The Two Hundred Penny Salute

Husband and I are not permissive parents. We think loving, firm discipline is important, and we want Son to have a healthy – but not blind – respect for authority.  We want him to understand that sometimes you lead by following.

I already know we’ll be the parents that let the child sit in jail overnight if he takes a car on a joyride, and we’ll not complain to the School Board if Son gets suspended one day for destroying school property, or cussing out a teacher (although I certainly hope none of these things happen). In fact, Son would get additional punishment at home. The schools have a tough road to hoe, and I plan to be supportive. To a point.

But we do need to allow children to be children. There has been much ado in the press about suspensions for hugging and kissing, even among elementary kids. There’s a difference between sexual harassment, though, and two best girlfriends sharing a hug.

Now there’s the case of the children in New Jersey suspended for paying for their lunch with pennies. Their lunch period had been shortened, and they decided to let their dissatisfaction be known by paying their $2.00 lunch in pennies.

They were promptly given two-day detentions for holding up the line, and for being disrespectful.

Okay. If these children were disrespectful they deserve those detentions. I agree completely. Wholeheartedly. I have no doubt that a few were disrespectful, but all twenty-nine? I find that doubtful. In fact, I venture to guess that it was the cafeteria workers, faced with the prospect of counting all of those pennies, who got disrespectful first. That doesn’t excuse the students’ disrespect, but it does put in in context.

All of that aside, what was the big deal about them paying with pennies? Last time I checked pennies were still US currency.

I think it was clever. Wonderfully juvenile. And who best to exhibit such juvenile behavior than…juveniles? Civil disobedience at it’s most basic.

Some are saying it wasn’t protest; it was a prank. So what? It doesn’t matter if it was protest or prank, it was harmless. And if we start taking away children’s right to some harmless fun, where exactly are we headed? I understand the need to keep order in the schools, and how hard that can be. But they weren’t in class, they were at lunch, when they should be able to loosen up a little.  Letting off some steam helps them to be calm and focused in class, wouldn’t you think?

And what would have happened if the cafeteria cashiers had simply smiled and taken the money? Because, really, we all know how hard it is to count out two hundred pennies…and that it takes all of thirty seconds.  Nothing would have happened, except perhaps a zen moment between the students and staff.

The school’s response? To pardon the detentions, unless the parents want them served.

If it were my kid and he was disrespectful he’d serve those detentions. For being disrespectful. But not for being a kid pulling a harmless prank, or protest, or however the school chooses to (mis)characterize it.. Definitely not.

Can we please lighten up a little? Please?

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3 Responses to “The Two Hundred Penny Salute”

  1. frugalchick Says:

    They paid in pennies??? Brilliant! I wish I thought of that when I was a kid.

  2. Patty Says:

    Oh boy oh boy, I gotta say that was a pretty smart group that came up with that one! Everything at the school district I am subbing in is done with bar codes and numbers and on the computer, so the kids here would never have had the chance to try it.

  3. Lisa Says:

    Or fun medium ground… just send them to the back of the line.

    Side note — businesses can make rules about which legal tender they can accept. Like, a store has every right to say “No bill over $20” or even make rules about not accepting cash at all for certain transactions — gas at Costco, for one. Thus a school can also say, “Yeah, you can’t pay with a baggie full of pennies. No lunch for you.”


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