Heard on the Street – Consequences


I love it when you guys send a little something my way. The following was sent to my by a Dallas friend and MOAT.

This article is in response to a an issue which occurred in late April. Apparently in Redwood City, Ca, a 10th grader was caught cheating and subsequently kicked out of the Honors class in which he cheated. According to CBS San Fransisco, “when he started classes at Sequoia High School in Redwood City, the boy signed an Academy Honesty Pledge warning him that cheating is grounds for immediate removal from the advanced-level English class.

Jack Berghouse (the boy’s father) and his wife filed a lawsuit … against the school district claiming their son’s due process rights were violated.The suit said the school’s policies regarding punishment for cheating are vague and contradictory and shouldn’t be enforced.”

Here’s a brief portion of Scott Herhold’s (Mercury News) response. Click on the link to read the whole story:

Herhold: Memo to Sequoia High Dad: Let kids face consequences

When Sequoia High School in Redwood City kicked the kid out of an English honors class because he had copied another student’s homework, Berghouse sued the school district in San Mateo County Superior Court to get him readmitted.

Let’s grant that Berghouse is acting out of love, standing up for his kid. Maybe a few of us can see ourselves in his situation. He feels that his son has to pay a disproportionate price for a stupid mistake.

And as a loving father and family law attorney, he chose the route of defense he knows best, a lawsuit. Berghouse probably can make a case that the district’s policy against cheating isn’t perfect. Few schools have unassailable rules.

But let’s deal with what’s most important here — what Berghouse is teaching his son. The lesson his lawsuit imparts is you can find a way around a system and a penalty. You can sign an honesty pledge, but you don’t really have to pay the price for violating it.

And no, I don’t count as a real option other penalties the family offered, like having the kid stay around after school as a teacher’s assistant. That’s the justice of a polished apple.

If you doubt that Berghouse is giving his kid precisely the wrong message, consider the son’s actions after the bust. He went on Facebook to protest the “tyranny” of the school.

Run that past your common-sense meter. The kid copies someone else’s homework and turns it in as his own. He’s signed a pledge of honesty. His mother signed it. And now that he’s caught, it’s tyranny?

What Berghouse missed — and I pity him because the man is getting beat up with phone calls to his law office — is that this was a moment to let his kid learn a powerful lesson in life: Actions have consequences. Seedy actions have unwelcome consequences.

Sure, his son would have had to go through the rest of the year in regular English. But it’s hard to think that would have spoiled his life forever.

After reading it, I forced myself to move beyond being appalled and a bit, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!” to ask myself the question I probably don’t want to answer. When am I, though maybe not as blatant, racing in and saving my kid from lesson-infused consequences? Hmmm… worth pondering.

Often consequences are a good thing. The price for withholding them, though seemingly more comfortable in the short run, can be far more staggering in the long. Here’s to letting the chips fall where they may.

Thanks Shirley for sharing! And thanks for walking the road with me.



  1. I heard you on American Family Radio today. I think what you would doing is wonderful. I was the odd one when my kids were growing up- They had their chores they did as part of them family. Then when they got where they could reach the dials on the washing machine and dryer- they learned to do their own laundry. After that I never did it for them. I hadn’t thought of it but a friend who had ms and couldn’t get down to the laundry room suggested it to me- They also had rotating chores and checklist- learned to do everything in the home. We were a home school family for 24 yrs. I needed help, my children helped. The neighborhood kids were shocked- when I told them the kids couldn’t come out, because they were doing chores- they gave me the deer in headlight look. They did none. When my children got in the work force, they soon discovered their peers for most part didn’t have a good work eithic- it was very frustrating. All of them are through school, one in military – they all do well taking care of things.

  2. I agree! Same goes for homework in general. You don’t do it, too bad!! So sorry you are missing recess to finish it. I also agree with Linda…my kids have things to do around the house and their friends think it’s crazy. They do stand there not know what to say when you tell them they can’t play because they are cleaning. I had one girl come over and ask my son (they are in 5th grade) if he wanted to come outside and he said “Well, I’m reading right now.” Her response, “Wow that’s weird, I’m playing and your doing homework!”

  3. Thanks for sharing! Seems crazy that training responsibility/welcoming consequences could be counter-cultural. But hopefully getting the conversation on the front burner might do the same for kid independence.

  4. Hi Kay,
    I heard you on the radio yesterday and I loved it. It is something that I am working towards as well…(killing the entitlement attitude) but have to work at it everyday- some days I have to work harder.

    Re: the above story all I can say is that I am not surprised. I am from that area of California and know all of the Bay Area quite well (born and raised). The success of the Bay Area in technology and business has created a new demographic and given rise to a generation where attitudes like this are becoming more common. However, I do know very successful families who wouldn’t put up with this from their children, but they are getting harder to find. I think sometimes it is the assumption of the child that their affluent lifestyle exempts them from consequences…and that money has certain power.

    I now live in Virginia and I am a homeschooler. My oldest daughter attended a formal co-op and found herself in a problem like this, where a girl copied off of her paper. When the teacher discovered the plagiarism and called the girl’s mother, the girl then secretly called my daughter and told her what had happened and promised to confess to the whole thing. She never did.

    The only evidence that my daughter had that she wasn’t the one who copied was that she had a typewritten paper. The building that they used didn’t have networked printers nor copiers. And I watched my daughter finish her paper the night before.

    The other girl’s paper was handwritten and quite poorly at that. My daughter’s paper was taken out of her backpack in the backpack room (no lockers either) while my daughter was in class and this girl had a long break.

    Although I was quite confident that my daughter was the original author, I did ask her several times if she had given her permission to copy it and she emphatically said no. The teacher & principal both believed her because she was a good student where the other girl was a poor student.

    The most incredulous thing in all this was that we all (students, parents, teacher & principal) sat together in a room in a conference discussing the matter and even though this girl didn’t confess as promised, the mother absolutely refused to believe that her daughter was the one that copied – even when she could not explain how my daughter could have a 4-5 page typewritten essay complete with bibliography and her daughter’s was a page and a half.

    Shortly afterward this girl started bullying her and rallied a number of girls to bully her for a year and half. The mother still defended her in this matter and refused to believe that her daughter was capable of this.

    Many times it is very difficult for parents to admit that their children are capable of sin because inside they feel that they must admit they have failed in a certain areas of rearing their children. And in some cases this is true. However, I find that most of the time, parents have taught their children right from wrong and that it’s really the children who refuse to cling to wisdom and integrity and live that path that leads to honest success.

    I know full well that my children are born with a sin nature and that they are quite capable of some things if they feel the act is worth the risk. That is why I asked my daughter several times if she allowed this girl to copy her work.

    God, help us to be better parents each day. And when we fail, give us the strength to start all over again and persevere.

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