moral responsibility

■ Acknowledgment of cause and effect

■ Personal value systems

"Did you tell your parents?" Brad's friends asked him when he got to school on Monday morning. "What did they say? Did you get in trouble again?"

Brad had been in trouble on Friday. Jess, one of the girls in his class, was constantly teasing him. On Friday, she had recruited several other girls and they were all skipping along behind Brad, teasing, laughing, and giggling. Brad was at the end of his tether. He turned around and gave Jess a push. She fell backward and hit her head against a corner of the wall. It began to bleed. It was only a small cut but cuts to the head can bleed a lot.

It so happened that Ms. Brown, one of the schoolteachers, saw Brad push Jess. She grabbed him by the wrist and held him tightly while asking Jess's friends to accompany her to the nurse's office. Brad was taken to the principal's office, lectured about bullying, and told to write out twenty-five lines, I must not be a bully, and another twenty-five lines, I must not hurt girls. The principal then wrote a letter for him to take to his parents, put it in an envelope, and sealed it. Brad was to give this letter to his parents and have them sign the total of fifty lines that he was to do over the weekend.

During classes that afternoon, Brad was too terrified to concentrate . . . and even more terrified about going home. When his mother asked him how school had been he just shrugged his shoulders and headed for his bedroom. What was he to do? Should he tell her the truth? If he did he would probably get into trouble from her and Dad as well as Ms. Brown and the principal.

Could he just not tell his parents? But then, he had to give them the letter and get them to sign his lines. Maybe he could fake one of their signatures. Maybe the principal wouldn't know. He knew other kids who had done it but he wasn't sure if he could.

Maybe he could tell a lie and make it sound as though it really hadn't been his fault. After all, he had told some little lies in the past and gotten away with it—but this time it felt like something big. He had heard other kids lie with excuses about their homework. He knew that some did, but then others said that you should never lie.

Previously, his parents had given him talks about lying. "You should always tell the truth," they'd said, but he found there were times when he told the truth and ended up getting into more trouble. Then there were other times when he'd told some lies and managed to escape without punishment.

Brad wrote out the lines secretly and hid them in his room. Come Sunday night, he was about to burst with the worry of it all. He hadn't been able to find a way out and knew he had to tell his parents. Over dinner he said, "I got into a bit of trouble at school on Friday and the principal gave me a letter to give to you."

"I wondered what was going on," his mother replied. "You've been pretty quiet all weekend. What happened?"

Brad said, "Jess and her friends were teasing me and started to push me around. Then one of her friends got down behind me and Jess gave me a push so that I fell over. When I got up I pushed her back and she hit her head against the wall. Ms. Brown only saw the last bit, blamed me for it, and took me to the principal's office." With that he handed over the letter and the fifty lines that he'd written.

"You shouldn't push girls around," his father said at first, but as his parents discussed it, they agreed the girls had been responsible, in part, so Brad's mom said that she would go to school in the morning and talk to Ms. Brown.

Oh, no! Brad was really in trouble now. Ms. Brown was the teacher who'd seen what happened and his mom was going to support his lie about the girls pushing him over first! How bad could it get?

I bet you would like to know how the story ended. But, to be honest, I don't know, so I can't tell you. However, if you were in Brad's shoes, what would you have done? Would you have confessed to Mom and Dad? Would you let Mom visit Ms. Brown in the morning and wait to see what happened? How would you have faced up to the consequences of what you had done? Or taken responsibility for what you had done? How would you make your own judgment about what was best to do?

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