This mornng I was called into the principal's office immediately after the opening announcements were read. Also arriving at the same time was a boy with whom I am marginally acquainted at best. He's a defensive back on our school's football team and does not take honors classes as far as I know. He was a shot-putter on the track team on which I was a hurdler, but the runners often have little contact with those participating in filed events at practice and at meets. I'm fairly certain we've never actually been in the same section of a course. I was curious as to why I had been summoned to the office, but the idea that my business there had anything to do with his didn't even cross my mind.
When the principal's secretary returned my greeting with, "Sit down and shut up," I began to suspect that trouble was headed my way. This is unusual for me. When I was a freshman, there was the unfortunate incident involving the Internet, the potential child predator, and the FBI. It really didn't have anything to do with the school, as no contact was made during school time or using school computer equipment. I was contacted by the FBI at the school because my parents both work, and the only way the feds could contact all of us during the day (God forbid that they should have to work one minute past 5:00 p.m.) was to have me called into the school office and to have my parents contacted during the day at work and summoned to the school. I had one other incident involving a teacher complaining to my parents that I refused to volunteer to answer questions in class, but this was handled by the teacher contacting my parents. The office was in no way involved, and no record of the incident exists in my file. (There are advantages, though few, and though far outweighed by the disadvantages, to having one's parent be a high-ranking official in the school district one attends.)
If the truth were to be known, I played a prime role in two incidents of mischief that, were my school administration to be aware, they would possibly seek retribution even though no laws were broken and no real harm was done, and despite the fact that under any non-Draconian system, the statute of limitations would have long since expired. When I turn eighteen, am in college, and have been granted whatever scholarships, high school diplomas, or honors I'm ever going to receive from this antiquated institution in which I'm presently enrolled, I may choose to divulge the details of my two past indiscretions. Until then, however, it would require stupidity beyond which I am capable to give out any details even in a forum as anonymous as this one.
Despite the uncivil greeting from the secretary being an indication that something unfavorable to me was in the works, I doubted that it was in any way connected to my indiscretions from previous years. I still had no real clue that the boy seated across from me was in any way connected to the issue, although his disinclination to make eye contact with me should have been an indication.
The two of us sat in the uncomfortable plastic chairs for well over an hour with the secretary, who was busy typing and occasionally answering the phone, although she paused from her duties to glare at each of us from time to time. I was at the time unaware of the circumstances surrounding our total waste of time sitting in the hard plastic chairs accomplishing absolutely nothing. The reason, I later learned, was that parents were to be involved in the discussion of this situation. As my mother would be considered a direct supervisor of the site administrators handling the matter, it would be a conflict of interest for her to be there acting as my parent. My father was and still is in Los Angeles. My mother refused to ask him to fly back to our city to act as my parent in this situation.
When I first learned of the nature of the situation and of my mother's refusal to involve my father, I thought it was the typical "He's not coming back here because Alexis isn't worthy of our time" sort of response that has been given on my behalf before, which greatly angered me. It was only later that I understood that the matter was so inane that my mother refused either to incur the expenditure of plane fare or to interrupt my father's work for a situation that should never have involved me in the first place, except perhaps as the recipient of an apology.
The next choice was to have the matter handled by the district superintendent instead of the site principal. My mother was in favor of this option, as it would not involve interrupting the daily routines of any of our relatives to act on behalf of me. Furthermore, she said, even if the principal were dealing with a relative of mine instead of with her, a conflict of interest could be perceived because I am still her daughter, which could result in either ill will on her part if she disagreed with the way the situation was handled or could result in reverse discrimination by the principal bending over too far backward to be fair to the student whose parent was not his job superior. Both the principal and the father of the other student disagreed with this solution. The principal's primary motive for disagreeing was presumably that he didn't want the superintendent interfering in what he considered to be his domain. It was tentatively decided that the principal would adjudicate the matter with my Aunt Heather acting as my advocate. Then the district superintendent attempted to contact my mother in her office and was unable to reach her. He demanded to know where she was and what was happening, and then appointed himself as the official in charge of the matter.
The whole incident, as I didn't learn until after hours of sitting in the principal's outer office under the watchful eye of the Rottweiler-turned-secretary, centered on a paper I had authored in my sophomore year of high school for my required U. S. History course, for which I took the Advanced Placement option in order to earn college credits. The title of the paper was, "The Cold War, McCarthyism, and Accusations of Communism Inflitration." As my compositions go, it was somewhat unremarkable. It was technically and factually sound, and met the requirements for an Advanced Placement-calibre paper, but wasn't one of my more creative efforts. Considering the topic, it probably shouldn't have been one of my more creative efforts, anyway.
The intructor for my course had a policy of photocopying all "A" papers, filing them by topic, and keeping them for at least ten years so that in the event that a paper seemed familiar as he was grading it, he could consult his file to see if the paper had been recycled from a previous author and submission. The file cabinet in which the papers were kept was usually locked, but there were occasions in which it wasn't secured. The student seated across from me in the office had been my U. S. history's teacher's assistant for a Freshman Studies course the next year. At some point the file cabinet containing "A" papers was apparently unsecured and unsupervised for just long enough for him to go through the cabinet and purloin my paper.
The moron was so lazy that he didn't even bother re-typing the paper in its entirety. He merely retyped the title page, then whited out and retyped the header on each page, ignoring the differences in formats required. Because I wrote the paper for a social science cource, the APA format was used. English courses almost exclusively require MLA formatted papers. The essence of this was lost on my peer.
The plagiarism would have gone undetected except that my plagiarist's English teacher was so incredibly inmpressed by her student's work, as it was far beyond anything he had ever done, that she submitted it for a liberal arts honor. The committee charged with deciding upon the winner of this honor happened to consist of both the English teacher who submitted the student's paper and my U. S. History teacher, who had originally received the paper. My teacher recognized it immediately. The English teacher disagreed vehemently and accused me of being the plagiarist even though I had turned the paper in a year before the actual plagiarist had submitted it. The English teacher, who offers proof positive that not all English teachers are of even average intellect, offered ss evidence the plagiarist's originally submitted paper, with the title page and headings not even in the same font as the body of the paper, then showed how she had helped him to retype into the correct format.
The argument soon made its way into the principal's office, where it immediately became a disciplinary matter. The principal was unimpresed by either the lack of match in font of the title page and page headers to the body of the paper to the overall lack of pertinence of the topic of McCarthyism and communism to American literature. Parents, too, were involved in the dispute. The plagiarist's father, a prominent local banker, argued that even if his son had plagiarized the paper from me, I, too, must have plagiarized it from some other source, as the paper could not have been authored by a high school student. My mom pointed out that my SAT writing score had been a perfect 800. The banker didn't understand that. His son hadn't taken the SAT, and the writing portion did not yet exist in the olden days when he himself took the test. Thank God the superintendent took over.
The U. S. History teacher left to consult his file, but found my paper missing, even though it was indexed. He came to the outer office to ask if I still had a copy. I keep all of my papers. I told my mother exactly where she could find it in my room. She was back twenty minutes later with the original paper, complete with title page and date, which matched the index maintained by my hitory teacher. The text and font matched the plagiarist's original document before his teacher retyped it (which was, incidentally, against the rules for papers submitted for the particular honor). Furthermore, the topic was well-matched to my assigned topic of mid 1900's politics, as opposed to the plagiarist's topic of late 1800's American literature.
The plagiarist's father was still unconvinced. The superintendent told him that it didn't really require his assent to decide in my favor, but, just to prove the point, each of us would be called into the inner office to answer questions about the composition's content. Following that, we would each be assigned a five-paragraph essay on a given topic, which would need to be completed in the inner office in the presence of parents and administrators, after which the essays would be analyzed for writing style. The superintendent even conceded that the topic would be one about which the plagiarist had presumably more background information than I.
I answered each question asked, in each case elaborating beyond what was expected. The plagiarist apparently had no answer for most of the questions. The original plan for the essays was that they would be written by hand, but the plagiarist's father complained that his son had problems with spelling and would be at a disadvantage if computer use were not allowed. The agreement was that the use of spell-check and grammar-check would be permitted, but that no Internet usage would be allowed and that we would be closely monitored for such. We were given a seventy-five minute limit for our essays. The the topic was announced. The topic was "Advantages and Disavantages of the BCS System in Determining the NCAA Football Championship." I'm far from an expert on this topic, but I evidently have more knowledge of the system than does my plagiarist. I focused upon the lack of objectivity in determining who gets into the major bowl games in the first place, the disadvantage created by an early loss by an otherwise superior team, and the lack of a playoff system in determining who makes it into the actual bowl game that is determined to be the championship game. I conceded that the BCS system is arguably superior to the old poll system with sports writers and coaches determining the national champions (sometimes without consensus) but insisted that the current system needs major overhaul before it can be deemed acceptable. My plagiasrist didn't even complete asingle paragraph.
So I spend almost an entire day helping adults who should have known better to decide that I did not plagiarize a composition. Most of the day was wasted, although, since part of the day was spent writing, that portion could not be considered a total waste of time. The next half hour was devoted to an argument concerning whether my plagiarist and I would be required, or even allowed, to make up the work that ws missed. In an extremely rare show of support for me, my mother said that if the district wanted me to continue enrollment in the district, I would be given full credit for any daily assignments missed in the day's classes. Any portions of the classes that were devoted to projects, she said, should be my responsibility to make up. The plagiarist's father insited that his son be granted the same privilege. The superintendent told him that his son's privileges and consequences would be discussed in private shortly. At that point, the school day was over.
The head varsity football coach had heard of the situation and had made his way to the office, demanding to know what was happening. The superintendent dismissed him and told him he would be notified as soon as any decision that affected his team had been made.
This should have been the end of the whole matter, but it wasn't. I had been stuck in an office all day with no food or bathroom privileges. Although I was hungry, I was even more in need of a bathroom visit. I hurried as fast as my crutches would allow me to a bathroom just down the hall from the principal's office before heading home. I heard the outer bathroom door open as I was in the stall, but thought nothing of it. When I emerged from the stall to wash my hands, I saw two girls standing idly. Girls sometimes stand idly in bathrooms, so I still though little of it.
Then one of them said to me, "Just what the fu@& did you think you were doing?" I recognized her as the plagiarist's latest hook-up.
"Using the bathroom," I answered.
She slapped my face with sufficient force that I fell against the wall. Fortunately I was using the sink located against the far wall, so I fell against the wall instead of onto the floor.
The other girl said, "That's not what she meant, and you know it,
I still have my baby cell phone. It dials my home, my parents' cell phones, my mom's work numbers, my Uncle Steve's and Aunt Heather's phones and home, and 911. A quick mental assessment told me that 911 would be my best bet, especially since it's the top button on the phone. The phone was in the pocket of my jacket, which I had been wearing all day because the principal's thermostat was set at about 65. I talked loudly, hoping that the 911 operator could get information about my whereabouts from my conversation. I didn't know it, but my phone also has a GPS-like device on it, so the 911 operator was able to locate me. I decided that the best thing was to keep the girls talking as much as possible. I lied to them about how I had tried to take the blame but that the superintendent wasn't buying it. It told them that I deliberately blew my essay, but that the plagiarist had blown it worse. When it became plain that they weren't buying any of my lines, I tried pleading to their senses of dignity, asking them if they really felt right about two relatively tall and normal-sized girls double-teaming someone who weighs 77. (I still haven't gained back all the weight since I was hurt and sick.) Eventually the talking ceased to stop them; one of them pushed me to the floor, the other one crawled on top of me and put her hands around my neck.
At that point, a security officer came in and the girls ran out, but were stopped by a teacher and an administrator. Law enforcement officials arrived a few minutes later. The perps were carted off, presumably to juvey, although I don't know if either one is eighteen or not.
The fall didn't hurt me. I have a slight red mark on my neck, but it will go away. My mom says that she and dad will push for expulsion and will press charges.
The public school system in California is truly exemplary. That's the reason, I assume, that our governor's children attend private schools.