On October 7, 2008 Principal P. told me that I was accused of verbal and physical abuse related to something that happened on September 11 (See posts Feb 22 Bathroom Emergencies and Feb 28 Bladder Problems” ). However, I knew trouble was coming long before that. What tipped me off? The kids, of course.
During the weeks that followed September 11, Boris of class 7H would stop by the classroom every chance he got, stick his head in the door and yell out, “We’re going to MISS you!!!!”
Then, on Sept. 24 I was absent. When I came back the following day, Samuel of 7H said to me, “I thought you’d been fired”. “Why did you think that?” I asked. “Some of the kids said you’d been fired because you wouldn’t let Domingo go to the bathroom.” He replied. “Samuel, what’s my rule about emergencies?” I asked. “That you can just leave without a pass,” He replied.
When I met with 7H that day, I told them that I had heard that they were still a little confused about my bathroom policy with regard to emergencies. I gave them paper, and asked them to write down the rule that we had discussed during the first week of school.
That’s how I got approximately twenty statements. Here are some examples:
“Ms. Moriah’s rule if you have a bathroom emergency is to get up say emergency and go.”
“You get up and go to the bathroom”
“Ms. Moriah’s rule is that you have an emergency you just leave the room cause if it is an emergency there is no time for her to right a pass. “
“Go without a pass”
“You can run to the bathroom without a pass”
“ Ms. Moriah’s rule for bathroom is if it is an emergency you run to the bathroom without a pass.”
One student wrote a little more:
“I heard a roomer about Ms. Moriah was getting fired today and yesterday and a day 911 because half of are class made a complent to Mr. B. so half of are class worte a letter to some body about Ms. Moriah about the bathroom roomers some people said Ms. Moriah suck, mean, crazy.”
Fourteen days later I got to read the "complents". Prepared as I was, they really upset me. They complained that I had refused to give passes and had ridiculed the boys while they were out of the class, saying they had bladder problems. These statements were totally false. Why would they do this? I barely knew these kids. They had no reason to dislike me. On the contrary, I had thought we had gotten off to a very good start.
Twenty-six days after the incident, I tried to figure out where they had gotten the stuff they wrote about me.
I always start the school year by saying, “If you have an emergency—just go! But don’t abuse the privilege. If you do, I’ll call your parents.
I have had that rule since my first year of teaching. We were not supposed to give passes during the first and last ten minutes of class. A girl asked to go to the bathroom when she came into my class. I told her to wait, but she couldn’t. She started back to her seat, and then vomited all over the floor. I wasn’t brought up on charges, but I felt terrible for her.
Then, many years later, a similar thing happened to a colleague of mine, Adila. She was brought up on charges because a student had an accident on the way to the bathroom. She was later sent to the rubber room. But she was much more innocent than I had been. The student couldn’t make it because the bathrooms were locked, not because she had denied him a pass. (See June 22, 2008 “Blowing the Whistle”).
In spite of what happened to Adila, administrators continued to give out the same rules about bathroom passes at the beginning of every school year. This year, I raised my hand and pointed out the dangers of following these rules, and I received a disciplinary letter for doing so. (See “Bathroom Emergencies” Feb 22).
During 8th period on September 11 three boys left the room at the same time claiming they had emergencies. They stayed out of class for a long time. I checked the section sheet and noticed that they had lunch 6th period every day, so I had reason to suspect they were testing the parameters of my rules. I decided to call their parents.
Now this was the very beginning of the school year, so I was extremely diplomatic. I introduced myself as the boy’s science teacher, and then I informed each parent that his or her son had had a bathroom emergency 8th period, and was gone for quite a long time. He wasn’t in trouble. On the contrary, he seemed like a very nice boy. I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t ill.
As I say, I knew there was going to be trouble regarding bathroom passes, but I wasn’t prepared for the statements. They were so well-organized, so consistent, and yet so false. It broke my heart. I was never able to look at those kids the same way again. As I spoke to them I couldn’t help wondering if 30 days later I would be reading some twisted version of what I was saying at that moment.