A thirteen year old girl who I had met for all of three hours decided it was okay to walk up to my desk and swipe my phone whilst I was busy helping other students at the end of session 4 last Monday, just before lunch break. A phone that I use as teaching tool. A phone that is quite distinctly mine, the only Samsung S3 in Australia that is both blue and white, has AT&T etched on the back and had a unique Supernatural cover that I had ordered from the US.
She promptly told her best friend (who is also a student in that same class) to meet her in the toilets so she could show her what she had. She pulled the phone out, friend realized it belonged to the teacher and told her to hand it back. The thief said nah, that she is gonna use it herself. We promptly did a bag search with the whole group after lunch. She had by that stage tucked the phone into her pants and sat there as brazen as anything whilst the entire class had their bags searched to no avail.
I wasn’t able to be at school the next day as my female border collie needed an emergency caesarian and I was at the vets most of the day. It’s a shame because I had that class the next day – the friend might have approached me then. I stayed home Wednesday too, however I don’t see that class Wednesday or Thursday, but still an opportunity passed by for the friend to make contact with me. On Friday her friend came to me within minutes of the class starting. The thief had decided to truant that day, her home was phoned and grandmother insisted that the thief had left the house in full school uniform, making her way to school. The friend informed me that “X” had taken the phone and had shown it to her in the toilets that Monday at lunch time. “X” informed her friend later on that she had reset the phone to factory settings and could now use it. She had her new number and had told her mother that a “friend at school had given her the phone”. I assumed at this point my SIM card was gone. I also was told by the friend that “X” had actually been caught using MY phone in the class during the last session on Thursday. The teacher had confiscated the phone off her, in front of the whole class, for the rest of that lesson. But at the end of the day he handed the phone back to her. He didn’t realise that it was my stolen phone. Despite the fact that I had put out an all staff email describing in detail this very unique phone. It was THIS close.
It was highly frustrating on Friday to not know where “x” was. And her family didn’t seem too bothered by the fact that she had not made it to school. What kind of family, parents or grandparents or otherwise doesn’t care if they don’t know where their 13 year old girl is? Clearly one that raises a kid to think it’s okay to steal off their teacher. Her friend has tried to reason with her and had come to school Friday hoping to deceive “X” into giving her the phone to “play with” and she would then hand the phone to me. I, as her teacher, of course have access to her home address. We briefly considered a home visit but it would be unlikely that she was there.
I blocked my SIM card on Tuesday so that the thief couldn’t use it. I figured it would be pulled out and chucked away anyway. However I had to order a new one which I duly did on Wednesday night – whether I got this phone back or not I would need a new SIM. Apparently when the most helpful Iinet guy ordered me a new one – stating that Iinet would kindly credit me back the 20$ fee since we had been such loyal customers and that the SIM would take 3 to 5 business days to arrive – it then UNLOCKED that original SIM card. We only found that out because today (Saturday) we just received an email from Iinet to say that I was almost at my limit of calls and texts for the month. What??? We go online and check out my number’s records and sure enough my original SIM card is now being used for calls, data and texts. Awesome. So now we were waiting on Iinet to call us back so we can block the SIM again.
We duly did so. By late Saturday night the number was blocked again. I counted the 3 – 5 business days before my SIM should arrive. It should be here Thursday at the latest. On Monday I expected “X” would show up and we would have the phone back in our possession. No such luck – she truanted Monday and her grandmother informed us that they had tried to drive her to school however she refused and insisted on walking. Grandmother was completely aware that “X” was truanting again. We told her that we had tried contacting her father but there was no reply, his mobile just kept ringing out. I emailed Tim about this and we decided to visit “X’s” home that evening. I remained in the car. Tim walked up and knocked on the door. He spoke to the father of “X” and also the grandmother who came to the door. He explained that he was the husband of a teacher at the school who had had her phone stolen by “X”. The father didn’t seem surprised. He explained that “X” was becoming uncontrollable and they were having huge difficulties with her. Tim went on to ask if “X” was there and the father said no, they had no idea where she had gone. Tim asked him to let “X” know when he next saw her that she had until the end of school Tuesday to produce this phone otherwise charges will be filed against her with the police. Father promised to do so and duly apologized on behalf of his daughter.
Tuesday morning and I am up in my classroom getting ready for the day. Unbeknownst to me, as a message had failed to be communicated, the Father and his daughter in full school uniform were at the front desk reception and had asked to see me. At this stage I was 3 minutes away from having a class full of 8th graders and also to be blunt I had no desire to talk to either of them, I was just that disgusted and disillusioned with the whole situation. So I asked the message deliverer if “X” had handed my phone over and was told that the Father had explained that “X” had actually lost the phone over the weekend. He also stated that he was aware that “X” had stolen the phone, had contacted the police and they had questioned his daughter that morning. I believe this was a bid to prevent me from going to the police as it turned out, after some investigation, that this “report” and “questioning” had never even taken place. I relayed the message that I was unable to meet with him as I had class. He left “X” at school who promptly went off to meet with her friends and go to her first class. I was to have her in session 2. Fortunately a Student Services teacher came and removed “X” from my sight when she rather brazenly walked up to my door as if I was going to teach her. This blew my mind somewhat and not in any good way. Thirteen year old, openly admitting to stealing a $650 phone off me, does not return it and she thinks I will ever have her in my classroom again? I felt for a moment I had stepped into some bizarre alternate universe where perhaps we are just communal sharers and I just hadn’t been told. Regardless she was removed from my room and my 8th graders were pretty subdued for a Tuesday morning session I must say. I think they picked up on my possibly just below the surface seething vibes. I was on duty at recess that morning and several students approached me asking if my phone had been returned. I stated that it had not. By now they also knew how they had taken it and they were pretty disgusted by it as well as they felt it definitely reflected very badly on their particular cultural group. I was relieved by another teacher with five minutes to go and scooted over to Student Services where “X” was currently writing her statement and being questioned by the staff there. She was told to empty her school bag and any pockets. She admitted freely to stealing the phone but claimed she “lost it in the city on Saturday night”. This is after using the phone the entire week. She did not show an ounce of remorse, no apologies, no tears, just utter disinterest. She was informed she would now be known at this school as a thief. That after her suspension she would come back and have no recess or lunchtime privileges, as she could not be trusted. All staff would be informed of her thievery.
I don’t believe she has “lost” it. I don’t believe she will not steal again. Straight after school Tuesday, “X” had been given a 3 day suspension by the school (too little in my opinion) and I chose to take my situation to my local police station. Over an hour and half later I had given my statement – a 6 page epic written very competently by the Constable who dealt with me. He explained that he and an Officer would visit “X’s” house and ask to speak with her. They would inform her that she needed to produce the phone or they may have to arrest her. Wednesday afternoon Tim receives a call from the Constable to say that they had indeed done a house visit but “X” unsurprisingly was not there. They had done a room search of her bedroom to try and locate the phone. They told the Father that they still needed to question “X” and based on that questioning she may be arrested and face the Juvenile Justice courts. The Constable explained that he would now hand the case over to the jurisdiction of the local police in “X’s” region but that they would continue to look for “X” in order to bring her in for questioning.
I have had to purchase a new phone in the meantime. Insurance says they will cover some of it. I would like to send the parent’s the bill. I have asked my Principal if I can do this. “X” has been removed from my roll and is now being taught by a different English teacher. Most of the kids I teach have figured out who stole my phone. I have always loved where I teach. This is my 13th year of teaching at this school. The kids, for the most part, are genuinely friendly and nice kids and if not for them I probably would have moved on several years ago. These last two weeks have been the first time I have truly questioned my choice to stay at this school. I know this will pass. I would never let one student, no matter how repulsive in behaviour, to shift me from a job I really enjoy over 90% of the time. It will make me much more wary though. Perhaps I can’t use expensive teaching tools in class for a while. I’m not sure where “X” will end up in life, her Father made noises about sending her “back home” but I don’t really credit his words with much sincerity. I do know that “X” should probably avoid being in my path for the rest of the time she attends this school. Not for a long time at least. Ultimately there is this huge feeling of disappointment and some sadness that clearly the parenting of this child has failed. I hope society doesn’t continue to bare the brunt of such failure.
However to finish on a much happier note – here’s a pic of young Skech who is now 11 days old and growing on strong :)