After local troublemakers invaded Le Fevre and punched the principal as he tried to get them out of the school, the entire staff was on high alert. First, the assailants had broken a window and then charged into the main building to “bash” a year 12 who had slept with one of their girlfriends. They brought knives and knuckledusters (brass knuckles).
Having a school lockdown situation was nothing new to me since I came from the US. I was now in Australia as an exchange teacher. Word on the street with my year 11’s was that the derelicts weren’t finished. Another massive bashing was on the way.
Two weeks earlier, at nearby Henley High School, students had given their uniforms to some hooligans from another school. Consequently, the intruders, who had major grudges, stalked the Henley halls unnoticed. They kicked the crap out of a student, who again, had slept with the wrong girl and then unwisely publicized it on Facebook.
After these incidents, yard duty took on a whole new dimension and added more stress. Normally, I wandered around and chatted with kids or completed mindless laps around my school zone, especially the less populated spots.
However, now we were advised to carry walkie talkies and a mobile phone for back up. Soon every Wednesday through Friday, during lunch when I had yard duty, I checked my watch constantly, hoping nothing would happen.
One lovely day, when I was relishing the fact that I had successfully introduced Mad Libs to my Year 8s, two girls rushed up to me.
“Miss! Someone just punched a window in over by the back locker hallway!”
Because windows seemed to be punched in on a fairly regular basis, this literal breaking news did not faze me.
“Okay, girls, thank you for letting me know. I’ll be sure to report this. Did you see who did it?” I was feeling pretty relaxed because, really, who would stick around after a bout of vandalism in front of witnesses? Usually, the ones who break windows flee the scene.
“Yes, Miss, the guy who did it is right over there!” Both girls pointed toward the back locker hallway. This was quite unexpected. Of course, I did not count on hearing that news.
“Ummm, okay, now. Do you girls know what his name is? I’ll admit I tried to stall, hoping the perpetrator would move on, quickly.
“I think his name is Lance, and he’s a Year 10,” said the more outspoken of the two girls who also wore an overly starched uniform.
“And he’s still over there?” I didn’t even want to turn my head and look.
“Yes, Miss. You better go over and talk to him right now.” Both girls stood back to clear the way for me to go apprehend him.
Great. I turned around and approached Lance, who was still standing by the back locker hallway, waiting for me. With his ear buds in, he leaned against a wall, lost in whatever was playing on his IPod.
I recognized him from previous yard duty laps. He was a pacer during lunchtime and always plugged into his IPod. A stocky, angry looking teen who didn’t seem to have any friends, he was your typical outcast.
I moved slowly in an “I’m not excited about this either, and I can turn around and get the hell out of here at any time” stance. I thought of those cop movies in which Mel Gibson, Denzel Washington or Clint Eastwood approach the unstable guy with a bomb strapped to his chest and the wacko holds a remote connected to lots of wires while shouting “Get any closer and I’ll do it!”
It was entirely feasible that Lance could be carrying a large shard of glass from the broken window with him. In fact, I convinced myself of this.
“Hi Lance! Your name is Lance, right?” I asked in a way too chipper voice as I got closer to him. It was like Kathie Lee Gifford trying to talk a jumper off the ledge. “I’m wondering if you know anything about this window over here…the…broken one?” I squeaked.
“Yeah. I punched it in.” He said flatly while remaining motionless. He made eye contact with me, and I wondered if I was looking into the eyes of a sociopath.
“Okay. Are you alright?” I shifted from one foot to another while wearing my strappy wedge sandals – not the ideal get-away shoes, but I was prepared to sprint in them if he whipped out that shard of glass.
“Can I see your hand, please?”
He uncurled his shredded knuckles from the angry permafist he had probably been clenching for weeks. It looked much like you would expect a hand that had bashed through a rather thick plate glass window, but it held nothing. When Lance continued to lift his arm up, red ribbons and small streamers of blood rand down from his hand.
“Lance, we need to get you looked at by someone.” My mom instincts kicked in and I put my hand on his shoulder to get him to move forward.
“Can I ask you why this happened?”
“I saw my ex-girlfriend talking to another guy.” He looked at me still expressionless.
“I’m sorry, that must have hurt more than this,” Definitely, I softened toward this kid who probably had barely spoken to girls before year 10, let alone had a girlfriend. “When did you guys break up?”
“One year ago.”
“I’m so sorry.” Yep, this had definitely been his first love. “You know I have to report this, though, okay, Lance.”
“Yeah. No worries.”
I asked him to show me his hand once more and when he extended his arm, I could see small ridges of scars from previous cutting incidents.
“Are you really okay?” and I motioned with my eyes toward his scars.
“Oh, that. Those happened a long time ago. Mr. Carey knows all about it.” He said as if he was telling me he had an allergy to wheat products. I felt even worse for Lance, now knowing he had intentionally hurt himself at least a few times.
We walked directly to the counselor’s office where I dropped him off and then I went to the teacher’s lounge to sit down.
“What’s wrong, Luv?” my mentor teacher Anne asked me as she took a break from marking a stack of papers.
I told her the story and she shook her head. “Ah Lance, he just can’t seem to move on, the poor bugger,” Anne looked at the table for a moment not offering any more information. She always took on the pain of the kids at Le Fevre, and I marveled at the fact she had taught there for 19 years. She looked up with a “we must prevail” expression.
“Are you okay, Luv?”
Feeling slightly weak, I nodded and thought how I couldn’t wait to get back to bus duty at BVHS back in the US, which is basically making sure no kids fall under the bus wheels or get caught in the doors. It’s usually lasts for only 15 minutes a day for one week, four times a year. I had always complained about it before