Friday, July 18, 2008

Bad Decision Making

At the end of lunch yesterday, I hear a ruckus in the stairwell that leads to the library exit. This happens a lot; kids hang out there and must be kicked out so they're not late for class. So I went to do the kicking out. On the landing between floors, I saw Noe (the lisping boy who believes we are made of dirt) being shoved around by a surly group of at least five. I made my presence known, they fled, I followed. Outside, the harassment continued. Noe's collar was tugged, he was elbowed, he almost lost his balance. At first I assumed that this was your average bullying, that these were your average bullies, and that I would need to make an average intervention. Noe is, after all, a kid that most people would not be surprised to see bullied. I am sorry to say that anyone is bullied, but it is a solid fact of middle-school life.
I intervened to find a complicated story that took some time to unweave. It goes something like this. Boy 1 (let's call him Miguel) brought twenty dollars to school. Why, no one knows. That's a lot of candy, even in today's market. After PE, he put his things in his locker and went to take a shower (again, why? Ew, those showers cannot be nice), but he left his locker open. This is his second Bad Decision by my count. The money fell out, or so we think. To think otherwise is to assume Noe is devious and criminal, which I choose not to think. Noe walks by Miguel's locker and picks up the money, keeps it. Bad Decision three. Someone sees this happen and at lunch in the library, Miguel's gaggle of followers attempts to retrieve the money through the art of intimidation. Noe sticks to his story, claiming finders keepers.
Enter Boy 3 (let's call him Juan). Noe tells us that Juan reached into his pocket and took the money back. Juan says no. Juan says he did, but then he put it back. Juan says Noe is a liar. Juan says he took the money and gave it to someone else. Juan says a lot of things.
Suddenly, Miguel's gaggle is suspicious, but no longer of Noe. Now they are looking to Juan and saying things like, "Man, where's the money?", "Man, you better tell where the money is!", and "Man, you spent it, didn't you?". Juan stammers. Noe looks hopeful. Miguel just hangs his head in total disappointment.
Noe is redeemed, Juan confesses, they all go to the dean to record statements. You see, Juan only has seven dollars in his pocket. He must have treated all his buddies to snacks at lunch, because that money is gone.
You would think that all of this would cause some lasting tension among this group of boys. Maybe Miguel would hold a grudge against Juan for lying. Or Noe would be angry with the rest of them. Twenty minutes later, I see Noe, Juan, and Miguel crossing campus together, returning from the dean's office. I say, "Is everything ok with you boys?" Smiling and laughing, practically linking arms and skipping, they tell me yes. Miguel says, "He'll bring me twenty dollars tomorrow and that'll be the end of it". All is forgiven. Perhaps the final Bad Decision, at least on Miguel's part.

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