You know how the Nazis required people to “show your papers” to prove who they were?
Well, today, my two oldest girls were asked to show their papers.
The children were playing at a friend’s home in town. Fortunately for that piece of town, there are some fun and enjoyable woods in which the girls will build forts, explore the creek, pick up trash other kids toss into the woods. Just have adventures. While playing in those woods today, they wandered near a middle school and were watching the activity of the school (exciting!) from the privately owned woods.
Without notice, a man called them out of the woods. They were scared and quickly contemplated running. And then they “tried to get away” but instead they responded by following his orders. He asked them what they were doing and after they said they were homeschoolers and would go home, he asked their names and location information. They readily gave it up. They now know never, ever to give up their identities, especially when scared.
It is not incredibly clear what other words were exchanged except that the teacher scared them pretty good as they were very shaken and upset. I do know that a MALE teacher alone approached three YOUNG FEMALES without their notice until they were caught off guard. And I do know that rather than let it roll and tell them to move on, he interrogated them and even asked them to go to the office with him. Oh, I am so grateful they did not.
I was on the way to get the kids when my friend called and said there’d “been an incident.” I immediately thought blood or broken bones. That’s just how we roll. But no. And she told me and as I arrived girls were still crying and one shaking.
I took mine and went to the school. As we waited in the office, the terrorist-teacher passed through and says oh-so-snidely, “Oh. Here they are.” And he is waving a yellow sticky note on a finger. I just know that note has my kids’ info on it. I asked him to stay. More than once. And he just kept saying he had to eat lunch and had kids in the cafeteria to watch. I offered to have the conversation in the cafeteria. He would not have it. And a woman, with dark hair and dressed in a skirt set with no hose, flat shoes and acting oh-so-very anxious ushered him out. I know she must be an administrator, but she never once spoke to me. Interesting.
Eventually an assistant principal came in. He was jovial and said, “Let’s go back here and talk.” I was insistent that the teacher be there also. He said he could not be, he had lunch. I pointed out that my lunches, and my children’s lunches are sometimes interrupted because things come up. He suggested I see them during the teacher’s planning period. I, yes I, told him that the teacher’s planning period had already passed as that was when he was harassing my girls and their friend. The assistant principal asked me to make an appointment after school. I pointed out to him that we still had lessons at that time of day – Earth Day clean up, piano, athletics, etc. I again, for at least the fourth time offered to meet in the cafeteria and settle what was surely “a misunderstanding.” And the assistant principal relented.
We went to the cafeteria where I saw no teacher looking after any kids. I saw tables of teachers facing kids. And I saw tables of kids. And the noise. My house seems very, very quiet now. And the smell. As one of my children observed, the cafeteria smelled “like farts.” And he is right. It smelled like farts.
I properly introduced myself and the children to the teacher. He told his story which matched up to my girls’ story, minus one detail. The teacher decided to change his story and say that now the girls were “peering into the windows.” Before he had called “them out of the woods.” Hmm. In front of his assistant principal and, more importantly, his teacher peers, his story changed.
I listened. I paid attention. My children stood close and listened. When it was my turn I called him out on his story change. I also asked him, intently, why he asked anything of them once he knew they were homeschoolers. He said the standard “my responsibility to look after the school’s property” and “wanted to ensure they were not our students or runaways.”
Now. Let me tell you something. Not one of these children looks like a runaway. Not one bit cruel, malnourished, nor dirty. Even if they had just started out on their journey of homelessness, they would not have been scared to their deaths by a skinny, middle-aged troll of a teacher. They’d be tougher.
So, as I was saying, I was intently questioning as I told what the girls had shared and the assistant principal cut me off and said that I could “leave now or be escorted off campus.” WHAAAAT? I had not used any physical force, I had not yelled, I had not made any threats at all. I had actually remained calm. WHAAAAT? Escort me off campus? And yes. I said it. I said, “This is my campus. I pay city, county, state, and federal taxes. My Husband is not a government employee and we never receive refunds.” And then I stopped. I knew this would go nowhere. He feels entitled to my money because, well, he just does. He steals for a living. How can one argue with a thief?
I then chose to re-collect myself and I asked the girls to apologize to the teacher for being so near his work space. He said they already had. So I asked the girls to apologize to the assistant principal for the same. And they did. I am glad I did not ask them to apologize for being on any property. Even if they had been on school property, we own that property with every other Tom, Dick, and Harry true taxpayer. So they apologized and I was told we were done and to leave or be escorted away. I told him we were not done until I was satisfied and that I was headed to central office.
I went directly, with the children, to central office and at the front desk of the entrance way, met a high school friend of my Husband’s. I knew I recognized her and she had such a warm face. I know she is good at managing that front desk. I would not be.
I spoke with an assistant superintendent and still remained calm and collected. He was very kind. I shared that while I do want and expect written letters of apology from the teacher and now the assistant principal, that I mostly wanted to know what was being done with my children’s information. Where was that yellow sticky note? I was never given an opportunity to ask at the school. I was threatened instead. That meeting ended with the assistant superintendent saying that nothing was resolved until the principal of the school was finished with it. Uh… It ain’t over until *I* say it is over. But I kept that to myself, until now. I still have something else to hold out. I won’t share it here.
The assistant superintendent said he would call the principal (who I know of because he was a Counselor at the school at which I began lateral entry, I know – another sordid detail of my past) and encourage the principal to call me. I asked him to communicate to the principal that I would prefer to meet with him in person and with the children. I also told the assistant superintendent that I would be contacting a member of the school board (the only one I believe has any credibility) and work to resolve it from there as well. We parted ways peacefully and kindly.
I was very honest with the assistant superintendent. I shared with him my background upon him asking if I was from here. He inquired as to why I did not pursue education beyond my bachelor’s degree. I was honest and told him that after NCSSM and college in a hurry, I was done with education. And that I am glad of that as my family is now my calling. I shared with him that my Husband is from here and his sisters are both career public educators. I shared with him that I am not fond of public schools and I told him I do not like my money being taken from me for a program that I philosophically oppose. But that I understood they would always exist.
I shared with him the harassment of homeschoolers in this county, specifically at this specific middle school where parents are refused the right to withdraw their children to homeschool unless they show proof of their DNPE NOI. The law does not require this. I shared that I had already contacted, in the past, a specific school board member about how to resolve this harassment.
I shared that I did not want a policy, a civil agreement between human beings is all that mattered.
We left the school system’s central office at 153pm. It is now 949p and I have not received a call nor an email from the principal.
Once in the car again with the children, I posted to the reasonable school board member’s facebook that we had been terrorized at the school, that the assistant superintendent was helping me, and that we needed to revisit what caused us to begin our acquaintanceship – the harassment of homeschoolers by the school system. He asked me to call him and I did. He seemed to me to be very bothered by the incident and asked that I let him know what the principal said and did and that he would follow up directly with the superintendent. And I believe him wholeheartedly. He is a man of his word and he is honorable. He does not throw stones.
Through all of this, our children were so respectful. Kind. When we saw kids at the middle school we knew, they spoke to them. As did I. These kids’ parents are doing the best they can with what they know and understand. And kids are always just along for the ride. I am so proud of my children. They were so brave and so honest and so respectful. It is true. Civilized is better than socialized.
And I am proud of me, too. While I am confident my voice shook at times, and my tone changed, and even my volume elevated, I remained calm and together. I kept the topic on task. I am proud of me.
Even with this very unexpected event in our day, we still made it to 4-H, we still checked in on a family member, we still made a home cooked (not crock pot!) dinner, made it through piano lessons, to baseball, and to scouts. I did not do it alone. Friends helped. A precious friend stayed here during piano lessons while I drove to baseball and a new friend picked up for Scouts. I am so grateful.
And something else beautiful that came from this was another opportunity to combat the selfish society with my children.
One of the girls who was terrorized today came up to me as I made supper. She asked, “If we sue, will we be the victims?”
Ahhh… victimhood. The state I resent most of all…
I replied, “No one is a victim. You made a choice when you chose to play in the woods near the school. The teacher made a choice when he approached and questioned you. Now we are dealing with the consequences of those choices. No one is a victim.”
And no one is. Life is a series of choices. The girls chose to feed some of their curiosity and follow the squeals and “weird screams.” The teacher chose to approach the girls and terrorize them with no other witnesses. I chose to respond peacefully, offering no reason for expulsion. Life is a series of choices. But cafeterias will always smell like farts.