Ashton has been out of school the past two days due to surgery on his mouth. So, when Ashton’s mom dropped by the school to see me, I assumed that she would tell me that the teeth had been pulled and that he was recovering well and that he would be back at school as soon as he could eat semi-normal again.

I assumed wrong.

As I approached her in the office, she welcomed me with “Ashton has been incarcerated again.” Not exactly what I was expecting to hear. Apparently, he had returned to court today, and the judge was not too impressed with his behavior in the past few months. (See Day 43—All Good Things Come in Pairs) Ashton refused to do his community service, he got kicked out of his drug and alcohol class for failing a drug test, and he, most notably, was placed in our alternative class for his misconduct and irrational behavior.

Ashton will be in juvenile detention for a full week where he will complete 40 community service hours. (He will still be required to complete the remaining 160 hours once he gets out.) He has also been assigned a new drug and alcohol class to attend. If he fails a drug test at any point throughout the duration of that class, he will be admitted in a rehab facility for 45 days. His mother was told that if Ashton refuses at any time to complete the hours or attend the class, then she should simply call the police and they would escort him to where he needed to go. Ashton’s mother talked about how he knew the consequences would be severe and how he had broken down and sobbed in front of the entire court. It hadn’t persuaded the judge’s decision.

Surprisingly, the judge also requested that his teacher provide him with assignments to complete while he is locked up. Back in the classroom, I gathered together a few of his homework packets and a few sheets of paper, then sat down to write him a note. There were so many things that I could have said, and that needed to be said, but this is what came out:


We cannot worry about things that are beyond our control, but we have to take responsibility for the things that are within our control. Learn from this experience, grow, and take hope in the fact that tomorrow is a new day. You can start over. You can choose better. There is hope in new beginnings. We believe in you, and nothing you do could ever change that.

Every day, we write a new chapter in the story of our lives. When you grasp this, you will begin to create a beautiful and awe-inspiring story. Take a deep breath, and know that when you get out, you have a teacher that cannot wait to see you in class again.

I tell all of my parents that each student reaches their breaking point at a different time. For some students, their wake-up call is receiving that first referral or serving that first detention or getting suspended from school that first time. For other students, it’s spending that first night in juvenile detention or being placed in an alternative classroom or being removed from their home and sent to live with a foster family. It’s different for every student, and my only prayer is that they hit that breaking point before they have done damage to themselves or to others that cannot be undone.

Wake-up calls are only wake-up calls if we allow them to actually wake us up. Hopefully, Ashton chooses to finally answer the phone.


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