On why I will never be a principal (pt. 2 of at least 2)

When I left you, I had just turned around in the hallway to find two high-school age girls standing behind me, wearing street clothes (all of the high schools in South Bend but one require uniforms, and that one is not close to my current school) and requesting to use the bathroom.  This is a confusing enough situation as it is, because there are many places that are not middle schools where one might use the bathroom, but it was made massively worse by the fact that I recognized one of the two girls.

And I do not like her very much.

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Hmm. What to call this young lady? Eh. It doesn’t matter.   I had her for at least three years, one of which she was actually in my classes, at my other building.  During that time she was expelled twice; she is horrible.  She ought to be a sophomore at this time; why she isn’t in school is beyond me.

I made some sort of why are you here and why are you asking kind of sound at them; I’m not generally the type to refuse someone access to bathrooms, but there’s something to be said for she whole wait what the fuck reaction I was having at that time.

Now, by this time, Shithead and Shitheel were both in the office again, and sister-mother is sitting out there with them for some reason.  The girl I don’t know nods toward the office and says “That’s my sister.”  They’ve apparently been waiting in the car all this time. Okay.  Doesn’t explain why neither of you are in class, but I suddenly feel better about letting you use the bathroom.  I raise an eyebrow at the one I know.

“I got a baby by his brother,” she says.  She might be sixteen by now.  She fails to specify whether it’s Shithead or Shitheap’s brother who impregnated her; it occurs to me that one of the two grandchildren that sister-mother has been talking about is probably her kid, which explains why she’s trying to get custody, because a live, hungry alligator and a thousand angry bees would easily be better parents than this child is going to be.  I wave them toward the bathroom and go check on the kid in the nurse’s office who got punched in the throat.

And I immediately fall in love with the kid, who is the sweetest kid I’ve ever met, and by the end of hearing his story about what happened I’m ready to plant the other student underneath the building.  I tell him and the nurse that he can go back to class when he feels ready to, because he’s not in trouble, find out whether the nurse is going to call his parents (that’s my call; I tell her I’ll do it) and go back to the office, where I discover a conundrum has presented itself.  Sister-mother can take her son home.  However, inexplicably, she’s not on her brother’s emergency card, which means we can’t legally release him to her.  We tell her if she can get ahold of her/their mother and get verbal permission from her for us, that will work just fine, because everyone realizes that the policy is in this case a bit of an unnecessary inconvenience.

Oddly, she excuses herself to the hallway to make the phone call, because “the office is too loud.”  She comes back in and hands the phone to our attendance secretary, who types a few words into her computer and then, in a rather pointed tone, asks the person on the other end of the line what Shithead’s birthday is.

“No, that’s not it.  That’s not it either.  Sorry, bye.”

And she hangs up and hands the phone back to sister-mother.  Sister-mother, you see, has just called the two girls in the parking lot and told them to pretend to be their/her mother, only they don’t know Shithead’s birthday.  Our attendance secretary has apparently spoken to Shithead’s mother before and she has a very distinct voice, so she knew from the jump that that wasn’t her on the phone.

So sister-mother has to leave without Shithead, who is returned to ISS, but takes Shitheel with her.  Why their mother is unavailable is never explained.

My assistant principal finally returns!  It is noon!  Note that it has taken nearly four thousand words to get to noon.  I take some time to fill her in on everything that has happened, which takes a very long time, especially since we keep getting interrupted.

We hit the point where I send Swingyfists back to class.  She blows up, stunned and horrified that I would do such a dumb thing.  I point out again that that’s where he already was, at which point she blinks and realizes that no, she’s not mad at me, but she is really mad at our social worker.  I’m going to deliberately omit details of the rest of the conversation but let’s make it clear that she was not happy about that particular turn of events.

At some point it occurs to me that I still have Student A in ISS and Shitheap in my office.  I am, amazingly, quickly able to get ahold of Student A’s grandmother, who tells me she’ll call his mother at work and have her get back with me about whether they’re going to come get him or just let him walk home at the end of the day.  A few minutes later, a young woman in nurse’s scrubs who looks a lot like Shitheap walks into the office.  It’s the sister!  At the exact second I wave her over, Student A’s mom calls, and I have a brief moment of shit which one of them do I talk to first.  I choose the person who is physically present over the person on the phone and ask for her to leave a number and that I’ll call her right back.  I explain the situation to the sister, who luckily understands what her brother is and does not argue or fight, even when I mention the high likelihood of an expulsion.  I take her to my office.  Shitheap is curled up in a chair, where he’s been for the last couple of hours, asleep.  She wakes him up with a rather impressive roundhouse slap to the back of his head, hitting him hard enough that she has to be hurting her hand in the process, and just about drags him out of the office.

Well, okay, bye.

I call Student A’s mother back.  Her main concern is whether her son was fighting.  I say that he did not actually land or throw any punches to the best of my knowledge and make it clear that he’s been in ISS for starting the confrontation.  As it turns out, they live nearby, and after making sure that the other student is out of the building and can’t chase him home or anything she tells me that he can go home on his own.  Okey-dokey.

I go to McDonald’s, buying a triple cheeseburger and a large fry.  On the way back, I manage to cough up an enormous wad of phlegm, which is rather unpleasantly in my mouth now.  True fact about me: I don’t spit.  Which means that I don’t know that if you spit a huge loogie out of a car window at speed, it’s going to bounce off of the moving air outside the car and end up all over the expensive sport jacket you’re wearing and yes you just managed to spit on yourself while driving back to work.

So that happened.

(Oh, I forgot: at some point early in the morning, the secretary made a run and brought me coffee.  We had to pull the lids off to figure out which coffee was mine and which was hers, and in my brief conversation with Shitheap, I had taken the first sip from the nearly-cold cup of coffee and spilled half of it all over myself, because we hadn’t put the lid on right.  This is thus the second time that something connected to McDonald’s has led to foreign liquids on my clothing.)

I get back and eat in a hurry.  It suddenly hits me that we never contacted the parents of the two boys from earlier in the day, the ones who were involved in the bullying issue and the threats to the other kids.  Then it hits me that I don’t remember talking about them with the assistant principal.  I stick my head in her office and ask if she remembers talking about them.  She doesn’t.  I look through the stack of write-ups she has.

They’re not in there.  Neither is the note.

What the fuck.

Me and my co-principal tear my office, his office, the main office itself, and the conference room apart looking for these write-ups and, most importantly, that note.  Nowhere to be found.  I have been being very careful over the course of the day to keep track of all of my paperwork, so this is insanely aggravating that I can’t find the documents that I most need for my boss to see at this point.

So pile some extra aggravation on everything else at this point, with a nice little dose of incompetence.  I really do not like feeling incompetent.

For reasons that aren’t interesting, our building is dismissing today in a different way from usual, one that demands that all the televisions in the building be tuned to the same channel and that all the VCRs be on.  We do not have time for there to be technical glitches while this is going on, so my co-principal and I have been planning all day on going around to the classrooms and pre-testing everything before crunch time.  It is now way too close to crunch time, and we abandon the search and rush out to get the classrooms set up properly.  At some point we get dragged into the sixth grade team meeting, and they spend time I don’t have interrogating me about some details about our testing and data collection process, details that I only barely have to begin with.

We are down to our last grade hallway when I get a call over my radio that there is a parent to see me in the office.  The parent wants to talk about “the bullying issue from this morning.”  I spend a moment thinking how does he know about that already, thinking they’re referring to the boy who was being picked on shit I lost that paperwork and we haven’t found it.

Nope.  Remember Phone Girl, my second conference of the day, 21000 hours ago?  I was talking to her grandmother.  This, now, is her father, who is telling me that he’s going to keep his daughter out of school until “this is resolved.”

I’m still, at this time, not entirely sure what the fuck “resolved” even means, because it’s been two weeks and the girl’s phone hasn’t been found and I can’t just snap my fingers and produce the damn thing, nor can I tell her to stop thinking that this other girl has stolen her phone because her thinking that makes the other girl’s parents upset.  There is, in short, really not a thing I can do about this, short of magically producing the phone.  I nonetheless promise to do some investigation tomorrow, having correctly predicted to his mother earlier in the day that I would not have time to deal with it during the day today.  He says he is not sending his daughter to school tomorrow.  Fuck it, it’s Friday, I think, and tell him that’s fine.  I promise to call him after I talk to the other girls and send him on his way.

I walk out of the office to go back to tuning televisions and VCRs and discover that the father of Neck-Punch is outside, collecting Neck-Punch for a previously scheduled doctor’s appointment.

Fuck I never called him and told him his kid got punched in the neck.

(I predicted Thursday night that this story would take 5000 words; at some point in the last few paragraphs we crossed that line.)

I am in the middle of asking him if he has a few minutes to talk to me about his son when my radio bleeps.  There’s a fight in ISS, or there’s about to be, and they need security.  Shit.  I give him the most apologetic look I can muster, ask him to hold on for a few minutes while I deal with this new bullshit, then race off to deal with ISS.  Luckily, by the time I get there, the principal and a couple of other staffers have already gotten it under control.  Guess who was fighting?  If you said Shithead, you win.  I don’t know who he was going after, though.

I mentally mark that Not My Fucking Problem, come back, apologize profusely to Dad, and explain the situation from earlier in the day to him, continuing to tell him how sorry I am for not getting in touch with him earlier– my meeting with the AP had completely driven his son out of my head and I’d forgotten about it.  Luckily (again) he is as wonderful as his son, and after I bring up another couple of (unrelated) issues that my talk with the boy had brought up and explain what our options are for dealing with them, dad thanks me (I take a risk and reply “shukran,” which gets me a big smile from both of them) and they leave.

My compatriot comes to me with a huge smile on his face.  He’s found the paperwork!  He’d set it down in the AP’s office while looking for something else; entertainingly, it was in the room it was supposed to be in, just on a different shelf.  Unfortunately, at this point, there’s no time to talk to the boys any more, much less call their parents, before dismissal. It hits me that we also haven’t done anything about the neck-puncher other than sock him in ISS for the day.  All these, as well as official suspension decisions for the various other things I’ve dealt with throughout the day, will have to be finished after school.

Dismissal happens.

I have a few more conversations with my AP and then head home.  You may recall how the rest of my day went since I’ve talked about it already.

There will, believe it or not, be a third part to this.  But I think it’ll wait until tomorrow.

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

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