In the early 2000s, the culture war between the prep kids and the alternative set was in full swing. A particular high school that a close association of mine went to not only had this friction between these different subgroups, but it seemed that the staff were the ones pulling the strings through the students in this case. By the end of this mounting tension, things were done that had life-long effects on those involved, and as much as I would have loved to remain impartial, but I too had strong feelings on the matter as well. This is the story of how out of hand this went after a highly biased teacher took sides a little too often. To this day I do not know if it was a necessary evil that transpired or an attempt at vindication that was misplaced.
This high school had a zero or homeroom period. Every morning the students were to meet and do a sort of roll call for the first half-hour of the school day. It was meant to prevent truancy and to be a place for the general announcements for the school to take place. The person leading this specific homeroom was a far beyond middle-aged man who was also the school's history teacher. This teacher had a habit of going into great detail on his thoughts on why the community was in a decline and openly blamed the alternative culture for it. To this man, the only way to save the town was to suppress any gothic appearing spiky-haired types. He believed this so much so that would encourage anyone not dressed as a 1900s Harvard Chorus singer to physically attack their punk rock counterparts. The usual was simply in class arguing in which the non-conforming students were to sit silently while being taunted and humiliated by the more "clean-cut" appearing students. If the alternative students so much as asked to be left alone they would be reprimanded with as much punishment as possible, while the so-called "preps" were congratulated for being good citizens. The teacher during all of this would laugh into his coffee cup and roll his eyes when the alternative students would ask for his intervention.
Things took a violent turn when a good friend named Joey* who was a quiet vegan became the favorite to bully in the class. The arguing gave way to throwing things and that gave way to hitting. All the while the teacher would suspend anyone standing up for Joey or trying to stop this from happening each day. It got so bad that the bullies waited for Joey outside of class and a group of students not even from the class beat him so badly that he wasn't in school for a week. Joey being the by the book person he was, went to the principal when he had recovered enough to be able to see out of his swollen eye socket again. Joey told the principal everything that had happened. He named his attackers and the part the teacher played in allowing it to happen. The principal listened in his chair and when Joey had said his piece, the principal told him that the fault was all Joey's due to his spikey hairstyle. Dumbfounded Joey asked what his hairstyle had to do with being beaten up by a group of students while the teacher watched and laughed. The principal shrugged and told Joey to look and act more like those that had attacked him because it was on him who was the nail that sticks up and had to be hammered down.
Joey left the office feeling defeated. The principal had all but signed a petition to sanction his escalating abuse. Over the weekend Joey told of his conflict at a house party with his still bruised face and cut lips. Listening in, an older alternative former student said that the same thing had happened to him at the school a few years prior and that there was no use in trying to go through the proper channels to handle it. He said that the more that he pushed for it to be dealt with, the more the school told his parents that he was making it up and needed to be medicated. Frustrated Joey asked what advice the former student had and the student said that he would go to the class and talk to the teacher himself and appeal to his empathy by explaining the terrible effects bullying had on him. Joey thanked him but expressed concern that he would be bullied even more if the teacher knew that someone was sticking up for him as it had happened already. The former student waved Joey's worries away saying that he would go before Joey even got to class and not mention him at all.
Joey continued on at the party and forgot all about this conversation by Monday. That is until he saw the former student dressed in office attire shaking the hand of the teacher as he thanked him for setting him on the straight and narrow. "I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for you being tough on me!" The former student passed by Joey as if he had never met him, just as the teacher took a big gulp of coffee from the mug he had on his desk. The teacher looked at Joey and congratulated himself for "helping" get that student "on track." He told Joey that he too could be like that student if he just wore a collared shirt and got a "real haircut." Joey thought it was strange but sat down as always ready to be harassed and attacked, a sick routine that he had become accustomed to. It was all ordinary, roll call, someone punches the back of Joey's head. In the school news broadcast, someone poured water down Joey's back. When handouts were being turned in, someone tripped Joey as he stood up. Joey knew the school policy was three suspensions and then he would be expelled. He had already been suspended twice that year for "being a class disruption" or as witnesses described it, politely asking for his bullies to stop.
The morning period was almost over and Joey had kept his patience. The students were putting their things in their bags when the teacher suddenly yelled, "I have to stand up!" and he jumped in the air as high as his chubby legs could bring him. Then as soon as that oddity had finished he yelled again "I have to sit down!" and he plopped down hard on his wooden desk chair with a loud thud sound. He repeated that a few times with a look of sheer terror on his face. One of his more favored students asked him if he was okay and he looked at them and said "I have to stand up!" as he went up and cried before he followed that with "I have to sit down!" as he went to sit down. One student ran to the front office and brought back the receptionist to come in and investigate. The elderly woman shouted "Pete? What's going on with you?!" He looked at her and only said his two statements of standing up and sitting down as he jumped up from his chair and sat back on it. She told the students to wait outside of the classroom in the hallway as she called for help. The kids went to their next class when the bell rang. At lunch, the gossip had already been circulating, that the teacher had to be taken to the hospital.
The next day in class two police officers were in the classroom and the principal too. It seemed that the teacher had been given a strong dose of LSD and refused to return to work for the remainder of the year. The authorities were called to find out who had given it to the teacher or if anyone had seen anything strange. The students all looked at each other but no one said anything. The principal wanted to speak to Joey after class alone. Joey was still healing from his previous brutal beating. He could not hide the bruises on his face and body. The cops asked how he had gotten those marks and the principal speaking for Joey said that Joey was a trouble starter who got into fights regularly. The cops noticed the three black "X" marks tattooed on Joey's knuckles. "Straight edge, huh?" Joey nodded to indicate "yes," the principal asked questioningly "straight edge?" The cop turned to the principal "it means no sex, alcohol or drug use." The principal again trying to railroad Joey said, "this kid is the source of all the trouble here." The cop pointed to Joey's hands and said "his face may be bruised to hell, but his knuckles have never been broken. This kid got beaten up and didn't get a single hit in." Joey interjecting said, "As a vegan, I don't believe in violence." The cops both scoffed at the principal and let Joey go.
The teacher quit the profession entirely. It seems that he could easily allow for his students to be beaten up and harassed every day, but the minute one sent him an LSD-laced message he was too fearful to ever return. The moral of the story is to remember that turning your workplace into a modern-day fight club and expecting not to become a causality too is shortsighted. The principal and teacher assumed that Joey was a monster to be quelled because of his punk rock clothing and his unconventional hair. Still, Joey never did anything to anyone other than existing. Sadly over time, Joey's abusers put their violent tendencies into their marriages, while Joey became a respected musician. Time can only heal so much with wounds, whereas lifelong habits die hard. Do you think that the teacher got too harsh of a punishment for his part in Joey's bullying? Post your opinion on the Conspiracy Meow! forums to say what you would have done and as always, Let Your Inner Shut In Totally Wig Out!
*names have been changed to protect privacy