Year: 1996-1997
Month: February
Leader: Group K

Situation/Case Study:

This student uses bad language all the time. He really has a foul mouth and is constantly putting other students down. He can be really vicious. The teacher has tried talking to him, asking him to think of how others might feel, talking to his mother at conferences, etc., to no avail. She has decided to use humor. At the beginning of each class she always has a puzzle or challenge for the class. This day she announced that the challenge was for the class to take a little vote to see if they could figure how many minutes it would take before something foul came out of this student's mouth. He went the entire period without insulting anyone or using any foul language. In addition to being really insulting to his classmates, this student's anger and comments seem directed especially toward girls and women. His comments are often sexual and explicit in nature and could easily qualify as or be interpreted as sexual harassment. In the last day or two he was suspended from the bus by the bus driver (a female) for making sexually inappropriate, explicit suggestions to the bus driver. The mother was called and was shocked saying no one had ever had this kind of a problem with him before. The mother has had a history of making excuses for the child on previous occasions and the family has a history with the district where they have threatened a lawsuit because the child' s needs were not being met. They threatened to send him to Sylvan Learning and have the district pick up the tab. The father is a high powered executive and has never been involved in the child's education except for threatening the lawsuit. The mother is quite active in the school but refuses to acknowledge that her child has done anything wrong. The child is an only child and is adopted.

Teachers feel frustrated when they are not supported by parents. They expect that the parents and the school need to work together for the benefit of the child. The use of humor sometimes works in dealing with difficult adolescents. Children need limits and are angry and disappointed when adults in their lives do not set them. They will push hard to have limits established. The other students in the class held the student accountable and therefore he showed he could be held accountable for his language and behavior. The student may have been seeking attention and gained it when the whole class was asked to monitor his actions. The student wants to be in control and felt in control when the whole class was involved. Because he is adopted the mother may be protecting him from his father and/or finding excuses to give him every opportunity to succeed. The parents are in denial, blaming the school so that they do not have to accept responsibility for his behavior. What works best to motivate a student is when you can relate expectations to things he/she really cares about or when something has personal meaning and therefore the consequences become meaningful.

Theories behind practice:

Impact on others:
Inappropriate language and behavior. Sexual harassment. Verbal abuse of other students. Lack of parental support. Parental denial.

Because the kid is very interested in and good at golf, have him go out for golf because the coach won't let him get away with not accepting responsibility for his actions. Continue to use humor. Have the class create a mission statement and set goals for the behavior they want and then monitor each other. Celebrate when the class is successful. Create some kind of visual representation (chart or graph) to show him how often he uses inappropriate language. Have him do research on the origination of the inappropriate words and write a report. Tie consequences to something he really cares about. Engage the entire class in helping him. Use peer pressure.