Sorry, this is a long one. Take a load off, put up your feet, and read away...
Most days are a struggle with my husband not working, my feeling blah about my job, anticipating my empty nest, and then all heck broke loose last Friday (the 17th). Well, these mean girls who dumped Dorothy have been spreading rumors around school about her. (These are the girls who are currently in Mexico for spring break without a chaperone because "we're 18 and can do what we want." Dorothy didn't even ask us permission to go because she knew what my answer would be.) It finally blew up on Friday when some girl told her to "Shut up, B***h" in the cafeteria. Dorothy called me in tears on her cell phone, and I encouraged her to go see her counselor (a woman she has never met) or the principal. I called her principal and told him to expect her because this other girl threatened her. ("Next time I'm just gonna punch you.") I was beside myself all day but much relieved when Dorothy reported that she had gone to see her counselor who was going to report the incident to the principal.
Over the weekend, one of these girls sent nasty text messages calling my daughter a bitch. Dorothy then found some horrible defamatory remarks on her myspace account from 2 of these girls that they wrote while they were supposedly drunk. (She has since closed down her account, but you want to see the other girls' blogs? Come on, you know you do.) So she printed them off and left a voice mail message with the principal that she was going to come visit him the next day with the nasty "comments" on her myspace and the text messages from her phone. So I knew it would be tense last Monday, but I never dreamed what would happen would happen. So around 2 I got a call at work and her high school on the caller ID. So I answered the phone and was not surprised to hear the principal's voice on the other end. He said, "We have a situation. It seems Dorothy brought a knife to school." I knew he meant her Leatherman that she keeps in her purse for her backstage work, never realizing it had a knife in it because she used the needle nose pliers, screwdriver and such for her backstage crew work. I am not condoning her taking it and have warned her several times over the years that it could be considered a weapon.
But it's the way that it happened that hurt. When he called the other 5 girls into his office, they refuted everything, said they weren't really drunk when they wrote those horrible things about her, that they were just trying to get her goat, but that they felt threatened (including the 5th "new" girl who threatened her in the cafeteria). They have known for 4 years she has had the Leatherman in her purse (because she has often helped them out with some of the implements). It wasn't until the principal held up the "myspace" comments and said, "Now that Dorothy has brought these to me, it has become a school issue if you continue to harass and threaten her," did they whip out the, "Check her purse," the creepiest one said to the principal. "She has a knife." When they knew they could get into trouble for harrassing and intimidating her, they pulled this "she's got a knife" crap to retaliate.
I shut down my computer, got in my car, and cried all the way to the high school. I greeted Dorothy in the principal's office, and this very strong, very emotionally beat kid fell in my arms and started sobbing. "They got me, Mom." Together we went into the principal's office and heard the verdict. His hands are tied , and he had to suspend her for 10 days. With spring break this week, that's 3 weeks off school. When he said the return date was April 11th, I said, "She's going to miss Gold K" (a local honor for GPAs of 3.5 and above) and started to cry. The irony is these kids have not wanted to participate in anything traditional and here is a kid who was willing to be involved in every tradition and might not get to go to ceremonyemony because of them. He said that he would start her suspension Monday so that it ended on April 10th at 3 o'clock so she can go. I love this man.
This is not the end of the world. She is not pregnant. She does not have leukemia or schizophrenia or anorexia. She was not arrested. She does not have AIDS. She is not on drugs, and she hasn't died in a car accident. At 17 she has learned that she didn't do a good job picking her friends and that she has messed up in keeping them, but what a valuable lesson she has learned at a young age. We were in her darken bedroom, holding each other, crying and laughing (at times), Her principal was truly wonderful and told her that he KNOWS she did not threaten these girls. But his hands are tied. (He said we didn't even want to think what would have happened had that blade been 4 inches instead of 3 inches. Stupid Dorothy didn't even remember the damn thing had a knife, but I bet she won't forget now.)
She can make up all her work. Her teachers can drop it off with the principal or Dave or I can pick it up or she can go up after 3 to talk to teachers. He has encouraged her to find some volunteer work to do during the 3 weeks (10 days plus spring break). Rock babies. Read books. There is a young mother in our neighborhood who has lung and brain cancer and 2 little boys. I have suggested that Dorothy help her clean her house or go grocery shopping or make dinner for her family. Her godmother visits with Somali Bantu refugee families, and I've encouraged Dorothy to call her to see if she can go along on a home visit. My sister would probably love some gardening help. She was going to Columbia for spring break and the girls were then going to the Lake, but Mabel called Sunday and said she had a paper due for student teaching and couldn't "host" Dorothy so there went Dorothy's mini-spring break. I took last Tuesday off to be with Dorothy. She needed me.
The other irony is that ever since the girls dump her in January, Dorothy and I have grown so much closer. This will only bring us closer. I told her once that I always see life in opposites. It would be better to have a crappy last semester of senior year and a great college experience than the other way around. So while we were in the dark room together, I told her that some people have friends while their family doesn't support them. But she has it the other way around.
Well, we're moving right along. Each day gets better. Last Wednesday was parent/teacher conferences at Dorothy's school. I was dreading it because I knew my voice would shake/crack with tears. Dorothy (with my help) sent an e-mail to all her teachers explaining the situation. We knew that her principal would honor her privacy and not give details, and I didn't want the teachers to hear rumors and fear that they had a student with a knife in class. Every teacher was INCREDULOUS that this happened. Some wanted details. One said he wasn't going anywhere for spring break and to COME OVER TO HIS HOUSE to study for the AP Calculus test. (I am encouraging Dorothy to take advantage of every bit of help her teachers are offering whether she needs it or not. Her history teacher is this tall leprechaun of an Irishman. Bright red hair and gorgeous green eyes. He could be 30, but he looks 18. He was so mad. He wanted the other girls' names so he could give them the evil eye in the hall. And then he said, "She can absolutely make up everything in my class. Can she do that in all her classes?" And before I could tell him not to worry, he was like this scrappy Irish bloke, "Because if they don't, I will personally get in their face and tell them that they had better take her work for the time she is out because this just isn't fair." I had to calm him down. It was too too sweet.
Because conferences were for kids with last names A-L, he said, "I don't know what I'm going to do if I see [insert name of one of the mean girl]'s parents." I was glad when we saw them as we were leaving and I steered Dorothy's father the other way. I went to go see one of her teachers from last semester who is a personal friend of mine and told her the whole story after she asked "How's Dorothy doing?" Her mouth was on the floor. She called when she got home and was so angry with the administration (which I am not). And because she only teaches one class, she took Dorothy to breakfast Thursday morning. There are no exceptions to this rule, and I understand that. (And I have warned Dorothy of this many times.) One teacher told me that he knew it would come to this when the Safe School Policy came down a few years ago. Last year one of the principal's sons was suspended for 10 days from GRADE school because they found a Boy Scout knife in the bottom of this backpack which he had for his after-school meeting. One teacher asked, "So what kind of punishment did the other girls get for harassing Dorothy?" When I looked at her and said, "nothing," her mouth actually hit the floor. She was speechless and stumbled over every word thereafter. I simply kept a straight face and said, "I believe in karma, and those girls will get theirs." I believe that. So we persevere. Dorothy has a lot of chores to do. This is no vacation. I gave her one day to mope and then we get her up in the morning, give her a list of things to do, and tell her we love her. I think we have said that more often in the last week than in 17 years!
Mabel called that evening to tell us her story. Apparently, she forgot to set the brake on her car that morning and after parking, locking the doors, and getting her crap out of the back, it started rolling down the street. Miracle of miraclIt... it didn't hit anything. Some guy parked his car in traffic so that it wouldn't hit anything and then miraculously it stopped one inch short of a sign. She ran after the car and had to unlock the door to get in and pull the brake. Then she got on the phone with Dorothy and while Dorothy was telling her this whole story, I could hear Mabel on the other end screaming, "Let me at the little Bitches." "They better not be coming to Mizzou cuz I'll smack them upside the head if I ever see them on campus." I just kept grinning because Dorothy had a smile on her face from ear to ear. I don't think Mabel has ever come to her rescue like that. Later she said to me that she will have it out with any one of them if she sees them at her sisterÂs graduation. Part of me hopes they carry through with their promise not to come to graduation and part of me would really like to see Big Sister go after any one of these beotches. Mabel asked her if her teachers were obligated to give her the homework, Dorothy said they were. She said that before that day, she would have resented a principal asking her to gather together 2 weeks' worth of work for a kid who was suspended. But after hearing this story, she now knows that some kids get suspended out of their control. She called back and said her paper wasn't that long and that Dorothy could come visit so that's where she is right now. Who would have thought something like this could bring the 2 sisters closer together?
You can imagine my dismay when I opened up our local newspaper and found this article about one of the girls. Did you catch that? "Caring, honesty, respect and responsibility"??? I would love to let the Y know what this young woman is really made of, but I won't. But I can dream, can't I?? Anyone else wanna go beat up these miscreants? (I'm just kidding, of course. I'm not violent by nature, but this has made me question capital punishment. Just kidding again. I'm generally not for capital punishment but perhaps we could reinstitute cruel and unusual punishment for "mean girls"?)