TW: The following is a dark satire on the difficulties facing our teachers and as such, includes depictions of misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and allusions to school violence.
“OK class, let’s make sure our names are on our beautiful creations and put away our markers!” Dolores Acosta smiled as she collected her first grader’s colorful self-portraits and drawings of cats, dogs, flowers and rainbows. “Excellent daisies, Sarah! Is this your new puppy, David? He’s so handsome!” Once all the drawings were collected and placed in the art cubby, Dolores glanced at her schedule. Her smile temporarily faltered, but before she turned back to her class, she had managed to paste on a passible faux grin.
“Alright friends, bubbles in! Please take out your tourniquets, its time for superhero lessons!” Superhero lessons… it was the best way she could think to sanitize the combat medicine she was now required by law to teach to her six-year-olds. As the children removed the blue plastic tourniquets from their desks, Dolores endeavored to pull the combat dummy from a chest in the front of the classroom. She fought to suppress a wince as a painful twinge jolted her lower back. She knew she tweaked something last night at her overnight freight-unloading gig, but she had hoped it would go away on its own. Unfortunately, it looked like a trip to the doctor was in order, which meant a hefty bill. No time to think about that now. “Now, if one of our friends is hurt, what’s the first thing we need to do? Tommy?”
“Find out where the blood is coming from?” responded a little boy in a Hot Wheels t-shirt. As the words “Very good!” were passing Dolores’s lips, two figures appeared in the classroom door. Mr. White, one of the school’s armed security officers, stepped in, followed by Mrs. Flowers, one of the other first grade teachers at Orange Grove Elementary.
“Ms. Acosta,” said Mrs. Flowers, with just the faintest hint of a quiver, “Mr. McMullen would like to see you. I’ll watch your class while you’re out.”
A shiver passed down Dolores’s back, followed by another twinge of pain, but she never let her smile falter in front of her class. “Thank you, Mrs. Flowers. Oh, if I’m not back before recess, you’ll need to get IT down here. The computer has gone down again and I can’t take attendance.” She passed Mrs. Flowers her tourniquet, and Mrs. Flowers gave her arm a subtle squeeze. Without a word, Mr. White held the door and followed her down the hall to the administrative offices. Her glued-on smile finally fell away in the empty hall as she heard the gunshots from the room to her left. The room had been converted into the faculty shooting range at the beginning of the year, but she still had not grown accustomed to the ominous, percussive pops that came through the door as she passed. It didn’t help that the district hadn’t bothered to change signage, so the door still read “LIBRARY” in happy bubble letters.
As the two stepped into the principal’s office, Dolores saw Principal McMullen sitting behind the big desk. He was a nervous little man swimming in an ill-fitting navy suit; his perpetual fidgeting even gave the impression that he was trying to tread water. Her eye was drawn to movement in the corner of the room, where a woman she had never seen before was fixing her with such a look of disdain that Dolores hesitated before taking another step into the room.
“P…Please sit down, Miss…. Uh… Miss…”
“Acosta.” Dolores finished for the poor little man, who was frantically searching his papers for her name.
“Ms. Acosta, yes, please sit down. No! Wait, I…I’m sorry, but b…before you take a seat, I’m afraid I’ve got to ask you to… to hand your school-issued firearm to Mr. Whi… Mr. White there.” Dolores reached back and unfastened her concealed carry holster from her waist and handed the Ruger and holster to Mr. White. “Thank you, Miss… Ms. Acosta. Please take a seat.”
“I’m sorry sir, but I am extremely confused. What is going on here?”
“Well, Ms. Acosta, I’m afraid to say w… we have some serious concerns about your performance.”
“Oh. Oh y…yes, I’m sorry, This,” said the principal, gesturing back towards the glowering woman in the corner, “this is Angelica Fry. She is the representative from…from Parents for the Pro…Protection of Students. And as I say, we have some s…serious concerns about your performance. I understand that this is your first y…year with us, so we have endeavored to give you a certain amount of grace, but I’m afraid we…we’ve reached a b…breaking point.”
“With all due respect sir, I don’t have the slightest clue what you’re talking about. My students are perfectly on track with their standardized testing and I’ve never received any complaints before today. Are you sure you’re talking to the right person?
“Oh I am quite certain we are addressing the proper person.” Angelica Fry took a step forward and looked Dolores up and down with the same look of repugnance. “In my opinion we’ve given you far too much time to poison our children as it is, Ms. Acosta.”
Too shocked to speak, Dolores looked back to Principal McMullen for some kind of explanation. “You…you see, Ms. Acosta. We’ve observed a pattern of con…concerning behavior. First it… it’s your attire.”
“Y…yes. You see, I’ve received a number of complaints from the PPS about your insistence on wearing p…pants instead of a skirt or dress. The P…PPS feels that you are sending a con…confusing message to the children about gender. A number of the little girls in your class have a…asked their parents if they can wear p…pants too, and the parents believe this should be a matter between parents and children that is not in…influenced by their teachers.”
“Excuse me sir, but this is ridiculous! There is nothing in the school dress code requiring that female teachers wear skirts! And I wear pants because the concealed holster for the gun that you and the district force me to wear doesn’t work well with a skirt or at all with a dress!”
“No one is requiring that you carry concealed, Acosta,” chimed in Angelica. “You are more than permitted to open carry like so much of the faculty already does,” she added, flattening the folds of her dress.
“I feel strongly,” responded Dolores, “that carrying a gun out in the open would be tremendously distracting and inappropriate for a room full of six-year-olds.”
“Well, I’m sorry, Acosta, but your snowflake sensibilities do not outweigh the feelings of the parents of this district.”
“So,” Dolores said, turning back to the principal, “I’m being disciplined for wearing pants? Is that it?”
“There…There’s also a concern about your treatment of the new Patriotism curriculum. My reports here say that you missed three lessons j…just this semester?”
At this, Dolores couldn’t restrain an incredulous chuckle. “This is absurd. If you look closer at those reports, you’ll notice that the missed lessons all occurred on the same days as our active shooter drills. We all lost an hour of instruction time those days, and I felt and still feel that if I have to cut instruction, I’m going to cut ‘Patriotism’ before I cut meaningful core subjects like reading.”
“Look at this McMullen!” Shrieked Angelica from her corner. “She’s laughing about missing those vital lessons about our great country, which were mandated by the PPS I might add. And she’s using the safeguards we put in place to protect our children as an excuse to shove her radical left-wing agenda down our children’s throats by reading them absolute filth. She clearly has no regard for the wellbeing of our-“
“You have no right to speak to me that way!” Dolores choked through tears, standing out of rage and frustration. Mr. White immediately placed a firm hand on her shoulder, forcing her back into her seat. A cruel grin played on Angelica’s lips.
“I wasn’t speaking to you, I was speaking to Principal McMullen. Clearly, McMullen, this woman has some mental conditions if she cannot control her emotions any better than this. Just another piece of evidence that we’ve made the right decision.”
“But I’m not pushing any agenda!” Dolores sobbed openly now. “I’m not reading them filth! I have no idea what you’re talking about!”
“But M…Ms. Acosta,” muttered McMullen, “we have multiple witnesses that corroborate your reading an unapproved book to your class just this w…week. That is why we’re here.”
“Did you or did you not read THIS book to your class of impressionable young children, Ms. Acosta?” Angelica interjected, tossing a book at Dolores.
“You’re… you’re talking about ‘Go, Dog. Go’?” asked Dolores in utter confusion as she stared at the classic children’s book in her lap. “Yes, but what could possibly be-”
“There you go, McMullen, She’s admitted it herself.”
“You…you see, Ms. Acosta, there are some concerning themes in this b…book-“
“Right HERE!” Angelica snatched the book and ripped through the pages. “Pages 48 to 51. Clear as day. There are multiple depictions of more than twenty anthropomorphic dogs, clearly all MALE dogs, sleeping together in the same bed in the same home. I will not allow you to push your perverted, gay, polyamorous propaganda on our students one more day!”
“Un…unfortunately, Ms. Acosta, as you kn…know, teachers are not permitted to discuss issues of gender or homosexuality, or polyamory, in class. According to the Guard All Youth legislation, I’m afraid your teaching license and o…obviously your position here are effectively terminated immediately. Mr. White will e…escort you to the gentlemen waiting out f…front from the Florida State Police to be held pending your formal sentencing hearing.”
Dolores sat, too stunned to speak, until Mr. White pulled her to her feet and out the office door.
Angelica walked around and took the seat in front of the profusely sweating principal.
“Another one stopped, McMullen. Congratulations.”
“Y…yes, but I’m afraid that brings our vacancy count up to 20 open positions in this building alone. No a…applications are coming in, and I have no…no idea why. I know it may be a h…hit to the budget, but we may need to think se…seriously about adding another faculty p…pizza day. It’s the only thing I can think of.”