tw: mentions of violence, and incompetent leadership
Marshall came in... Yes, that Marshall, the one with the oily black hair and acne. He’s been coming more consistently over the past few weeks… Yes, really! Today we talked about college, what his goals for the future are, all that jazz. He still needs to retake a few classes if he’s going to graduate with the rest of his class, but you know? I think he’ll be able to pull it off. He’s changed. He’s taking charge of his life again, thinking about what major he’ll take and scholarship programs. I haven’t heard him talk this much all year! And between you and me, I think he’s started showering again, the odor’s gone away a bit... Mhm… Yknow, I think deep down he always did really care, he was just afraid. Afraid of the future. I’d like to think I helped him overcome that fear a little. He seems happier now. Hopefully it stays that way… Of course, Mr. Principal! Just doing my job… Oh ok, thank you sir. Thanks for listening. Talk to you soon…
Sophia came to my office yesterday. I was getting ready to leave, but she came in. No appointment or anything. She was like, “oh, I’m sorry, are you leaving?” I told her no, and she sat down. “We can do this tomorrow if you’re busy.” “It’s alright hon, what’s up?” She looked nervous. Like she was afraid something was watching her… Anyway, she brought up the bullying situation. It’s been getting worse lately. Curses and threats and slurs written over her locker, her backpack ripped from her hands and thrown in the trash. She’s insisting it’s Harley and Reed… I know, I know… Yes, there’s still no proof… But we have to do something! We have an obligation to protect her, she is one of our students. I don’t think I can take another day of her coming into my office sobbing into her hoodie… She, sir… yes… I won’t let it come to that… But it has been getting worse! She’s so scared all the time, I’m afraid what’ll happen to her… Ok, yes sir. I’ll do my best. Goodbye.
Hi… Sorry, just a bit tired is all. Harley came to the office today and… I know I’m supposed to be impartial and kind to all of our students but, Harley. He’s a troublemaker, we both know that… Her name is Sophia, and no, this isn’t about her. He was sent by Mrs. Marbury. Apparently he’d been having a tantrum in class and she sent him to me to ‘blow off some steam’ or something… Mhm, that’s me. Always left with other people’s problems. You’d think they’d at least try a little bit, to make my job easier. I mean this is my first year, can’t they cut me some slack? I’m still only human… Sorry, where was I? Right. I finally got Harley to talk after maybe ten minutes. Apparently he’d been smoking in the back of the classroom. Marbury caught him, they started arguing, she sent him to me… Honestly, I’m more concerned about where he keeps getting these drugs. It’s not just cigarettes either, he was caught smuggling vodka into the Valentines dance. Not even Reed is this bad… What do I think? Well, when I asked him about his home life he suddenly got all defensive. It’s just a guess, but he might be emulating some of the behavior he’s seeing from his parents. All that stress and turmoil might be what’s encouraging Him to lash out… I’m aware, sir. We don’t have authority outside of school grounds. I’m not proposing anything yet, I’m just keeping you informed like you told me to… Of course not!… Right, yes. Thank you, sir…
Oh! Sorry, I didn’t see you there… Mhm, it’s alright… Honestly, I’m fine! Just a bit, tired is all. Marshall came through a few days ago and… I’m afraid so, yes. He’d been studying so hard for the test too but, some people just aren’t cut out for academia. Right now the odds of him passing the class aren’t looking good, and he really needs to pass to get into a decent college, especially for something as ambitious as astrophysics… He told me he’s thinking of just dropping out. That he might as well just try and find a job and make some money. His family’s been pressuring him, telling him he’s too stupid to amount to anything, and that he might as well just give up. Then he looked at me with these, pleading eyes. He asked me if I thought he could make it as a scientist and I just, froze. I mean, what was I supposed to say? I know how badly he wants to do it but I have to take realism into account… So I told him that I supported him but I think he needs to consider alternate career paths. His face went dark, and he just stood up and left. I feel like I betrayed him, and now he hasn’t been coming to school and, I don’t know! I’ve tried talking to his brother, but Reed doesn’t know where he is either. I passed by him in the hallway and when I asked he just smiled. Like he won somehow. I’m really worried… Of course. Sorry, I have another appointment in a few minutes, I have to go… I’ll do my best sir.
Oh… Hello, sir. What brings you to the staff lounge today?... Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot we had a meeting today… Of course. It was Sophia, again. I– I don’t know what to say. She doesn’t come to school much anymore. I mean, she can’t even look at her grades or get through attendance without having to feel immensely uncomfortable! I can’t just talk her problems away, you have to do something… I know, we’ve talked about this before but I don’t care! There’s no way that however much effort it takes to change her name in the school system is worth the amount of pain she has to suffer until it is fixed… With all due respect, when you became principal you swore an oath to protect the children of this school from suffering… Not suffering?... No proof?... I can’t believe this. What, just because nobody’s hit her yet ‘no harm has been done?’ She is thinking about killing herself! Meanwhile you and everyone else are just sitting here, watching as she teeters towards the edge, just because you’re too lazy and too heartless to call her by the right name. Transitioning is already hard enough, she shouldn’t have to deal with this too… Mhm… Sure… You know what? I think I’ll do just that… I’m sorry for shouting, I just– I don’t want to lose another student.
I have your proof… You said you wanted proof? Here. You want to know why Harley got sent to me today? He got into a fight with Reed. Right at the end of lunch, one of your hall monitors dragged him into my office. He. Told. Me. Everything. He confessed to writing those horrid threats on her desk, to the cafeteria ‘accidents’ to the verbal abuse. Everything… How? Oh, easy. I talked to him, just like you said. I may or may not have told him his girlfriend may or not have been cheating on him with his best friend… Calm down! It’s not like I’m lying. What, you think anyone who dates one of those two is going to be loyal?… Patient confidentiality? Mr. Principal, with all due respect, I think the conversations we have, at your request mind you, go far beyond that already. I’m just playing by the same rules you do… Glad to hear you understand now. Harley has said he is fully coming clean about all that he and Reed have done and is willing to testify on that. In case it ever were to come to that… Do I believe him? Honestly I’m not sure. I believe that all people, even Reed and even you, have good in their hearts. Maybe this is a peak of it shining through, maybe it’s not. But I’m willing to give him a chance. I will not stand idly by while my students suffer… Mhm… A fist fight, yes… If you want to suspend Reed or Harley or whatever, that’s fine! But whatever you do you have to respond now. You can’t just sit idly by anymore… The district board is beginning to take notice… I’m not the one you need to apologize to, sir… Goodbye…
…Hello? Oh, it’s you. What is it?... What… No, what are you talking about?... Oh god… How– where was he?... What?... in the locker room this morning… just found lying there… Oh god, how could I let this happen? Why did this happen?... Is he okay?... Oh, thank god… Marshall, why did this have to happen… Who did this? This was Reed, wasn’t it?... You know it was. Reed is the reason Marshall had been avoiding school, avoiding his home. He was scared of his brother… No no no, don’t you even try to deny it. You cannot use the “no violence has been used” excuse this time… No, you listen to me! Your incompetence and ignorance has crossed a line… If this keeps up, I will go to the district board and call for a full examination. Do your job… Oh, you’re walking away from me? Sure. Hope you have a good day, sir. Tch.
Hey, glad you came. Have you seen the video yet?... Come here. Look at this recording… Earlier this morning. If Harley’s word wasn’t enough for you, this definitely is………… What do you think? There it is, plain as day. Video proof, Sophia and Reed fighting. She came to my office afterwards, bruised face and swollen eye. I was horrified but she had the biggest grin on her face. She told me… let me finish. She told me she was finally taking control of her life. That she wasn’t going to let Reed push her around anymore. I just wish it didn’t have to come to this. All the hardship and harassment and suffering. It could have been avoided if someone just intervened. Imagine how alone she must have felt, fighting all that on her own, I can’t imagine how much strength that must take… Of course you’d say that. You know what? Sure, suspend her. I think she deserves a break from school at this point… Oh, nothing. It’s just I don’t imagine this will go over too well in your board examination next week… It's not a threat, sir. I’m just telling the truth. Thank you, you can leave.
…Hi. How’re you feeling?... I just want to maintain some level of professionalism. That’s why I’m being polite. You know? I respect you. Before all of… this, I believed in you. You were charismatic, passionate, and organized and everything. Your heart just wasn’t in the right place… You know, Harley came to talk to me a few hours ago, to prepare for the board meeting. He said he was scared. About confessing to all of the horrible things he and Reed did to Sofia, and Marshall, and so many others. He said he was ashamed of what he’d done, and terrified of the idea of it haunting him forever. Do you know what I told him?... I told him how proud I am. Because, yes he messed up, but he turned around. He made mistakes, and now he’s trying to make up for them. This is just the first step of a long long journey. I told him that, he already knew it of course. But he’s making the effort, and that’s what counts… What I’m trying to say is, people can have a change of heart. Some people do terrible things, or allow terrible things to happen. And apologizing doesn’t just make that go away. It takes years of reflection and self improvement and effort, but admitting you made a mistake is the first part. Even bullies can improve. Good luck on your examination, sir.
Oh, hi! Please, take a seat. I’m so glad you came to visit!... How’ve you been, Marshall?... Oh, that’s wonderful. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to check in with you more, I’ve been a bit busy as I’m sure you can tell. How has the, um, Reed situation turned out?... Juvie, huh? And how does that make you feel?... Sorry, sorry, fell back into my counselor habits… I’m glad you feel safe now. You deserve it… So, I’ve been looking at your grades and… Oh no, don’t worry. Given your circumstances, these are more than acceptable. You will have to take quite a few summer courses to make up for the lost credits, but knowing you, that should be more than doable… I’m proud of you Marshall. Whatever college you go to, you’re going to be a great astrophysicist… Ok… Thank you for stopping by!... Talk to you soon, bud.
Sophia! Please, come in! How’ve you been, girl?... Mhm… Oh, and?... Oh my god! That’s wonderful, I’m so happy to hear that! And both of your parents are on board for the hormone treatment?... Oh, honey I’m so glad to hear that…… It really is, huh? It’s more peaceful nowadays. It’s been a chaotic few weeks, what with having to take on all these new responsibilities and all the management nonsense, but I think I’m getting the hang of it… Aw, thank you. I’m doing my best. I’m just substituting as principal for now, until I get my school administration license… Stop it, oh you're going to make me cry… I’m just glad I was there to help. I hope everyone else has been nice?... Well, it’s a start. I’m glad at least most of the people are being more accepting… Oh?... Really! Well, that’s a surprise to me! You and… wow. Enemies to friends… Well, I’m afraid I have a meeting with the language department soon, so I’ll have to send you on your way… Okay! Buh Bye!
Hello, Harley… Oh, well I’m doing fine, thank you for asking. How are you?... Good, good. Looking at your records, I see you’ve been going to your detention periods. Good. If you keep up the good behavior, I might be able to let you off early… Ha, in your dreams. I already took you off suspension early, you’re lucky you weren’t expelled for what happened before… Don’t mention it… Harley, you’re a good kid. I believe that, you should believe it too. You wrote all those apology letters, even ones I didn’t ask you to! You’ve been working above and beyond to make up for your past and, a little birdie told me you’ve been becoming friends with Sophia even!... Aw, how sweet!... Well, better late than never. It’ll be different from what you had before with Reed and the others. It’ll take time for her to truly trust you, and likely for you to be able to fully open up as well. But hold onto what you have now. Friendships of all kinds are precious… Thank you, I consider you a “kinda friend” as well. We’re not called Princi-Pals for nothing!... Mhm… Oh, that’s the bell. You should head back to class, buster… Goodbye.
Counselor Fiona stood up from her desk, watching as Harley closed the door behind him. She let out a sigh of relief. The past month and a half had been hectic. From juggling the needs of dozens of students to preparing for a massive hearing and the subsequent voting committee to now running an entire school, she was exhausted. But still, it had all been worth it. Part of her wondered how Principal Malone had done it. She could barely keep up, yet he seemed to always have time to spare. She’d heard from some of the teachers that he had begun doing some volunteer work, trying to rediscover himself. Hopefully that turns out well for him. She hadn’t heard much from Reed since he arrived in juvie, but the fact she hadn’t heard much at least promised he was keeping his mouth shut for now. All the people he had hurt and whose lives he had negatively affected were safe now. She looked out the window, gazing out over the open grassy fields at the center of campus, full of blooming dandelions. She knew she had made mistakes, and would continue to do so. Perhaps there had been more tactful ways of handling the situation, ways to avoid the fights and damage these days had caused. But at the end of the day, she and everyone else were still growing. And Fiona had a feeling that, as long as they continued to grow and try their best, everything would turn out just fine.