I thought that we'd get a nice break today. The students were taking a City-wide unit assessment, so teaching duties would be at a minimum.
First period went fine. P. More, gang-banger and terribly difficult to handle, was back after nearly three months. She'd been put on long-term suspension and then never returned after her term was up. She took her test quietly.
During third period a student told me he was going to commit suicide. He was on the floor in the hallway and I was trying to coax him into class. He burst into tears. I got him to calm down and got him into the classroom at least. Then the principal came on the announcements and ordered us to evacuate the building. We did this in as disorderly and dangerous a fashion as possible, with kids running rampant, stopping at their lockers, and tripping and pushing each other down the stairs. Apparently somebody had lit up one of the girls' bathrooms on the first floor with rolled up paper balls and a lighter. Smoke billowed down the hall, eliciting excited whoops and cheers from our young charges. Two ladder trucks rolled up, making hundreds of uncontrollable teens even more frenzied. The fire, alas, was extinguished quickly. Rumor has it the last remaining toilet seat in the girl's room was burned. Timothy got in a fight on the way back to class.
I saw a student who'd been taken out of my class and put in GT. I asked how he was doing, he gave me an elaborate hand-shake and said "I ran into some bad fellas and they was smokin' some shit called 'Haze.' I think some of that deadly second-hand got up in here 'cuz I feel a little sleepy. They was blowing smoke rings shaped like pitbulls and shit." Shaq and Will were also obviously high.
We went back in the school. After class I went to the office to tell the principal that a student had threatened suicide. I couldn't find her, and I was just coming out the secure office door and into the lobby when P. More burst in. She took off her black skull cap and threw it across the counter. "Call my muthafuckin' mother! Call my muthafuckin' mutha!" I pulled the door shut behind me and said "Hey, we'll call, what happened?" She bumped me and said "Just call her bitches. Fuck this fucking place." She was crying and barely coherent. She jumped up on the counter and tried to climb over into the main office, but Lukie and Miss R. the secretary restrained her. "Don't touch me bitches," P. said. Miss R. took her out in the hall by the arm and two police officers and the hall monitor had to take over when P. had a complete meltdown and started throwing kicks and punches. I got several students back into the office lobby and out of her way, the police jumped her shit and put her in cuffs. She was kicking and screaming and trying to bite them. As they walked past I heard a sickening thud and P. slumped forward and started sobbing. The school social worker said "Did you see that? That cop punched her in the eye. She was already restrained."
"I didn't see it," I said. "But I heard it." The social worker looked at me with anger. I knew right away that she thought I was afraid to speak up, but honestly I didn't see it. I was behind the cops when I heard the sound and couldn't see what they were doing--I saw their backs and P.'s legs dragging behind them. The social worker started asking other adults if anyone had seen the cop punch a child in restraints. All of them said "I didn't see it," even the ones who'd obviously seen it. A student stepped forward. "I saw them bitches bang her in the eye."
So I was off to the social worker's office, and thence to the guidance counselor's office, to report my suicide threat student and to make a statement about not seeing but hearing police brutality. When I got back to class Lukie said Timothy had pushed her and that another student had stepped in and pulled Timothy away. That's intolerable. In fact most of what happened today is intolerable.