Forged my mom’s sig on a deficiency slip in eighth grade. Got away with it for weeks, until the teacher informed my mom at the end of the year that she was recommending that I repeat algebra in ninth grade. My mom asked why, and the teacher responded “Because he’s flunking it in eighth grade”. Mom: “I didn’t know he was flunking it this year.” Teacher: “That’s funny; I have a signed deficiency slip here dated several weeks ago that says you do.”
My mom confronted me when I got home. Had no option really than to admit it, though I suspect if I could have found a way to try to worm out of it I would’ve. My mom had no idea what to do with me. My dad and I had planned to go fishing that afternoon, at a lake a half-hour’s drive away. In one of the most brilliant things she ever did, my mom left it up to me to tell my dad. I agonized over it all the way out to the lake, the whole time we were fishing, and almost the whole way back before I finally told him. He blew up, as expected, and I know he came up with some sort of punishment, but I’ve forgotten what it was. What has stayed with me for 26 years is the feeling of embarassment, shame, and regret at having so profoundly disappointed my parents, and the living hell of having to tell my dad what I’d done.
In Jewish ethics, it’s important not just to admit when you’ve done something wrong, but to ask forgiveness of the persons who’ve been harmed by your actions, and to make restitution wherever possible. In this case, that would mean apologizing to you and your wife (for forging the signature and lying to you) as well as the teacher, to whom she also lied (by presenting her signature as your wife’s). I think losing credit for the assignment would also be entirely appropriate, since it was credit for the assignment that she obtained as a result of the forgery in the first place.
I think you’re probably on the right track, however, in emphasizing the lies to cover her tracks rather than the forgery itself. It sounds as though your daughter signed your wife’s name on the assignment not from any desire to avoid showing the assignment to her or to deceive her, but as a result of simply having forgotten to get her signature (your message implies that she had discussed the assignment with your wife, but just didn’t get her to sign off on the finished version). At that point, a responsible course of action would have been to explain this to the teacher, offering to obtain the signature later if that’s acceptable. If not, she takes her lumps and performs the assignment as described next time. Nevertheless, once the forgery was discovered, the only reason to lie to your wife about it was to avoid responsibility for it, and that’s unacceptable.
Treat this as an opportunity to emphasize how you expect her to behave in the future. Let her know that you’d have done what you could to help with the problem if she’d let you know about it up front, or at least as soon as possible. Explain clearly what you’d have wanted her to do differently. Talk it through, go ahead with your idea of having her write the essay, make sure she understands what you expect, and then don’t dwell on it. She screwed up and should know that by now. Don’t shield her from the consequences, but don’t harp on what she did either. Once she’s accepted responsibility and is taking steps to make what restitution she can, it ceases to become a topic of conversation. Certainly, if someone who doesn’t know what’s up asks why she can’t watch TV, you can briefly explain the facts; say “She forged my wife’s signature and lied about it, so she’s not allow TV for [period of time}” and then drop it. As much as you want her to appreciate the consequences of her actions, you also want her to understand that once that’s done, it becomes a thing that happened in the past, not something that’ll be thrown in her face every time you don’t like the clothes she’s wearing or the music she’s listening to or whatever.