Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Death and the Internet

I spent a few years working at a large urban junior high.  Academics honestly usually took a back seat to behavior and safety concerns.  Gangs, poverty, drugs, & disrespect were the issues that were usually the primary focus each day.  As one might expect, our gifted population was fairly thin (no doubt because a large portion of truly gifted kids were unidentified).

We had one kid though who was the total package: James Baldwin.  James (who like a truly gifted student preferred James rather than Jim or Jimmy) was a straight A student.  He would have like either killed himself or been killed by own of his two parents (who lived in the same house and were still married) if he so much as brought home an A-.  He only talked with other high end students (didn't want to get with the wrong crowd...), and had never been any kind of trouble... ever.  Well, till the day he got mad.

We got rumor about midday that James had been handing out slips of papers to students with the web address www.ThePrincipalMustDie.com written on it.  This was nearly ten years ago when educators barely knew what to make of the Internet.  There were no legal classes on this sort of thing like there are now, and certainly nothing like Facebook where similar situations are not uncommon.

None of the administrators could believe it, but one thing was for sure- the principal in question was not going to take this well.  She was an original model flame thrower.  Staff, students, and parents routinely left her office in tears for minor offenses.  I felt there was at least a chance I would witness something like spontaneous combustion, fire breathing, or perhaps the first ordered quartering in US public schools in the 21st Century.

The principal called James down and began to question him.  You can imagine how this went with a kid like James.  He was a blubbering mess in no time.  He obviously had no idea how easily he would be caught and no idea of the severity of his actions (why when students misbehave do we turn from teachers to lawyers.... but I digress...).  The principal asked- "What did I do that make you so angry that you need me to die?"  James, through short snotty breaths answered the question, "You won't let us have water bottles in school."

At this point the group of administrators in the office were barely holding it together.  "James.  I do understand why you're so upset, but why do I have to die?  Why couldn't it have been ThePrincipalMustGetAReallyBadHeadache.com or ThePrincipalMustSprainHerAnkle.com.  I just think the penalty for not letting you have a water bottle is a little steep.  Don't you?"

By this point James resembled the witch after she gets water tossed on her at the end of The Wizard Of Oz.  He was soaked and seemed to be reducing in mass as more and more snot and tears poured from his head.  The Principal told James to take the website down, and called his parents to let them know he was getting a one day suspension.  No quartering.  

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