A Google search for the phrase “Don’t tell your parents” is instructive. Top of the list is a Wired article “Don’t Tell Your Parents: Schools Embrace MySpace,” followed by “Don’t Tell Your Parents You’re an Atheist Until After Christmas… Here’s Why” from atheistmind.com, and “GTA [Grand Theft Auto] Rome: Buckle up, and don’t tell your parents” on Science Buzz. You get the idea.
I thought I’d find a lot of material aimed at parents and those who work with children. Maybe I should have searched differently. There are a few instances of what I expected, for example, a list on ParentsTalk of the 5 best and worst things to say to a grandchild, and brochures from the City of London Police, and the Bridgeport Diocese.
I did find three very different examples of situations in which the phrase was used. Regarding an article about NHL player Derek Boogard’s Fighting Camp in which kids 12 and up learn how to fistfight their way to victory in hockey matches and receive souvenier tee-shirts “splotched with blood-red dye,” one commenter said:
“Derek Boogaard isn’t doing anything too new. I remember my coach teaching how to throw my weight around and get away with holding when I was 11. I’m sure every kid that played hockey when they were a kid had a coach teach them how to fight, or at least how not to get embarrassed in a fight. The only difference between my coach and Boogaard is that my coach started every session with, ‘don’t tell your parents I told you how to hit people,’ and Boogaard starts his sessions with, ‘tell your parents they owe me $600 or I won’t show you how to hit people’.”
Business as usual, in other words.
The most bizarre incident involved a Merced, CA elementary school teacher who had three 8-year-old girls shave his beard off during class time last November. Then the class was to write stories about it, which he’d keep secret and not send home with the rest of their work. They were not to talk about it either:
“And if they did tell, they would have to sit out the classroom Christmas party, children told their parents.
” According to two sets of parents, their daughters kept mum about the incident until the parents pried out the information that had been visibly troubling the girls.
“‘My daughter came home from school, and she was upset because her friend told a secret and couldn’t come to the Christmas party,’ one mom said.”
Three weeks later the principal wrote the parents:
“As you may be aware, the last week before the Thanksgiving break, Mr. McLane had the class participate in a face-shaving activity with an electric razor as a story starter for a writing assignment. He later instructed the students that if they told they would not have a Christmas Party. Needless to say, that instruction was inappropriate and was not well received by several parents, staff or the Administration. On behalf of myself and the District, we want to apologize to the students and parents.”
As of January 10, he was back in the classroom.
Comments were divided between those who were most offended by the no Christmas party threat for talking about the school day and those who felt the desire of the teacher to be shaved in front of his students by three little girls was creepy and perverse.
I was most surprised by the number of hits pertaining to the scandal involving the Duke University Lacrosse team who were alleged to have raped a local woman at a party. The accuser recanted, charges were dropped, and a second scandal ensued: this one involving the City of Durham and Duke University officials. The DA in the case was disbarred and convicted of criminal contempt.
What does this have to do with “Don’t tell your parents”?
Duke officials reportedly told the lacrosse players to keep quiet and not to discuss the allegations with their folks.
K.C. Johnson has a comprehensive blog on the mess called Durham-in-Wonderland. He noted that a Newsday article:
“contains remarks from 2006 co-captain Dan Flannery, who recounted a March 15, 2006 conversation in which Dean Sue Wasiolek told him, ‘Right now, you don’t need an attorney. Just don’t tell anyone, including your teammates or parents, and cooperate with police if they contact you.’ Looking back, Flannery observed, ‘We believed, albeit falsely, that these people [in administration] would look after our best interests.’ “
The Administration is alleged to have instructed the players’ coach similarly:
“Apparently acting under orders from above, Coach Mike Pressler instructed all other players on the team to keep quiet about the incident-including not telling their parents. The entire team not being represented by lawyers from the start denied them a much-needed week to prepare, with counsel, how they would respond to the investigation.”
In spring 2008, 38 of the 47 members of the 2006 lacrosse team, who were not themselves indicted, and some family members sued Duke University and Durham officials for damages. In the case summary, one of their six allegations against Duke is
“Fraud through abuse of the confidential relationship between various Duke Defendants and the lacrosse players during the rape hoax crisis when defendants advised team members not to tell their parents and not to seek or obtain legal representation and by steering the players to Duke’s chosen advisor, Defendant Wes Covington.”
This is interesting, isn’t it: that University students, 29 of whom were sophomores, juniors or seniors and so almost certainly adults, consider Duke’s advice “not to tell their parents” actionable.
It will be interesting to see how Duke defends its “Don’t tell your parents” stance, along with the 745 other allegations in the plaintiff’s case.