This is Jake’s school picture. I was not surprised to see him wearing his hat. In fact, I wrote a note to the photographer that gave permission for him to wear his hat (the year before, he was told he could not wear it and so his picture looked like he was ready to punch out the photographer. We did retakes). The part that surprised me about this picture is that he is wearing a tank top, because I specifically told him to change that morning. I did NOT want him to wear a tank top for his school picture. When I asked him about it later, he told me he “forgot.” Yeah, right.
The thing is, he loves to wear tank tops (or as he calls them “wife beats”) all year around. Last year, he wore them to school many times. He often would wear a hoodie with them, except when it was very warm. He likes to think he looks like a “rapper” wearing his hat and “wife beat” shirt (for Christmas he asked for “bling” to go along with the ensemble). His dream is to become a famous rapper and live in Alaska (yes folks -that’s right – Alaska).
Recently I got a phone call at work. It was Courtney, his aide from school. They were having a problem with Jake. He had taken off his hoodie, and his teacher loudly told him in a stern voice that he had to put it back on, because his tank top was inappropriate attire for school and was against school regulations. Jake was irate – and was yelling and swearing. He had gotten out of control.
I asked to talk to Jake. Our conversations over the phone usually consist of me listening to him rant and rave about something he deems as being unfair. This time around, he was yelling about the school handbook dress code regulations, how he wore this same shirt all last year (and earlier this year), how everyone is stupid and they have no right to tell him what to do, it’s a free country and he can do what he wants, etc. After awhile, I asked him questions, but he kept yelling, so I asked to speak with Courtney. He calmly said, “Courtney, my mom wants to talk to you.” then went on with his rant in the background.
I was confused, since he plainly HAD worn that shirt multiple times without a problem. What made it a problem today? Especially for this particular teacher, who saw him every single day at school. And why did she make demands in such a loud stern voice, when she knew speaking to him like that would only create an explosive response?
Courtney told me there was a new principal that was intent on getting everyone to actually follow the rules in the student handbook. According to the handbook, shirts need to have at least a four inch sleeve. When the teacher saw Jake in his tank top, she freaked out and yelled at him – which then, in turn, caused Jake to freak out and start yelling back at her. Lovely.
I told Courtney to use her best judgment as to whether or not Jake needed to go home. Sometimes, he can have a blow up, but then calm down and continue his day at school. Other times, the meltdown continues (even with attempts to redirect) and he is sent home. I told her I would prefer him to stay at school, but if he was so awful that it made everybody else miserable, she could sign him out and he could walk home. He went home.
After I got home from work that day, he continued his arguing about the whole thing. I listened awhile and then explained the new principal/handbook situation, calmly asked him if he had a snack and then continued on with conversation about other things totally unrelated to the “tank top fiasco” of the day. His mind shifted to the new conversation, and he was able to stop ranting about the handbook. Life went on.
He never mentioned it again, but I did notice the following week, he wore his tank top to school. But, I didn’t get a phone call. So either he kept his hoodie on, or the teacher decided it was not worth going through the whole thing over again. I don’t really care which it is. I’m just glad I don’t have to listen to him yell.