Wednesday, October 29, 2008

School Dazes

Every day she walked in the house with a huge smile on her face and excitedly gushed, “Oh Pennie, I LOVE high school!”

Her brother, a senior, tried to warn her. He quietly cautioned her to hold herself tightly, to guard her emotions, to walk lightly, and protect herself from the disillusion he knew was part of the transition from a relatively small junior high school to a very large high school.

She just laughed and said that her experience wasn’t going to be anything like his. “You just don’t understand. I LOVE school. You have NEVER loved school like I do.”

And that was true. He has never LOVED school. He goes because he must, not because he desires to. To him school is an obligation one must fulfill, to her school is an avocation.

Then on the 9th day of her first year in high school my telephone rang and I heard her say, “Pennie, I’m in trouble. I have had to sit in this horrible room for 90 minutes. Go in my bedroom and get my kaki pants. Bring them to the school. I’ve explained that you’re disabled so they say that I can come out the front door and get the pants from you, but don’t drive away. If those pants don’t make “her” happy then I’m not going to stay here and be demeaned any longer.” With that she hung up the phone.

I had no idea why she could be in trouble. She is in the Distinguished Scholars, her teachers have always considered her a positive influence, she gets great grades, and she LOVES school.

I couldn’t imagine what she could have done, but I did as I was told. I grabbed the pants and went and parked in front of the high school. She called me on my cell phone to make certain that I had arrived and said that she would be right out, but she was being timed so she would have to hurry ...”BUT DON’T LEAVE UNTIL I CALL YOU AND TELL YOU THAT EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT. PROMISE ME!”

I had never heard her so stressed. As I was giving her my word that I wouldn’t leave I could see her coming through the huge cathedral like front doors of the school.

She all but ran to my car. The face that she put through my open window was so stressed her mouth was tight and her skin was pale. Her words wereshort, breathless, and angry.

The uniform police had grabbed her as she had tried to enter the school early that morning. It seems that she had a thread hanging from the bottom of her skirt. She was told that the thread classified her as a “skirt cutter”. She reached down and pulled the thread off of her hemline and thought that would end the accusation, but she was then told that now she was in trouble for having ’had’ a string hanging from her skirt.

I have sat and listened to the teens talk about the “Uniform Nazis”, but I have never chatted with a child that has been detained because of non-compliance. That was soon to change.

Both of my grandchildren have had to wear uniforms to school from their first day of kindergarten. In fact, our city started mandatory uniforms for public schools the same year that my grandson started kindergarten. Every school has it’s own particular colors, but it’s uniforms none the less.

A skirt hemline cannot be any shorter then a girl’s finger tips when the arms are hanging straight down. Apparently some of the girls cut their skirts to achieve that length, and then don’t bother to sew a hem. Although the uniform book we received didn’t state that a ’cut’ hemline on a girl’s skirt was in non-compliance, it has somehow been deemed a violation of the dress code. And that is why my granddaughter was being held in ACE, Alternative Classroom Environment ... a fancy title for detention.

My son had taken my granddaughter shopping for her school uniforms. He was with her when she purchased that particular skirt. He had personally checked the length verses her fingertips. Where the errant string came from is anybody’s guess, but any of you that sew know that ’errant strings’ happen.

As I sat and waited for her call to let me know if the pants I had brought were going to withstand inspection, my mind buzzed with the unfairness of the situation. But life isn’t always fair and I was trying to search for the lesson to be learned from this experience when my cell phone rang and her voice, near breaking, said, “Get me out of here, before I start screaming. I just got told that my pants are not the correct shade of kaki (the uniform code says nothing about a shade of kaki, it just says KAKI) and my white shirt is not the shade that makes ’her’ happy. ’She’ says that I can go to class, but she will probablydetain me again this afternoon. I can’t handle sitting in that room with all those boys hitting on me and a girl crying because her mom cant leave work to bring her another shirt so she is going to be suspended for 3 days, and the boy whose father brought him a pair of walking shorts being called gay because ’she’ says they look feminine. GET ME OUT OF HERE!!! Call my counselor and tell her that you need me for a doctor’s appointment or something. I have to get to my biology class. Hurry up, please.“ And then the tears started.

I did as she asked, but her counselor was insistent that “she can’t leave unless you personally come in here and walk her out”. No matter how often I told her I was disabled and couldn’t ‘get’ in there she just kept repeating the mantra over and over. So I hung up and called her brother.

My grandson was on block schedule and didn’t have a class for another hour, thank goodness. The minute he heard the facts he said, “I’ll get her out of there. Come and get me.”

And he did. It was a bit complicated and required his employee ID from the Aquarium, and his being escorted to my car by the principal to verify that I was indeed disabled, but he got her out! And God bless him, not once did he say, “I told you so”. But he did say, “That’s high school Anna. It’s more jail, then school as you knew it.”

As she dejectedly looked out the car window I heard her quietly say to herself, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll love school again.”

She had to serve 2 hours of additional detention on top of the time served ‘in that room’. The original intention of the uniform code was to prevent gang attire ... when did it become such a big bugaboo that special people were hired to police uniform adherence and non-complying kids were forced to miss class time. I have a lot of questions about what she went through, but she has begged me not to ask them. Now when she buys something new to wear to school she forces her counselor to give it the OK.

So, I’ll do as she wants this time, but if there is a second time my mouth will run faster then she can stop it.

An aside: That particular high school is over 40 years old. It is large and elegant in it’s own unique way. It has arches and walkways, and walkways on arches that make it very beautiful from inside the courtyard. Several days after her trauma with the uniform police she was preparing to walk under one of the arches when a boy standing on the walkway above the arch yelled down at her, “Great tits!”

I won’t go into great detail about what she said to him, but I suspicion that some of her frustration from the uniform incident fueled her indignation. She had him so cowed that he promised that he would never again disrespect a female, and frankly I tend to believe him. She cowed me telling me the story.

And to top it off with a giggle, for her, he heard one of her friends use her last name and turned pale when he asked if her brother was a senior named Skip. When she said “yes” he turned to one of his friends and said, “Boy did I screw up! Her brother and I ‘were?’ friends.”

All in all high school has been an eye opening experience for her and for her grandmother. Report cards are due soon ... we’ll have to wait and see if grandmother’s eyes get opened even further.

The Bell Has Rung

Love, Pennie

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