The first time I was suspended was in sixth grade for assaulting a fellow student. The second time was senior year for threatening my math teacher with unspecified but undoubtedly serious harm.
Look, I’m terrible at math. Maybe I could be good at math, but I don’t care enough about it to bother listening to someone explain it. I started out in honors math, failed my way into regulars, and then failed my way into MIS — which I assume stood for Math is Stupid (hyuk hyuk) — the math class for the cognitively deficient: the football players, the cheerleaders, the dim eyed, the sleepy, and of course, the children who can’t summon the attention span to listen to someone talk about alchemical number sorcery nonsense for an hour. Worse, still, this teacher was from India, which is fine except if I already don’t care about math, I definitely don’t care to mentally decode a foreign dialect in order to reveal jewels of precious mathematical knowledge. In fact, I found her accent incredibly soothing, like a lullaby with the most boring lyrics imaginable. As soon as her mouth opened, my eyes glazed over like two delicious cinnamon rolls.
And when I wasn’t falling asleep, I was acting like a douchebag: I threw candy bars at her back, I stopped class to make grand pronouncements like “You’re making this too complicated! Teach us like we’re in elementary school!” and I was generally malicious and disruptive. This was the Year of the Asshole for me — possibly the Decade, or maybe even the Lifetime.
Needless to say, I failed a lot of assignments. When it came time for the last test, I needed to pass or I risked failing the whole class and thus, senior year and thus, life. I did not react to these circumstances accordingly, so the test was difficult for me. Very difficult. But taking tests unprepared can be fun too. It changes from a test of my knowledge to a test of my ability to guess the answers, and I love guessing games. If one answer is C, I’d think, ‘She wouldn’t make the next answer C because that’s too repetitive, and I’ve been marking a lot of As and Ds, so it’s about time for another B.’ By the end, of course, I became very nervous.
At this most opportune moment, my teacher approached me. Every other student had left the class. I was the only one left bubbling in answers. She said, “Time’s up, Brad. I need your paper.” I looked up, glaring ominously, and, channeling my inner Norman Osborne, said, “If I fail this test, I’m coming after you.” As I left, I heard her stammering, “You can’t — that’s not how you talk to a teacher…”
It never occurred to me that anyone took what I said seriously; I casually threatened teachers and classmates so often, it became routine. My English teacher once told me, “You need to stop saying, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ every time I assign an essay.” My journalism teacher sent me to the ISS classroom all the time for “pranks” and openly challenging her authority as a teacher. But, in hindsight, it wasn’t “cool” or “iconoclastic”; it was just “being a douchebag”.
When I was called to the assistant principal’s office the next day, I didn’t even know what it could be about. I ran through the previous day in my mind and came up empty. The assistant principal, Mr. Davis, screamed at me for a long time before I discerned the exact offense, and then he ended his tirade with this haunting little nugget: “No one who has said what you said to a teacher has ever remained on this campus.” Meaning expulsion. Mr. Davis and I had a long history of heated confrontations, so for him, I knew this was an opportunity to purge a most hated demon child from his life.
I faced two days at-home suspension — which always confused me because for troublemaking monster children, staying home is a reward. Then, on the third day, they held campus management where I would be managed. Everyone was there: all the subschool principals, the counselors, the assistant principal, my parents, and even the nurse, presumably to treat the victim of any assault I might perpetrate during the meeting. It was like a trial. Mr. Davis presented a long list of evidence as to my inability to be a civil inoffensive human being in a classroom, reciting my history of transgressions like a grocery list. And in response, another counselor read a list of recommendations from my teachers which all essentially said, “He’s a good student. He just sometimes slips up and threatens to murder people.” My father, at one point, said, “She’s Indian! Brad was being sarcastic, and she doesn’t know English, so she can’t detect sarcasm!” Mr. Davis said, “Actually, I think the fact that she was Indian might have provoked Brad to threaten her.” My mom said, “Are you calling my son a racist? He has a black friend!” Then Mr. Davis brought up the underground newspaper I wrote called “Free Porno Sex Dealy” (which had “humorous” profanity laden articles inside), and I broke down laughing hysterically. My mom was horrified. My dad, who had never been involved in school functions, seemed fascinated by the theatricality of the whole thing.
In the end, the only reason I got off was that the subschool principals and counselors had never encountered an advanced placement student who deliberately threatened to murder his teachers, so they assumed the best in me rather than the worst, the truth that in that moment, I genuinely wished harm upon my teacher. In that instant, I envisioned ski masks, baseball bats, locked trunks and secluded woodland clearings. Of course, in the next instant, I envisioned the vague image of Abraham Lincoln with grapefruits for eyes, but I still had that moment of willful malice. Hopefully, that part of me has long since deteriorated.