I have class; I’ll pass.
I had a professor in college who taught a generic introductory counseling course. I’ve always remembered one lesson that he taught: “Do not overreact.” When a kid tells you something, don’t show your cognitive cards; hide your inner thoughts until you have all of the facts.
A kid tells you that another kid did something hideous; An unclassy person would jump to conclusions before all of the facts were gathered. It would not show class to start yelling or become accusatory. This would shut down the road of communication between you and the one sharing information. If you fly off the handle and begin bashing the behavior, the spicket of information will surely close and you won’t be able to effectively help the youth.
It is very possible that the kid telling you about his/her “friend” doing something inappropriate was in fact talking about him/herself. The student might just be feeling you out; What would my teacher’s reaction be if he/she learned I did this? I have had kids say they did outrageous things that they hadn’t, just to gage my reaction. If you don’t give them a reaction, they know that they can tell you anything.
One of the most common bad behaviors in elementary school that this could be applied to is stealing. When students come up to me and tell me about something that was “stolen”, my first reaction is to lessen the accusation. “Is it possible that the object is just lost?”
Student: “I just had my pencil on my desk; No, it was STOLEN!”
Me: “Could someone have thought that the pencil was theirs; Was the pencil unique to you? Would you be able to easily identify it?”
Student: “Oh, yes. I know my pencil!”
Me: “Before we begin accusing people of being thieves, lets just do one more sweep of your work area; Also, we can ask your neighbors if they have seen a random pencil floating around.”
Student: (sometimes reluctantly, but usually calm) “Fine.”
Nine times out of ten, the object turns up having NOT been stolen. The pencil or other object was completely unidentifiable as THAT student’s, and someone else was using it. It is always a hoot when it is right on the floor under the student’s work area.
Some more examples:
Kid: “So and so kicked me”/Me: “Is it possible they were just swinging their feet, and they accidentally touched you?”
Kid: “That person said something inappropriate. They said ‘hell’.”/Me: “You know, in some families and cultures, that isn’t a hugely awful expression…”
Kid: “My partner deleted my whole document!”/Me: “Do you think that he/she did it because they were mad at you, or is it possible that this was simply an accident?”
Find out the whole story, learn all of the facts, empathize with the rationale as best you can or is appropriate, then act. Throughout all of that, do not let emotions muddle your investigation. Also, don’t project your prejudices. You just found out someone did something considered very bad. Perhaps the person even confesses it to you. Do not even look alarmed. Pretend you hear this all of the time. Chances are, it happens all of the time, all over the place, whether you have experienced it, or not.