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A Day of Reckoning


Chris James

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Taken from the pages of the news these rules do exist in various school districts around the country.

A Day of Reckoning

"Mister Bailey…what are those things on your feet?"

Ian looked down and smiled. He had saved up his allowance for weeks to buy this latest pair of Vans.

"These are Vans, Mr. Cosgrove."

"You can't wear them to school, they violate the rules," Cosgrove said.

"They do? How are my shoes in violation of the rules?"

"They have neon colors and the school board has determined that's a sign of gang affiliation."

"Gangs…me?" Ian said. "That's a ridiculous assumption, Mr. Cosgrove."

"I don't make the rules…and while we're at it you’re wearing mismatched socks and that's a gang symbol as well."

"These were all I could find this morning…my mom is behind in the laundry."

"That may very well be true, but the issues don't stop there. The pants you have on are too tight and that T-shirt…it has a slogan on it and that's illegal. Whose picture is that anyway?"

Ian opened the flap of his sweatshirt. "That's Abraham Lincoln…Monday is President's Day and I thought it would be cool to wear this shirt to remind the other students. The slogan you dislike only says Abraham Lincoln-Gettysburg Address. My mother bought this in Pennsylvania the last time she was there for a conference."

"It violates the rules…and so does that sweatshirt, it has a hood."

"It's thirty-one degrees outside," Ian said, "I need it to keep my head warm since you guys banned hats last year."

"The school board determined that a hood can mask your identity from the staff so we can't recognize you."

"But that's why you make us wear these identification badges…and I might add a lot of us see that as unfair since teachers and staff members don't have to wear an ID."

"You're being argumentative, Mr. Bailey…I could give you detention for that."

"Go right ahead, Mr. Cosgrove…but first I want you to call my mother and explain all this to her."

"I certainly will…she needs to know about you're willful disregard of the rules. Follow me to the office."

Ian smiled and nodded to Erica and Jesse who had been standing quietly by their lockers filming the whole encounter. Using their phones wasn't against the rules since it was lunch period and students were allowed to turn them on for that hour in the middle of the day.

Cosgrove led the way to the front office where they passed the bulletin board in the school lobby. Ian wondered if Cosgrove ever read the material posted there such as the Honor Roll. Ian Bailey was the third name from the top but a detention would count against his good grades, he might even be dropped from the list.

Jesse had followed them down the hall and was still covertly filming. Ian gave him a glance and Jesse blew him a kiss. Perhaps they would laugh about this later and add the video to their blog. So far this had not been about harassment for being gay, but even gay students faced the same old oppression meted out to everyone else.

"Janice…may I have Mr. Bailey's file, if you please."

The secretary looked up and frowned. Ian was never in trouble…not in his family…but perhaps Cosgrove was being ignorant today. Ian followed Cosgrove over to his cubby hole of an office. Janice came to the door and handed over Ian's file and gave him a sympathetic smile.

Cosgrove opened the file and looked at the student information page. "I presume your mother is at home?"

Ian looked at the clock on the wall. It was almost lunchtime and perhaps she would be back in her office. "She's at work, but the clerk will answer the phone and tell you if she's in."

Cosgrove looked over the rim of his reading glasses. "Perhaps that will explain why your laundry is not done. I will put this on speakerphone so that you may tell your mother why I am calling."

The clerk picked up on the third ring. "Hello…" But before she could say another word Cosgrove jumped in.

"I need to speak to Mrs. Bailey if you please. This is Mr. Cosgrove, the Principal at Dickerson High School. Please tell her this is about her son."

"Certainly, Mr. Cosgrove. I'll put you through… Judge Bailey is in her chambers."

The aggressive look on Cosgrove's face immediately changed and he looked at Ian with alarm.

"District Court, Judge Bailey speaking."

Cosgrove looked tongue tied so Ian spoke up. "Hi, Mom, this is Ian, we're on the speakerphone. Principal Cosgrove decided to call you before giving me detention. He says my Abraham Lincoln shirt is against the school rules and my shoes are the wrong color."

There was a moment of silence. "Mr. Cosgrove…are you there?"

"Yes…yes, Your Honor, I'm here," Cosgrove stammered.

"Don't get flustered, Mr. Cosgrove, you’re speaking to a parent here. I will skip the First Amendment issue with the shirt for the moment, but let's talk about those new shoes Ian bought. I took him to the mall myself and all the kids are wearing them…how are they against the rules?"

"Um, the colors…the school board has determined that neon colors are a gang sign."

"Gang sign? That's absurd," the judge said. "What's next…underwear? I'm sure gang members wear underwear, is that the next thing on the list?"

"No, Your Honor…I don't think that’s possible."

"I wore my hooded sweatshirt to school because it's so cold and they banned hats last year. It seems that's against the rules as well," Ian said.

"School Board again?" Judge Bailey asked.

"Yes, Your Honor…that's a gang thing as well," Cosgrove said.

Ian could hear his mother sigh. That sound of impatience was usually followed by a strict lecture, and now was no different.

"Mr. Cosgrove, do you understand how unreasonable these rules sound? I was not aware there was such a severe gang problem at your school, in fact I doubt there is. This is Dickerson Township not Chicago where they have real issues.

"There are eight members on the school board as I recall from the last election and this township only has five members on the police force. If there was a gang issue I am sure this problem would have arrived in my courtroom in the past several years.

"We have no gangs, Mr. Cosgrove…unless you consider the school board itself to be a gang of idiots. At this rate the students will be going to school naked within a few months.

"There is a township meeting next Wednesday. I would urge you to contact the school board and tell each of them they ought to be there because I will be making a motion to have them all removed from office.

"Now back to that shirt. My son considers it a privilege to be wearing a likeness of our sixteenth President. If nothing else it's educational, other students ask him about it. I understand the need to set rules, Mr. Cosgrove, but your current rules leave no room for common sense. I urge you to be at the meeting as well. In fact, I think we'll have to move that meeting to your school auditorium to accommodate everyone. My wife and I will certainly be there."

"Your wife…?" Cosgrove said.

"Yes, Ian has two mothers…do you have an issue with that as well?"

"Oh no…no, no…I welcome diversity in our community," Cosgrove said.

"Good, then I’ll see you at the meeting," Judge Bailey said. "And Ian, if you were aware of all these rules you should have brought the matter to me at home. We'll talk this evening. Good Day, Gentlemen…and Good-bye."

Cosgrove stared that the phone a moment and then hit the button to turn it off. "Heavens above. Look at the mess this has stirred up," he said.

"My mom the judge is the level headed one," Ian said. "Wait until my other mom comes to that meeting and then you'll see why I would never consider joining a gang or doing anything against the rules."

"I take it she's not a stay at home kind of mom," Cosgrove said.

"No, she's in the Air Force, an F-16 fighter pilot…or was until she got enough rank to become the Wing Commander." Cosgrove looked like he was going to be ill and Ian smiled. "It's okay, Mr. Cosgrove, they won't make it hard on you, you're just a soldier."

Cosgrove looked relieved. "Damn the school board, full speed ahead."

"I think that was the Navy, but you have the right idea. Can I return to class now?"

"Yes, but please don't spread this conversation around."

"No, sir, I won't. Everyone will know about the rule changes by next Thursday after the meeting."

"They will…now get out of here," Cosgrove said.

Ian left the Principal's office and gave Janice a salute. He stepped out into the hall and flipped the hood of his sweatshirt up on his head. He grinned and flashed Jesse the V for victory sign as the boy took his picture.

There were no gangs at Dickerson High, only clubs, and the strongest one was run by the gay students. Violence and hate never won a thing, but persistence and intelligence could overcome a school board.

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