The Principal's Dilemma
Let's Make a Deal with an 8-Year-Old
When Principal Bescher heard about second grader Simon Cahill’s antics, he knew the dilemma he faced.
During lunch break, Simon went to the lavatory unsupervised. Normally, that would be the problem right there, but Simon took the activity up a notch. While in the lavatory, he locked every stall by crawling under each 15” clearance, locking the hatch and crawling under the next stall until there were no unlocked stalls left.
When a teacher went to investigate several first graders and kindergartners not being able to use the stalls, she remembered Simon being the last boy coming out of the lavatory before the complaints started arriving.
Of course, Simon would be punished for his prank, but the dilemma the principal faced was one that every principal in every elementary school every school year faced: punishing a student by making him undo what he did in the first place.
After telling Simon he should never do that again, he asked him to do the exact opposite, to have him unlock all the stalls.
“Simon, I need you to go back into the lavatory and unlock all the stall doors,” the principal said.
Simon had been in this hot seat before for similar pranks and he knew the consequences of him being disobedient to those in charge.
He shook his head but didn’t utter a word.
“Simon, you’re not listening to me. Do you know what would happen if you didn’t go back and unlock the stalls?”
Simon shrugged his shoulders.
“Three-day after school detention and a call to your parents. Would you want that?”
He shrugged his shoulders again, and then looked out into the school courtyard.
“My mom doesn’t care and my dad will just beat me, so what does it matter?”
Bescher leaned forward. “Yes, go on.”
“Not much to say. Sure, I’ll get into trouble for this. So what? No big deal. My dad stays out late and comes home drunk. When my mom tells him what I’ve done, he’ll get out his belt and beat me. Not much usually because he can barely stand when he comes home drunk. What’s another beating to go with the two I’ve already had this week.”
Principal Bescher squinted and asked, “Are you making up that story, Simon?”
“Pretty much. The part about my mom not worrying about it, that’s true. She won’t. She’s got two jobs she’s holding down. Just as long as I don’t hurt anyone is all she says about school. If I get an after school detention, the less she’ll have to worry about me being home alone until she gets off work.”
Principal Bescher sat back in his chair.
“Was that also a story, Simon?”
“No, that’s true. Mom works two jobs. Hmm, she might be upset at me being in your office right now. You’re right, Mr. Bescher, I’ll unlock the doors as long as she doesn’t find out about me being here today. Sound fair?”
“Yes, Simon. That’s fair, but do I have your word you won’t do that again?”
Simon looked hard at the principal, and then slowly nodded. “Yeah. No more locking bathroom stalls.”
“Your fingers and toes aren’t crossed, are they, Simon?” the principal asked.
Simon’s face drained of all color when he realized the principal was on to him.
Then Simon smiled and said. “Not anymore, Mr. Bescher. Not anymore.”
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