A Day In The Life


In loco parentis
March 12, 2008, 9:56 pm
Filed under: My Life

Years ago, I think I had been teaching three or four years when this happened, I got permission to take my choir and band students  to a musical production of Cinderella.   I was teaching at a very small, rural school so I was the entire music faculty.  Most of the kids who were in band were also in choir so there was a total of around 40 students on the trip.  I had two or three parents along as chaperones and the musical took place in a city that is 85 miles or so from the school. 

The musical was very good.  The kids really enjoyed it.  Everything was going great.  Our plan was to stop by one of the malls to eat lunch and do a little shopping before heading home.  I had divided the kids into groups and assigned a parent to supervise each group as they spread out in the mall.  I also had a group of students with me.  My group wanted to eat first and shop later so we headed to a fast food restaurant and proceeded to chow down. 

I had just finished throwing away my lunch trash and some of the kids in my group had wandered over to the first store we planned to visit when suddenly I heard my name being announced over the mall loudspeaker.  The amplified voice asked me to report to the security office at Sears.  My group of students scurried to my side like a flock of chicks and we all proceeded to the far end of the mall where Sears was located.  As we quick-stepped along, other groups of my students and their chaperones honed in on our position as though we were emitting radar signals.  By the time we reached Sears, all groups were accounted for except one. 

A hundred different scenarios were running through my mind as I made my way toward Sears, but none of my imaginings were preparation for what actually awaited me at the security office.  I guess I was naive and idealistic.  My thoughts were entirely focused on the safety of my students.  I was terrified that one of them had been attacked or abducted.  What actually had happened was two of my students had been caught shoplifting.  The chaperone assigned to the two girls was frantic, but she did have the rest of her group rounded up and sitting outside the security office.  Two very stern, but polite, security guards met me outside the office and escorted me to a room where my two female students were seated.  Their faces were tear streaked and neither of them could look me in the eye.  The police had been called.  The guards took me to another room where they told me they had observed both girls stuffing their pockets with costume jewelry.  The guards watched the girls walk out of the store at which point they were apprehended.  They were being taken to the juvenile detention facility across town.

I had worked in retail before changing careers and becoming a teacher.  I knew the shoplifting drill from the opposite side of the fence.  In this instance, it was a whole new ballgame for me primarily because of this dreaded Latin phrase: in loco parentis.  For those of you who need an English translation in loco parentis means “in the place of a parent.”  I was responsible for the two thieving girls.

We had been in the mall for about an hour and half of that time was spent in Sears and we weren’t shopping.  The remainder of my students were understandably furious that their field trip had been cut short.  We all loaded up on the bus and drove across town to the juvenile detention facility.  I went inside to see what needed to be done while everyone else stayed on the bus and sweltered in the late spring heat. 

I’ll tell you right now, the juvenile detention facility scared the dickens out of me.  There were bars, reinforced glass and doors that clanged shut behind me.  And the officer who came out to speak to me after I’d waited alone for over an hour…..ok, remember those horrible movies from the 70’s where two beautiful, shapely Yankee girls were traveling through the South and they got stopped for speeding or running a stop sign or something innocuous like that in Clodhopper County, Georgia?  Come on, you remember those movie plots, right?  The beautiful Yankee girls ended up in prison on trumped up charges and the prison matron was a large, unattractive, masculine woman?  Ok, that celluloid prison matron was alive and well in the juvenile detention facility.  She came out and spewed forth in loco parentis and told me I would have to stay at the facility until the parents of the two girls came and picked them up.  I knew the parents of these girls and that knowledge had me resigned to spending the night on the metal bench in the holding room.  I was not a happy camper.

This event occurred in pre-cell phone days so I had to use a grimy pay phone to call the school administrators and, yes I admit, I called my parents.  That ‘prison matron’ had me shaking in my boots.  After about three hours of phone calls and anxious waiting, it was decided that the girls could be released to my custody.  I had to sign a mountain of paperwork including a document that stated that the girls would not be out of my sight until I had handed them over to their parents.  That same document provided that if the girls did not meet their appointed court date, I could be held responsible. 

The trip home was not pleasant.  The atmosphere on the bus was rife with anger and tension.  When we stopped for a restroom break, I actually went into the bathroom and watched those girls pee.  Believe it or not, when we got back to the school, I had to wait almost thirty minutes for the parents of those two girls to arrive.  The bus driver was kind enough to wait with me; all the other students had parents waiting for them when we got back.

My legal involvement was, thankfully, finished when I handed the girls over to their parents.  I did live in fear until their court date was past.  Both girls dropped out of school before graduating and both of them continued getting into trouble with the law.  It has been quite a few years since I heard anything about either of them.  Hopefully they have changed their lives and are moving in a more positive direction.  As for me, everytime I take a trip to the city where this story took place, I remember how I felt sitting in that juvenile detention facility.  And to this day, I keep a wary eye out for that imposing juvenile officer. 

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7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Wow…..the sad part is these kids had to have been having problems before the whole shoplifting incident. I wonder how much their parents cared or tried to help them.

Comment by nikki

what a story!

omg, I had horrible visions of the warden….scary.

it doesnt suprise me you had to wait for the girl’s parents….their home life probably was not a good one. Sad how they ended up.

Comment by barngoddess

That was incredible… then having to WAIT for the parents once you all got home? That boggles the mind… had it been my kids, I would have met you at the detention center. Hopefully you will never have to repeat that experience.

Comment by Tara R.

THAT is quite a story! A nightmare for you. Then you had to wait for the parents – ridiculous.

Comment by giveitatry

Oh…I was on a school trip to Ireland when one of the girls in the group tried to shoplift. We already were fed up with her antics up to that point, but after that, after nearly getting us all in trouble in IRELAND!!, she was totally blacklisted. None of us would speak to her unless absolutely necessary and so on.

Comment by Claudia

Wow. I admit it — this would have freaked me out! So sad for those girls too. If only we could wave a magic wand and fix the home life…

Comment by GrimRealityGirl

do you think scary people are attracted to jobs like that, or do the jobs just end up taking over and making them scary?

I had no idea a teacher would have to sit in like that. I’m surprised you ever took another field trip again.

Comment by Pamela




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