At our school, forgery is taken very seriously, but to be honest, it's kind of a common misdeed. An eleven-year-old kid knows he's going to get in trouble for his grades, and since all adult signatures are just glorified scribbles anyway, he takes a shot at it, but once it's out of his hands and into the teacher's possession, you know he's sweating, and he should be, because no sixth grader is a good forger! We almost always catch them, and we don't even have to try that hard.
In this case, I knew that there were extenuating circumstances. My student's dad is battling a serious disease with a terminal diagnosis, and their family is going through all the emotional and financial upheaval that goes with such a sad situation. When I asked to speak to her privately, she seemed like she knew what I was going to say. I handed her the progress report and said, "I need a real signature on this by tomorrow."
There were tears in her eyes, but she didn't want to cry. "I know," she answered. Her grades weren't that bad-- a couple of Bs and some Cs, but they weren't what we all knew she was capable of, and she was missing assignments from several classes. In my estimation, there were two issues: she didn't want to worry her parents with her lower-than-usual grades, but she didn't want to get in trouble for them, either.
"You have to let your parents know what's going on with you," I said. "I understand they have a lot on their minds, but I also know that supporting you is a priority for them, too."
She shook her head. "No, no, no," she said, more to herself than to me. She reached for the sheet of paper I held in my hand and said, "I'll bring this in tomorrow." We both had classes to get to, and I offered her a pass to the restroom to wash her face, but she just rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand and went on to first period.
I knew that I didn't want to refer this incident as a disciplinary issue, but I wasn't sure what I should do instead. Cut the kid some slack and let it go? Tell the counselor? Call home?
Yesterday afternoon, I mentioned the episode to the counselor. She told me that she has offered support to this student many times, but the girl always says she's fine and doesn't need to talk. The counselor also said that this kid's feeling that her weak grades and forgery would overwhelm her parents at this point is probably right on target. They are in a fragile place right now, especially her mom. Later on, I e-mailed a reminder home about the progress report, but without mention of the forgery, so I was pretty sure that she would bring me the signed interim this morning, and she did. Does my responsibility end there?
I don't want to upset people who are struggling already, but their daughter has been pushed to the point of forgery. It's not even that I'm concerned about her grades so much as the stress she must be feeling to make such a poor choice. Shouldn't her parents at least have that information to do with as they can? Who am I to keep something like that from them? And who am I to decide what they can and cannot handle, especially when it comes to their child?