It was 1978…I was a kid who was going through hell at home. I was abused…I won’t go into every little detail, but my stepmother’s favorite mode of discipline when I was a child was to pick me up and throw me into a cabinet or up against the wall–if she wasn’t waiving a gun at my head…While my classmates enjoyed slumber parties, discovered the opposite sex and enjoyed some normal teen-aged fun–I spent my days and many nights hiding in my room and watching old movies or reading books–even after Judy’s death.
Some of what I write is through a character called “Kit”. She’s merely a facsimile of what I might have been, or am depending on any given day of the week. While my father turned more to his alcohol, and other family members only sought an escape, I followed suit and my pen became my weapon against all evil entities foreign and domestic. I killed off more characters who did horrible things than Dexter–most likely, so I guess you could say I was a “serial slasher with a pen”. It is through these writings that I ended up in a counselor’s office at the age of 15. They really thought that rather than the escape vehicle my writing was, that I was actually planning to harm myself for some strange reason. I think it had more to do with the fact that my stepmother killed herself and my writing became darker with each passing moment.
However this is about a Monday morning in September when I came back to school after her having been buried a few days prior. The whole town knew that she shot herself. I was sleeping with the lights on, still not believing that my chief abuser/warden was gone. It was worsened by the fact that my father left me to my own devices for the most part. The alcohol became the next woman in his life for some time. Before I get into this, I just want to say that in the present, if a teacher does this, he or she can lose their license for it. I found out today that I was vindicated when I found out through a classmate that the teacher who was so cruel (a coach) was fired on the football field not too long after this incident.
I remember walking through the halls that Monday morning…Even some of the kids that picked on me were nice to me. “I am sorry, Tina.” they’d say. Or “If you need anything, my mother said you can come to our house.” etc..Everything seemed okay. I avoided writing in my journal and the teacher, Mrs. Eaves was okay with that. She understood that I just wanted to read that day. I remember what I was reading too…I was reading “Silas Marner“…George Eliot–not my usual Edgar Allen Poe or Samuel Beckett fare. I dreaded going to Biology class because HE was going to be there. This teacher was a pure asshole. He singled students out daily and humiliated them. He picked on the ones that had long hair. We felt more like marine recruits than students in his charge. This incident would be the first nail in the coffin for him.
I walked into the room and sat at the desk where I usually went in the back of the room…He always gave me bullshit before–along with a few other students, but this was not the day he wanted to do that–only he didn’t realize that yet. Somehow, one of the new kids (who truly didn’t realize who I am) asked about suicide and why people do that. I was livid. This is not what I wanted to hear at all. Somehow that student got to ask why women do that when the coach commented, “Women don’t usually go around shooting themselves because they don’t want to mess up their looks.” The class became quiet and those who knew me turned and look back at me. I stood up. I heard one of my classmates say “Holy shit! He’ll kill her…”
“O’Neill what do you think you’re doing? Sit back down.” he said to me.
“Go to hell.” I said as I headed for the door. I left my books and everything on the desk. He tried to grab my arm and was yelling something, but for the first time, I pulled away and ran–not walked–RAN to the office. I slammed the door behind me and they instantly knew something was wrong. I wasn’t crying either. I wanted to, for the first time, really bitch slap that man. I was seething with rage. The principal called me into the office and he and the counselor calmed me down. They called my Dad. Once I calmed down they asked me what happened. “I will never go back to that class.” I told them. They asked why. I told him everything that this coach had said. They had my books brought to the office. When my dad showed up, they had him take me home and told him that I could stay home for a few days with no penalty while they straightened things out.
They talked to my dad for a long time after I went back into the waiting area and sat down. I remember Dad saying something like, “You should have reported him a long time ago for talking to you kids like that. He has no right.” All I said was, “He is the teacher and isn’t he ALWAYS right?” “No. He isn’t. And you’re going into a different class next week but I’m keeping you home for a few more days.” he told me. I went into my room, closed my door and THEN cried a bit. I didn’t want to let anyone see me like that–devastated…
I went back to school that Friday. They had that coach in the office. “Tina, I’m sorry. I had been out-of-town for a week and I really didn’t know what happened.” My response, “You’re a liar. You are mean to us all every day and you treat us like crap. Everyone in town knew so you can’t tell me you never got a phone call or a note in your box. I’m not stupid. That was the last straw and if they put me back in your class, I’m dropping out.” He then said, “Tina I really am sorry. I really didn’t know–” I said something like “Take it up with God. Maybe he’ll believe it but not me. I’m not God.”
Nobody said anything after he went back to his classroom, but I was quickly put into a different class. Another teacher told me she really understood how I felt, but he really wasn’t told about it. That just told me someone dropped the ball. He got fired on the football field as well later on. Evidently he never learned anything from what he did to me. The remark about suicide wasn’t the first time he picked on any of us. Any of us could have fit into “The Breakfast Club“. I was the Ally Sheedy character…Jimmy was the Judd Nelson character…I could go on…If he wasn’t picking on someone for their weight, it was their hair…If it wasn’t how they dressed, it was how they spoke or read…In short, this guy was a pure asshole.
All I want to point out here is that if a teacher bullies a student or group of students, there should be no “probation”. This is abuse and they should immediately lose their license for it the first time they are caught doing it. This stuff still goes on…I’ve seen teachers tell other students, “Don’t say something to (Insert a student name here) because he/she will run back and tell Mommy and we’ll all get into trouble~!” AFTER said teacher had been verbally abusing other students and gotten reported for it several times so where does the “we” come into it? I’ll tell you. That teacher is trying to gain a following–just like gang leaders and wannabes in prison do. I saw this behavior first hand when working in corrections. This is what offenders do to incite others to be cruel to offenders that will not fall into their game or do as they want. Kids have been bullied at school as a result of the manipulation by these educators–especially if the teacher in question “rewards” those who “support” him or her with free time or something…Seriously!
Schools should not be prisons and teachers should not be teaching students how to be “offenders” in a correctional setting. Teachers who engage in this type of behavior are as low as some of the people I had to deal with as a correctional sergeant and not all of them were offenders either. Thank you. I’ve gotten that off of my chest. If you know of a teacher who does this, report it. If you are a teacher and you witness this–don’t be afraid to do the right thing because ignoring it makes you party to it. There shouldn’t be a “code of silence” when kids are suffering at the hands of such incompetent educators. And as for administrators that back these abusers up rather than do their job, fire them on the spot right along with teacher that overstepped his/her bounds.