School Days

     When I was a little girl, I just knew people would “know better” once they grew up. I thought that grown ups would magically know how to behave better so I longed for the days when I would become an adult because people would know by then how to “love your neighbor as yourself” and “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”
     After all, those were lessons I was taught by my Sunday School teachers every single Sunday for years.
     When I was a little girl, I used to get beat up a lot for various reasons – sometimes I brought it on myself and sometimes I was merely a victim of someone not being a grown up. I went to private school as a little girl and sometimes people in my neighborhood would pick on me because they somehow thought that I thought I was better than them.
     My father, who was a pastor, would make the beat down worse by inviting the ruffian over to our home on the front porch to have a chat with the both of us. In his Jamaican accent (which also caused many of the kids to pick on me), he would lecture us about how to be a “peacemaker” while I rolled my eyes and tried to look menacing knowing that if something went down there my father had my back. ( I hoped anyway. His “peacemaker” talks probably meant he wasn’t a fighter.)
     In the fourth grade (the lone elementary year I was allowed to go to public school), I got suspended from school for a few days because I taunted this boy, who was much bigger than the rest of us because he had been kept back a few times.
     He socked me in the jaw, knocking me backwards to the floor after I said his mother probably “got with” Willie B., a now deceased but then famous gorilla at Zoo Atlanta, because his ears were so big. As you know, you don’t talk about somebody’s mama without starting a fight.
     I got in my last fight in middle school, and I thought then that the days of fighting were behind me. After all, I would be a full-fledged adult in a few years. So imagine my surprise when I started attending Clayton County Board of Education meetings as a reporter for a local daily newspaper some years ago. Clayton County is just south of Atlanta.
     If you live in the metro Atlanta area, you probably know the county school system is well on its way to losing its accreditation for the second time in five years due to their constant bickering and lack of ability to actually put the welfare of the children above their own.
     One of the board members was recently kicked off of the board because authorities discovered he hadn’t lived in the district for years! A school board attorney has recommended that all of the board resign if the county stands a chance in holding on to its accreditation.
     In fact, the National Accreditation Commission board recently voted to yank its accreditation if they don’t meet certain standards by Sept. 1. This system would be the second school system in the nation to lose its accreditation since 1969 according to articles published in “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” if it cannot meet these standards.
     Maybe you’re surprised, but I’m not. As a former fighter, I saw the seeds for this showdown sprouting at least seven years ago. I reported in an article that a “three-ring circus” rather than a school board meeting took place on one occasion.
     The board meeting erupted when two former board members accused the former chairman of the board of lying about the validity of numbers used to draw maps for redistricting. One former member said, “You all have lied, these are not the Jim Crow days.”
     When the former chairman tried to move on to other pressing agenda items, the two former members suddenly called for the resignation of the school superintendent, telling him to his face that he was “incompetent.”
     Finally, the former chairman said to me, “I never expected that kind of behavior from people who are supposed to be professionals. In all my years on the board that was as bad as I’ve ever seen it. We’ve disagreed in the past, but up until this point, they’ve always respected the process.”
     Well, there you have it. As it turns out, no one ever becomes a grown up. We are just bigger children.

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