Does the punishment fit the crime?

My son is a freshman in HS. He and his friends have only recently come across that stupid meme/game where you make the ‘OK’ gesture and trick your friends into looking at it and, if they do, they lose that round.

He was doing it at school, and got sent to the office because they said the gesture is related to white supremacy. And I will admit I’d heard that the white supremacist or white nationalist or whatever group had co-opted it, but it wasn’t really on my radar. I thought it was just something running around 4chan and didn’t give it a ton of thought.

So maybe if I knew he was doing this I’d have told him to maybe not. But I didn’t know he was doing it, so that’s moot.

They suspended him for a day and are prohibiting from participating in the choir concert tomorrow.

Context matters, I think. My son is not a racist. He is really compassionate and tries to be a good ally for marginalized groups. So he has never said or done anything at school to be on their radar here. When I asked him if he knew that gesture was co-opted by racists, he said he recalls hearing something about racists using it but didn’t know that some people thought the gesture was racist out of hand, basically.

I think the punishment is too severe, for one. And two, by just punishing him he isn’t getting anything out of this other than he thinks the administrators are being jerks. I think what would have been perfectly fitting here would have been for them to just pull him aside and explain that the gesture isn’t welcome because some people used it in a racist context. And because they did, some people might be offended, or some people might think he is racist, so he needs to stop. And he totally would have done that, he’s not a jerk.

Reddit, er, GoA, am I the asshole?

That punishment is excessive. Like you said, a warning would have been sufficient. Maybe a detention.

I would guess that there is a “zero tolerance” policy which, by definition, can’t consider nuance and context.

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I think there’s a decent chance they have such a policy. In which case I’m going to tell them to pull their finger out of their ass and write a better policy.


Public? Private? Charter?


I will say that aside from this the school has been great. I think his biology teacher isn’t well organized and assigns too much homework.

But he has a 3D printing club, a robotics team, really good social and emotional support, most teachers are great. Overall it’s been a positive experience, this just really makes me angry.

It’s tough with such a tight timetable. Is he suspended from school tomorrow and the choir concert tomorrow? Or the school suspension was today and the concert tomorrow?

You might have a better chance of success if you don’t fight the suspension from school (especially if it has already happened) but suggest missing school is enough: let him do the choir concert. I say that mainly because there’s time before the choir concert, less time before the start of the school day.

OK, but suggesting they completely waive an existing policy for your kid is a really uphill battle, and “the rules don’t apply to you” is not a good message to send to your kid. Lots of merit to seeking a compromise.

Nothing in this post is supposed to be giving any support to the school’s making that rule.

Suspension and the concert are tomorrow.

I agree with you, the suspension will stand. I will tell them the policy is bogus but they won’t fix it soon if at all. So I will tell them it’s a bad policy but no expectation it does any short term good.

Your point about the concert is a good one. Suspension is more than enough, let the kid sing tomorrow night. I’m going to offer that as a compromise to get this over with.

this is the first i’m hearing that whatever an OK gesture is, is racist. also first i’m hearing about this game.

In our school system, if you miss the day of school, you are automatically prohibited from after school activities. So if suspended, you miss the day and since you miss the day, you miss the concert. This was a no exception rule. Out sick, you miss the concert too.


our schools use suspension for things that are really disruptive. so a kid with a lot of past stuff or an act that is over the top bad. I am not convinced this rises to that level unless the game has previously been a problem on campus and that is widely “known” or communicated. the gesture itself likely isn’t as well known as everyone thinks and that should matter in whatever discipline they decide on.

agree with oldTimer that being out of school on a day should mean no school activity participation that same day.

if that happened to m kid, I would ask them about the disruption to the learning environment this had to merit your kid being deprived of a day of learning opportunity/participation being a fair trade. I would ask them today since the choir concert is tomorrow. (choir, that known collection point for all the trouble a school faces…)

Sorry your son got csught up in this. Tough lesson.
Would there have been any way to move the day of the suspension?

Wtf!? I’d be pissed. He got suspended for doing the “OK” symbol. That’s absurd. I could see a warning that it could be taken the wrong way, etc. To suspend a ~14 year old for this is crazy.


I’d be in their office immediately, that day. I’d leave work ASAP for it.

Now if there was some indication he meant it in a racist way then yes, YTA and in your position I’d support the school and additionally punish him at home. e.g. If there was any slur involved. From what you said, he knew that some racists use it but didn’t think it was inherently racist.

Given that this has been a silly childrens’ game for at least 30 years, the admin is fully wrong. At least they’re teaching him that authorities are fallible and not to be trusted, which isn’t the worst lesson but can go too far.


Also that in the current climate, actions are often judged whether they are racist without considering intent.

You are obligated to learn all racist, homophobic, and antisemitic gestures, slurs, memes, tropes, and code language. Use any of them, and the consequences may be severe. Ignorance is not an excuse. “But I’m a good person!” is not a defense. You have been warned.

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And this is why DeSantis is going to wipe the floor with Biden in a couple years…

This is my concern. Of all the racist or potentially racist things my son could have done, this feels really benign. As stated earlier, I was only casually aware this could be considered racist (shocking, I don’t hang out on 4chan or Truth Social). My wife had zero clue this could be construed as racist.

I looked it up. Here is what the Anti-Defamation League had to say. I don’t know if they are the best arbiter of truth here but I suspect they are well-informed on matters such as this.

Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, told NPR that for years on fringe online message boards such as 4chan and 8chan, the “OK” sign has been deployed in memes and other images promoting hate. Given the number of white supremacists who have adopted it, he said it can now carry a nefarious message.

“Context is always key,” Segal said. “More people than not will use the OK symbol as just ‘OK.’ But in those cases where there’s more underlining meaning, I think it’s important for people to understand that it could be used, and is being used, for hate as well.”

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Based on my conversation with my son last night, this is the message he received.

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I mean… the peace sign backwards (so with your palm facing yourself) is similar to the middle finger in the UK. If you do the peace sign backwards should you be suspended?