Lisette Lopez of Oakland Park, Florida, was furious when her 12-year-old son, Erol Faustin, was suspended from school for disobeying and cursing in class. So she designed a punishment that would be as public and as humiliating for him as his behavior had been for his teacher: He had to stand in front of Rickards Middle School every morning and afternoon for the three days he was suspended, holding a sign apologizing for his actions.
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"My kids know not to disrespect people, and he's not a bad kid," Lopez told the Associated Press while her son bit his lip and looked away from the camera. "He plays around in class like most all kids do. But he has to know that when you're in school you're there to learn you're not there to play."
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He's been in trouble before, Lopez told told WSVN News7, and has been acting like the class clown this year; the sign holding is her last-ditch effort to get through to him, she said. His father is not around and has a criminal record, she told the news station, and she didn't want her son to follow in his footsteps. "He has a younger sister and brother who look up to him," she said. "He needs to be a role model."
When his teacher asked him to move his book back, he refused, saying that he "doesn't give a 'f'," and called her the "b" word, Lopez said. Standing with her hand on her preteen's shoulder, Lopez explained her reasoning behind the public punishment. "He did it with the whole class there, and it would get around the whole school," she said. "And I didn't want people coming up to him being like 'Oh, good job' or 'Oh, we all wanted to do that.' So his apology was public, in front of the whole school."
Erol wore a black suit and tie on Tuesday as he held the large handmade sign for his classmates and their parents to see. As students milled around him, there were tears in his eyes; one kid patted him on the shoulder in a kind way as he walked by.
"I disrespected my teacher," the sign read in part. "I am now suspended for 3 days. I would like to apologize not only to that teacher but to all adults." When a TV news reporter asked him if he thought he had done the wrong thing, he simply said, "Yes."
Erol says that he's learned his lesson.
"I learned that I won't call a teacher or any adults or staff out by that name again," he said, sounding contrite. "Because it's disrespectful."
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