“… And these children
that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware
of what they’re going through...” —Changes, David Bowie
Those are the first words that appear on the screen in the movie The Breakfast Club. I mention this movie because it was thirty-two years ago this month that this film debuted.
I also mention this movie because it chronicles the story of five high-school students as they serve out a detention and “detention” is the theme for today’s story.
However, allow me to step to the side as I am not the main character in today’s tale.
My middle son, who is in high school, is today’s protagonist.
This is his story.
Last month, rumors were circulating around his school that students from another high school were planning to walk out of their classes to protest President Trump’s travel ban. Students at my son’s high school thought this sounded like a good idea and starting spreading the news that they should also walk out on this particular Friday.
My son had other ideas. He suggested to the leaders of his school’s protest not to walk off the campus as that could carry serious consequences. Instead, he convinced the organizers to stage their disapproval of the President’s executive order in the main lobby of the school. In addition, the students leaders talked with the school’s administrators and forged an agreement. The agreement was that the students would be able to peacefully protest in the lobby for a set amount of time. This agreement appeared to satisfy all sides as the students would be allowed to express their views, the officials kept the kids on the campus, and there would only be a modicum of disruption.
The appointed Friday arrived and my son went off to school with his cardboard sign of support for immigrants. The appointed hour arrived and the students filed into the lobby and respectfully protested the occupant of the Oval Office. There were some supporters of the President and what he wished to accomplish, but both sides were respectful and all seemed to be proceeding according to the agreement.
Until it didn’t.
Earlier than expected, one of the school administrators told the students they needed to break up their rally. Those who continued to remain, the official said, would have to serve a detention.
Students began to file out of the lobby, except for my son.
He sat down in the middle of the lobby.
He didn’t say anything. He just sat down.
The administrator warned him once to stand up and leave.
A dozen more students sat down with my son.
The administrator warned him a second time to stand up and leave.
Neverthelesss, he persisted and continued to sit until the agreed-upon time had elapsed.
Then he stood up, took his sign, and went to class.
The next week, my son was called to the principal’s office to have his detention issued to him. Now, let me point something out about my middle son that is germane to this tale. My middle son has an exacting perspective of what is and is not fair. There is no gray area for him when it comes to justice and fairness. The word “ambiguity” does not play into his sense of fair play.
We return you to the principal’s office.
Oh, I should also tell you my middle son does his research.
Sorry, back to the scene.
The principal talks to my middle son and lets him know that my boy will have to serve his detention for overstaying his welcome at the protest. My son asks what his transgression was. The principal answers that my son’s crime was tardiness. My son counters that based on the student’s handbook (and he probably even cited page, chapter, and verse), the sin of tardiness does not carry with it the consequence of detention.
And the ball is now back in the principal’s court.
Our hero of a school official is in a bit of a bind. He simply must give a consequence to this child who disobeyed a direct request to vacate the lobby and return to his class. Yet, he cannot give his desired consequence without breaking the school’s own rules.
Our hero of a young boy is in a bit of a bind. He wants the official to admit his mistake that the agreement was violated by the school, but he also knows getting a grown-up to admit a mistake is near impossible.
My middle son breaks the stalemate and offers a compromise so that all may save face.
My middle son knows, courtesy of his research, that the transgression of truancy is punishable by a detention, so he will cop to that charge, but only under one condition. His record must show where he was while he was truant.
With all parties satisfied, my middle son served his detention and he is probably the only child on the planet who has on his record, “Truant – In the School Hallway“.
That’s his story.
P.S. If you would like to know about the time I served a detention, well that never happened. If you want to know about the time I broke into my high school…well, that’s a story for another day (or will be when the statute of limitations kicks in).