Earlier this year the school provided every student with an application to receive free lunches and they are trying hard to get them all turned in. We get money for every form, whether the student qualifies for the lunches or not, so the collection efforts are getting more and more draconian as the deadline approaches. The latest strategy is to withhold the report cards of anyone with an outstanding form.
Right or wrong, it goes to show that the administration actually is capable of getting things done if they want to. But on Friday, one of our rare over-achieving students (yes, we have them, although they usually keep their heads down) took us to task over our legally-questionable collection procedures.
The principal was out clearing the halls along with me and a few other staff. Unaccustomed to the bright lights outside of her office, she squinted as she approached a cluster of girls, leisurely catching up on their various feuds.
“Come on guys,” the principal whined. “Go to class.”
They ignored her.
“Guuuuys!” she begged. “Let’s gooo.”
One of the girls whirled around and barked, “DON’T YELL AT ME!” and then calmly returned to her conversation.
“But – but I’m the principal.” The words seeped out like grease from a sausage.
“I don’t care WHO you are!” The girl screamed back over her shoulder.
The principal frowned and retreated. Sensing a moment of weakness, a highly intelligent and highly annoying lad then stepped up to her, his nose held high.
“Ms. Principal, I demand that my report card be released to me immediately!” He waved a copy of the Chancellors Rules and Regulations above his head, and declared, “You have no cause or right to withhold it!”
The principal mumbled something dismissive in his direction, but he raised his voice to scene-making levels and continued his dress-down. “If I do not have my report card in my hand by the end of the day I’m calling my mom, and legal action will be taken, and this school will be investigated! I have compiled a list of complaints on this school, and I will make SURE that every one of them is pursued!”
My jaw hung open. He couldn’t have been more than 15 years old. And we were in the middle of the hall so teachers and students were seeing all of it, walking through the very smoke of this conflagration.
“Listen, you’re being very disrespectful!” the principal gargled in his general direction. Then she attempted to physically hide behind an assistant principal who was busy directing student traffic nearby.
“I’m not being disrespectful!” He said as he followed her, like a squirrel chasing another around a tree trunk. “I’m completely within my rights!”
It was as if a high-powered lawyer had just been flown into the building. We have a few other students like him too: space-aliens who’ve somehow learned how to breath oxygen and live amongst humans.
And it wasn’t the first time I had witnessed this kid’s eccentricity. One time I was called to a classroom to respond to a fight. When I opened the door, this same kid stood up, pointed his finger at a girl and stuffily proclaimed, “Mr Pistol, she hit me! She hit me, and I would like to press charges!”
When I interviewed the girl, she told me through her tears, that he constantly mocked her and called her dumb, and that that day she had had enough so she made fun of him back. And when she did that, he had said, “At least I don’t come from a broken home, and I have a mother and father who love me.” So she popped him.
Back in the halls, I decided I had seen enough of this public humiliation, so I headed to the office to finish The Case of the Boob-Grabber from, when a red-eyed Guyanese man walked into the office.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“Yes. I want to check on my daughter.”
“What’s your child’s name? Did we call you?”
“No, but she didn’t come home last night.”
“Pistol, I’ll take care of this,” said Dean Flint, graciously picking up some of the extra load during his free period.
“Thanks, Flint. Take him down to the parent-coordinator, okay? Sir, Mr. Flint will take care of you.”
Forty-five minutes later, Flint returned. “Oh boy, Pistol! Yoah lucky I took that one! You really saved yoahself a headache!”
“Why? What happened?”
“Well, we found the girl, and we kept ’em in separate rooms. As soon as the guy left, we called Child Services on ’em!”
“Cause the reason she left home was he was makin’ huh sleep on tha floah! He was forcin’ huh’ ta sleep in the basement on tha cold cement floah! Ya know, these folks from these countries got a whole different view on discipline.”
Later that day, during my own free period, all the radios in the office practically jumped off their desks at once as as frantic calls of a “52” crowded the airwaves.
“You’re kidding me,” bemoaned the secretary. “Its like clock-work! Always at the end of the day.”
“Jesus Christ,” said Dave, who was on his last period – on a Friday. “Shit.”
The radios crackled again, “Ksschhh – I got one body! I’m takin’ her to the deans office! – ksschhh”
“kssch- Where’s that other body!”
“Ksschh- be advised, that body exited the building – ksscchhh”
“ksschh – You let her run out? – ksschh”
The door to the deans office blew open and in the storm roared in.
“No! Noooooo! I’m gonna kill huh! Noooo! Don’t touch me! Aaaahhhhhhh!”
Bang! Crash! Our filing cabinets were taking punches. But they’re used to it.
“Listen. That girl left the building. Calm down,” said one of the agents who was holding her.
“No she didn’t! I’m gonna get huuh!”
“Calm down. Just calm down. Do you need a nurse?”
“You need a nurse. Call the nurse.”
“She don’t know me! I got a case out on me already! I gotta case! And I’m not goin’ back to jail over some little bitch! She don’t know me! She don’t know what type a’ person I am! No one in this building know me! Except you Mr. Nichols! You know!” Mr. Nichols is the special ed dean and he came up to help because she was “one of his”.
“They might need to call the ambulance,” I heard another dean whisper. When a kid can’t control themselves, we sometimes have to get the cops or the paramedics to take them out of the building as an EDP (emotionally disturbed person).
There were a couple of student aides in the office — both of the extra-terrestrial type I mentioned before. “Mr. Pistol,” one of them asked politely, “can you go over there and get our bags for us?” They didn’t want to catch an errant elbow walking past crazy girl.
I went to the other side of the office and saw the safety agent who was supposed to be watching the girl, going through our drawers, removing our snacks and sniffing them like a damn bear at a campsite. He managed to claw open a jar of peanut-butter and started eating out of it with a plastic spoon he had scavenged. Meanwhile, the girl was dancing around the room like a boxer before a fight. She had the face of a boxer too, but after a fight. Then she dropped to the floor and started pounding out push-ups. I grabbed the service aids’ book bags and slowly backed away from the freakshow.
“She’s doing fucking push-ups over there,” I announced to the other side of the office.
Then I heard the peanut-butter safety-agent yell from the other room, “Hey stop her! She ran out!”
After a few minutes and a few radio calls, they dragged her back in.
“The girl you were fighting is not in the building!” The agents yelled at her. “She left!”
The girl was laughing maniacally, “Ha ha ha! I’m a find her!”
Just then, the fifteen year old lawyer strutted into deans office. He was holding his report card high above his head. “Dean Dave! Dean Dave! Look what they decided to give me after all!”
Dave turned to me, “That kid’s goin’ places, Pistol.”