I once allowed a student to go home from a mock trial competition with his grandfather without his mother’s written permission. I knew the grandfather and he was a good man but later that afternoon I got a phone call from mom asking me where her son was. I told her as he had told me that he went home with his grandfather and I added that he had told me that his mom knew that he was going with grandpa. She rather plainly and clearly informed me that he did not have permission and that she would hold me responsible if anything had happened to him. My teaching career flashed in front of my eyes and the next morning I cornered the child, who thankfully showed up in one piece, and asked him rather pointedly why he had lied to me about having permission to go home with grandpa.
He told me he hadn’t lied that he had permission to go home with his grandfather. I of course informed him that his mother had rather clearly told me otherwise. After several minutes of sparing I asked him why I should believe him instead of his mother and after a few moments of thought he looked carefully at me out of the tops of his eyes his head tilted downward and said, “You should believe me because my mother’s a drunk.” Never before or since have I been so totally at a loss for words. I don’t know if he was lying or not but as a teacher I have learned that like a lawyer sometimes if you don’t know what a kid is going to say you need to be very careful about what and how you ask.