When I was 6 years old I was in first grade. Much like I am today, I was a very talkative boy and this tended to get me in trouble in class. I must have a had a bad string of days in the first grade because I was bringing home a bunch of yellow lights. Good students stayed on green. Those who had to be warned multiple times about their bad behavior were moved to yellow, or worse yet, red. If you had to move to yellow, a note went home to your parents and it had to be signed and returned the following day.
My father, though cool he may seem to all of you, was very upset with me for the number of yellow lights I had brought home as of late and therefore threatened me that if I came home with another yellow light I would receive the worst punishment a boy, age six could ever get…I would be grounded. (To this very day, I have never been grounded by my parents.)
But sure enough I could not keep my thoughts to myself and I was given another yellow light. Remembering my dad’s threat, I attempted to conceal my wrongdoing by forging my mom’s signature in the most elegant block lettering possible. I even had to ask her how to spell her name before I could commit the egregious fraud. Yea, I know, I was a clandestine rebel in the first grade.
Probably to the surprise of many, my teacher did not believe my mona-lisa-of-a signature and I was handed down….a red light. The jig was up. I walked back with my tail between my legs and had to confess to my parents my attempted failure.
The reason I tell you this story is because today I had to give a student a red light…a falta MAYOR. In layman’s terms (or English for the most of you) that means receiving one day of in school suspension in the office of the director.
About two weeks ago one of my students handed in one of our weekly assignments which is to write in a journal your thoughts, opinions, and reactions to the book you are reading at home. Each student is also to include a short summary of what has happened in the book. This particular student brought me her journal, in which she has copied the back cover of the book she was reading and expected me not to know. I approached her about it and gave her an opportunity to tell the truth. She lied. Eventually I got her to admit that she had plagiarized and I sent a note home to her mother and spoke with the students at length about how wrong of a practice this was…it is stealing.
Today was her day again to turn in her work. She had done the exact same thing. I knew that this action had to go punished, so I left that up to her. She could tell me the truth and I would give her a falta menor, or a disciplinary slap on the wrist. If she chose to lie, it meant a falta mayor and a serious discussion with her parents and the director. She lied. She lied about 10 times while looking me in the eyes and assuring me that the writing was her own.
I began to consider that maybe she did not understand the assignment and that is why she was plagiarizing, but then again I gave her an opportunity to come clean and admit her wrongdoing but she did not and maintained a not-very-well conceived lie. I had no choice. With one dishonest claim I gave out my first suspension.
To this day I have never forged my parents signature for anything. You can even ask my mom. She has even tried to get me to sign inconsequential documents like a race registration for her and I just won’t do it. I guess I am afraid of getting grounded. I found out many years later that my parents we trying to hold in their laughter when I presented them with the red light and the forged yellow-light signature.
The point is I learned my lesson in first grade about what is right and wrong and I have never done it again. I hope today a 5th grader learned her lesson about stealing other people’s ideas and trying to pass them off as her own. I am not sure what lesson I will learn from this.
I am sure tomorrow’s meeting with her parents will bring some light to the issue.

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