You guys remember Mahmoud, right? Well, how could you forget him? He had a real stick-to-your-ribs way with words after all. Ice-berg lettuce his oratory was not. In brief, he told everyone in the Dean’s office that he was going to go get a gun and kill all of us.
You may also remember that I was assigned the case and that he ended up pleading No Contest to the charges and I celebrated by doing a graceful Double Lutz. Well the results are now in ladies and gentlemen. What will his punishment be? Jail? Expulsion from school? A one year suspension?
The envelope please. (drum roll) badabadabadabadabda…..thirty days.
In thirty days, he’ll be back in the building, and we (the people he just threatened to kill) will be responsible for disciplining him once again. I certainly look forward to telling him he’s suspended next time. After all, he wouldn’t dare pull a stunt like last time.
Now, we could argue about the merits of punitive disincentives and explore the warped spaces of the teenage psyche and the shattered spokes of the wheel of justice, poverty, class, race, and post-colonial dynamics in order to paint a more informed picture of the significance and validity of this decision. But we won’t, because I don’t know anything about those things. In fact, I don’t know much at all anymore. I know that I work at the bottom of a writhing pit of vipers, and I wave a heavy flaming torch to keep them at bay, and it makes a “wooosh” sound as I do it. But that’s it.
Still, I will attempt to put this decision in some kind of perspective by sharing one more thing I know. When I was in 10th grade, a good friend of mine was also suspended from school for thirty school days. His infraction? Fasely admitting to being in possession of a dusty shred of marijuana while on school grounds at some point long in the past.
The contraband was never found, never seen, and in fact it never existed. As my terrified friend later explained to his interrogators, he – as a new student – had been so intimidated by them that he just told them what they wanted to hear, even though it wasn’t true. But his previous confession was the only evidence that was considered and a guilty verdict was quickly reached. And this was at a hippy-dippy school. But their hands had been tied, they said, by their own minimum sentencing drug policy. And in fact it did scare my friend pretty straight. After he served his sentence, he didn’t allow himself to smoke, touch, see, speak or even think “marijuana” for fear the headmaster would appear in a puff of smoke and once again twiddle a suspension wand over his head.
So why do we punish? Do we do it to deter? To remove a danger? To avenge the injured? Should we punish at all? I don’t know, but if we do punish, then I think we should have a harsher minimum sentencing policy for unequivocally expressing your plans to murder staff members. But again, all I understand anymore are vipers and fire, so please, just be so kind as to receive this grain of salt on the tip of your tongue. Let it dissolve, and contemplate. No more.
The day after Mahmoud’s hearing wrapped up, Dave had a hearing for a kid who turned into the Incredible Hulk in class. Out of nowhere he became enraged, picked up a desk, threw it across the room, flipped over the teacher’s table, and ran around the room tossing every book he could get his hands on. Then he turned green, shredded his clothing, and bounded out of the building and down the street with the Army in close pursuit.
He got 30 days too.
Significance? Unknown. Because hey, I’m not one to criticize the people at the suspension office. I mean, we’re all in this desert together. Landmarks are nonexistent. Direction is meaningless. And sanity is useless. So I don’t judge them for deciding suspensions by rolling a thirty-sided die and leaving it at that.