He didn’t particularly stand out in our class, not physically, not intellectually, and not even emotionally — which is pretty telling as his father had passed away shortly before. He was just a very even kid, although a little more somber than most. He had the capability of performing better, but chose to be average. He wasn’t the boy who Jeckyll and Hyded his way through life because his grandparents couldn’t agree on whether he should be medicated. He wasn’t the boy who, at age 12, was off the streets and trying to clean up. He wasn’t struggling with cognitive difficiencies. He wasn’t fighting physical impediments. He was fighting, silently, with bereavement. He was seeing the school counsellor, but no one could have guessed what was coming.
It was April when everything blew up. We had gone through military move-ins and move-outs. We had had a long-term sub at Christmas as my cooperating teacher had to babysit her suicidal husband. We had gone on a five-day camp. It was the last day before spring break and tensions were high. Us student teachers technically needed another week after spring break but the teacher’s union was threatening to strike. We didn’t know if we’d see our beloved students and teachers again, we didn’t know if we should say our goodbyes. As my fellow student teacher and I arrived at school for our maybe-maybe-not last day the police car in front of the office signaled to me immediately that this was a bigger day than I had imagined.
The story came out quickly. Toward the back of the room, sitting with the other students who didn’t require 1:1 supervision, he had been making comments for months. At first they were ignored and passed off as idle, but over time one girl, in particular, took them to heart and finally told her father. In our post-Columbine world, her father, a professional Marine pilot, went immediately to the forces that be. I’ll never know if he actually did bring a gun to school that day, but that’s a moot point in a zero-tolerance environment.
It wasn’t the first time we saw HPD on campus, nor would it be the last time I saw police. It was, however, the first time one of my students was taken away in handcuffs. Sadly, it wasn’t the last.