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Parents: Dont lie for your kids

As a teacher in Lake Oswego, I deeply appreciate the support I get from the parents. A single call home is usually all it takes for homework to appear, tardies to halt and attitudes to improve. This is a community that takes its schools seriously.

That's why I find a recent tradition among our students and parents rather unsettling.

Last Friday was an unofficial senior skip day. And as per the tradition, dozens of seniors opted not to go to school that day. For many of them this skipping will cost them a detention, a cost they are apparently willing to bear. For others, they will face no consequences. Why?

Because they will get their parents and guardians to lie for them. They will convince these adults to call the school and claim their child is sick, has an all-day appointment or some other fabrication. Under school policy, parents cannot simply excuse the absence themselves but have to offer an acceptable reason to the attendance office.

In fact, the attendance office received a steady torrent of calls last Friday about a myriad of afflictions targeting mostly seniors. No doubt some of those calls were legitimate, but many were not.

Now this district takes attendance seriously and can do a great many things about skipping. But if a parent opts to lie about an illness or appointment, there is little the school can do.

So adults, please reconsider the next time the children in your life ask you to lie. Consider the ethical modeling that happens when you show your child that telling the truth is less important than avoiding consequences. When you lie because it is convenient, it diminishes the ethical value of truth and diminishes the school's subsequent lessons on issues ranging from plagiarism to the need for healthy, honest dialogue.

Consider also the subtle message about the importance of school relative to the importance of being the 'cool' parent or avoiding conflict. Whether your teens tell you this or not, they do pay attention to what you do and say.

And for teenagers, please do not participate in deception even if the adults in your life are willing. This is the time in your life when you will start deciding what kind of person you are. A truly ethical person does what is right, even if those around them do not. Even if your friends are lying, that does not make your deception any more justified. Even if the adults in your life hold honesty cheaply, that does not mean you have to.

Gerrit Koepping is a teacher at Lake Oswego High School.