Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month, "L.A. Unified board picks Richard Vladovic as new president. By replacing Monica Garcia with Vladovic, the LAUSD board signals the waning influence of former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. This begs the question: Are days numbered for embattled Superintendent John Deasy?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Slugs, Slurs and the Slow Moving Machinations of Big City School District Justice

Over two weeks have passed since the kid slugged me while I was trying to break up a fight outside my classroom. I reported the incident twice to LAUSD police. Once right after the fight, the second time after I noticed a deep purple bruise the size of a half dollar on the side of my gut.
The second cop filed a report and gave me a case number. That was the last time I heard from law enforcement. The dean informed me about a week ago that the police were on campus the previous day looking for me to identify the kid from a line up of perp photos. Why I had to do that is beyond me since they identified the kid and apparently suspended him for two days, according to the vice principal.
After I told the teacher union representative that I was pissed about how my beating was greeted with indifference by the administration and police, the VP dropped by my room last Tuesday to take my temperature. I complained to him that some dumb cluck dropped the ball. He replied that it wasn't him. Of course not, I said.
Besides, it isn't just the school administration and cops who said screw you Blocker. I called up a woman at United Teachers of Los Angeles to report my fair-weather friends. Two days later she called me back at 9 p.m. She said she was going to email me some advice and check with the local rep to ensure my case was handled correctly. I never heard from her again.
Slurs more dangerous than slugs
I probably wouldn't give a damn either way if not for what happened a week prior to my flogging. An F student, trying to be a pain in my ass, told the principal I called another student a "fucking fag" while kicking him out of class for putting on make-up. He was supposed to be doing his class assignment: writing a poem about the prettiest sunset he'd ever seen. The student whom I supposedly slurred, once apprised of the violation came barging back into the room, screaming that I was indeed the real queer.  He bravely challenged me to a fight, threatening to "kick" my "ass" before the girl muscled him out once again.
The Principal wasted no time hauling me onto the hot seat. Who cares whether the accusation is false? The scenario appeared politically chic: pony-tailed biker asshole teacher deprives 15-year-old of the right to cruise for homo-sex in 8th-grade class. She called an immediate meeting in a conference room situated behind her office. The VP sat with her on the other side of the conference table while the union rep and I faced them to hear all the charges. Very official shit. The Principal kept handing me photocopies of District-mandated warnings about the illegalities of discrimination and hate-speech, and notices about what could happen if I am falsely accused again. I ended up with a tidy stack. Meanwhile, the rep was frequently nodding and gulping. I said nothing, just stared at his Adam's apple going like a freight elevator transporting his fluids up and down. I remained silent because the alternate union rep warned me before the meeting to clam up.
She emphasized, "No matter how mad or disgusted you get, stay quiet." Then she reminded me how the faculty and I voted in the other guy as the union representative instead of her, despite her 25 years more experience in teaching and collective bargaining. She even fought for Civil Rights as a young Black woman in the South during the 1960s. I nodded and gulped.
So get this straight: If a kid slugs you and leaves a bruise: suck it up. If an F-student, angry about her grade, falsely accuses you of slurring a male student who is applying cosmetics in your classroom--your ass is skewered over the coals post-haste. And now they want to take away our medical and retirement benefits and fire us without due process too.
All about the Benjamin
Which brings us back to the kid who slugged me. I learned his name from one of the big security guards who eventually arrived and took the fighters away. We'll call him Benjamin. He's a husky African-American kid enrolled in special education "day classes;" meaning, he is not mainstreamed into regular classes despite a learning disability. I have plenty of special ed kids in my classes who are on an "Individualized Education Plan" which I glance at once before throwing it inside a filing cabinet at the back of the room. The details on an IEP are minutia written to legally protect a school; not assist a teacher. Half the time the unlucky kid is diagnosed special ed because he's being raised by a single mother or foster parent eager to receive extra assistance from a bureaucracy also hungry for more money. This leaves the kid dumbed down, coddled and mad. All they really need is a father around to love them and to love their mother.
Benjamin had disappeared for a while after slugging me. The following week he started coming around again, staring at the ground but glancing my way to make brief eye contact.
"Benjamin, come here, please," I finally asked. The cops proved themselves useless, the administrators too busy and the union reps impotent. It was down to me and the kid to straighten this out.
He walked over, staring at his feet. He avoided looking at me once he arrived, too.
"Benjamin, look up at me, son."
His eyes met mine.
"Remember me?"
He furrowed his brow and frowned. His lower lips started quivering, and his eyes quickly filled with tears. Benjamin knew he did me wrong.
"You were pretty angry that day, when you hauled off and whacked me. What were you so angry about?"
"Dennis be talking about my mama all the time. Sayin' shit."
"Well, whad'ya hit me for? I like your mama."
"Cuz you was trying to... whachoo mean? You ain't never met my mama!"
"I'm positive she's a fine lady, and I'm sure she's got better things to do than to come down here and pick you up because you've been fighting...and beating up kindly old teachers."
He shook his head.
"I bet she complained about that something fierce, huh? You probably still haven't heard the end of it."
He grinned and shook his head yes. We shared observations about the mothers we loved, and soon he was disarmed and comfortable. While he nodded I gave him the boilerplate lecture about controlling his anger. "Don't go hitting teachers, for cryin' out loud.  They'll take you to jail! What if I was some little guy or a lady? You'd be in a heap of trouble."
Then I made him apologize.
Looking me square in the eye, he announced, "I'm sorry Mr. Blocker." We shook on it. He gripped my hand like he was picking a dog turd off the carpet with a sheer Kleenex. "Geez, Benjamin, put some grip into this, willya?" Finally, we shook like men, eye to eye.
"Remember to take a deep breath or count to 10 because that's a hell of a right hook you got there."
Benjamin smiled, turned and walked on to class.
We parted friends, I think.
Other teachers tell me, "You should've pressed charges!" After two weeks, though, Benjamin wouldn't understand the arrest. It's just some more bullshit falling out of the sky. Besides, in times like this when bureaucrats and school cops fuck up and drop the ball--it's best that two burly he-men look each other in the eye and shake.
Summer could get hot
Benjamin and I made amends on June 16, 2011. In another week Henry Clay Middle School will be officially closed as an "under-performing" LAUSD campus and handed off to Green Dot charter school company. Green Dot has promised some changes. Two things are certain: Benjamin and I are both out on our asses. He's special ed, and I'm a member of the displaced faculty. There's no room for either one of us.
Oh, and another thing. The principal has not yet issued her finding on the Big Fag Incident. The rotisserie could still skewer me orifice to orifice, slowing turning me over the glowing coals of absurdity until I'm done just right.

1 comment:

  1. What's up Blocker this is Mr. Saenz one of the "big" security guards who eventually hauled "Benjamin" away. I enjoy reading your blogs ever since I found them while randomly Google searching Henry Clay Middle School. You are always right on the money except that you left out that I got there quicker than you think and that student punched me on my arm when I grabbed him after gut checking you. Then I slammed him against the wall. I wrote a statement on your behalf as well. You probably paid attention to my slow motion "back up" who came later and watched me control two students at the same time. Anyway keep up the blogs and good luck at your next school.