How to Deal With a Student Thief in the Classroom

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A student thief in the classroom is a menace to the teacher, parents and the other students. And it takes all three working together to combat a student thief. Classroom thieves take everything from books, pencils, personal items off desks and other students’ materials. While it can be hard pinpointing exactly who’s stealing, after a little time it should become obvious. After you find the culprit, there are a few things you can do to prevent future problems.

Deal With a Student Thief as a Teacher

  • Hide valuable items that you keep on your desk or in the classroom. This can be personal pictures, your purse, test answers or computer software. A locked desk drawer is the best place for these items, until the problem is under control.

  • Talk to the class and explain the situation. Without pointing fingers, ask each student to keep valuable property in their backpacks and take home any important materials over the weekends.

  • Move the suspected student closer to your desk or the area you spend the most time in during the day. This helps you keep any eye on them when they get up and move around the classroom.

  • Lock the classroom door whenever you leave the room. If you normally take a break when your class has recess or lunch, don’t leave the empty room unlocked. You never know when the student has a chance to sneak in while you’re gone and take things.

  • Inform substitutes of the problem. Since substitute teachers are usually taken advantage of by students, letting them know you have a thief in the classroom benefits them and your students.

  • Have a conference with the student and his parents, if you know for certain who is stealing. Discuss consequences and bring the principal into the conference for added support.

Deal With a Student Thief as a Parent

  • Discuss the stealing situation with your child. If she has had something stolen, ask her if she knows who did it. Get all background information, such as when, where and around what time the stealing happened. Find out if she’s had previous problems with stolen items.

  • Contact the teacher immediately. Let them know what your child told you, and inform them of any person your child thinks may have stolen his items, without actually accusing someone. Discuss the situation with the teacher and find out how she’s handling it.

  • Give advice about preventive measures your child can take to prevent the stealing of other items. Encourage her to put things in her backpack and keep any money in her pocket, not her desk. Make sure she informs the teacher if she notices something missing.

  • Talk to the principal if the problem continues and the teacher can’t control it. Ask for a classroom transfer if the problem persists and affects your child.

Tips & Warnings

  • Never approach a student you think is the thief in a combative way. Without actual proof, it's best not to accuse anyone.
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