Case One Part Two

“But I didn’t mean anything by it,” Teri Baker said, explaining herself in the principal’s office.  “I just didn’t know.  I don’t know anything about Africa.  I was trying to find out.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Beth said.  “The way you said it was offensive.  It came across as very racist.”

“No, it’s okay.  I can’t be racist.  I’m a Democrat,” Teri said, pulling out her voter ID.

“Let me see that,” Carrie said, taking the ID from Teri’s hand.  “Teri, this isn’t going to help your case.  It says Nazi.”

“Is that bad?” Teri asked, shrinking her face up in a way that was even stupider than her question.  “I don’t know what that is.  I just thought the name sounded cool.”

“Okay, look, Teri’s ignorance aside, that sounds like that’s all this is,” Principal Schwartz said.  “Ignorance.  It doesn’t sound like she meant anything by it.  She was just being stupid because she didn’t know any better.  Because she’s stupid.”

“That’s even worse,” Carrie said.  “Racism is one thing, but there’s nothing worse than an ignorant person trying to dispel their ignorance using sloppy, imprecise language.”

“That’s worse than actual racism how?”

“Because we can bully people who are just ignorant, since they want to fit in and do the right thing,” Beth said.  “Which in turn, makes us look better.  Right?”

“That’s not at all how I would phrase it,” Carrie said.  “Look, we all agree that we have to have a zero-tolerance policy regarding racism, correct?”

“Of course,” Principal Schwartz expressed his platitudinous agreement.

“And, even if she didn’t mean anything by it, other people took offense to it.  And if other people were offended, you need to punish her for what she said, to show that you take the issue seriously.”

Principal Schwartz sighed.  “Even though she meant no harm by it?”

“Right.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s more important that the school take a hardline stand on this.  It doesn’t really matter whether Teri was right or wrong, so much as the message it sends.  That’s why she needs to be punished.”

“I suppose I could order sensitivity training,” Principal Schwartz said.  “That addresses the problem and would help her avoid any future mistakes.”

“With all due respect, Principal Schwartz, that really doesn’t go far enough.  You need to think of the victims.  She needs to be suspended, or they will think you don’t take this seriously.  Probably even expelled, so they don’t have to see the person who victimized them anymore.”

“What?” Teri said.  She looked as if she was about to cry.  “Please, no.  I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry.”

“Can we get her out of here?” Beth asked.  “Having her here is upsetting to me.”

“Teri, please step outside,” Principal Schwartz said.  “We’ll let you know when a decision has been reached.”

“But how can I defend myself if I’m not here?”

“You don’t need to,” Carrie said.  “Beth and I were both there.  We know what happened.  Don’t worry about it.”

Teri stepped out of the room, and Principal Schwartz leaned across the table.  “Look, a suspension seems a little harsh.”

“I understand, but look, remember, as a public servant, we pay your salary.  You work for us.”

“In one sense, you’re right.  As a government employee, I work for the taxpayer.  In a much more real sense, I don’t.  I work for the government.”

“A government that is beholden to political pressure.  If need be, Principal, we will go over your head.”

Principal Schwartz laughed.  “Do you know how hard it is for a government employee to get fired?  You are aware of the teacher’s union, aren’t you?”

“And how long do you think the union will stick by you when they hear you are defending a racist?”

“Please.  We both know that isn’t true.”

It was Carrie’s turn to laugh.  “We do.  They won’t.  Nobody will take the time to look at the facts of the case.  All they will hear is that a student made racist comments, and you neglected to punish them for it.”

“You really think anybody’s going to have that strong an opinion without knowing what actually happened?”

“It’s never stopped people before.”  Carrie shrugged.  “Learning facts and being fair is hard.  Forming a knee-jerk opinion based on a headline is easy.  What do you think people will do?”

Principal Schwartz sighed.  “Look, I think I have a solution.  You have this Anti-Bullying Council, right?”

“We do.”

“So why don’t I just cede to you the authority to deal with this?  You seem to be the experts in the area, so I’ll delegate the authority to develop and enforce rules to address the problem.  When an issue like this arises, you have a hearing and decide on a punishment.  Sound good?”

“Great.  But how can we suspend or expel a student?”

“Technically, you can’t.  But I can.  You come to a decision, and I’ll rubber stamp anything you decide.”

“Really?  Why?”

“Because it allows me to wash my hands of any responsibility.  Look, these cases are complicated and difficult to sort out.  More so, people tend to get very upset, and develop strong opinions, even when they aren’t aware of the facts.  The type of opinion you can’t reason with.  The type of strong opinions that could cost someone a job.  Therefore, it’s in my interest to insulate myself as much as possible.”

“So, you’ll suspend Teri?”

“If that’s what you decide,” Principal Schwartz said, picking up the phone that was ringing because I need to end this story, and because it became a lot heavier than I’d intended for it to be, so I wanted to reintroduce a touch of levity.  “Hello?”

“I’d like to call in a bomb threat,” the voice on the other end said.  “Yeah, um, I’d totally like to call in a super real bomb threat because I don’t want to work.  I used ten pounds of manure.  Does that sound right?  Anyway, I used the right amount of manure or whatever it is you use to make a bomb.”

Principal Schwartz sighed.  “Rock, is that you?”

“No,” the anonymous Rock voice on the other end said.  “Yes.”

“Rock, you can’t keep calling in a bomb threat every time you want a day off school.  Just fake sick like the other students.”

“I don’t like makeup work, so tough cocks, titty-master.  I’m calling in a fake bomb threat, so you have to take it seriously.”

“You just told me the bomb threat was fake.”

“Shit,” Rock said.  “You still have to evacuate and call school, right?”

“Yes,” Principal Schwartz said.  He hung his head defeated and put the phone back on the hook.  “We have to evacuate.  Rock called in another bomb threat.”

“Well, it is Terror Tuesday,” Carrie said, gathering her things.  “That seems like something we should probably take care of.”

Principal Schwartz shrugged.  “Eh, what are you going to do?”


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