An African-American, Driscoll Collier was a bull of a man, reflecting his days as a championship wrestler. Everyone at Kennedy knew his story: He’d been a kid with a chip on his shoulder at this very school soon after it had opened and had more than a few times visited this very office, only then on the “bad boy” side of the desk.
But Coach Forester talked him into joining the wrestling team and had taught him how to constructively channel his aggression; Dris had eventually won a state high school championship in his weight class and gone to college on a wrestling scholarship, where he’d also won several championships.
He was seated behind his desk with his hands folded in front of him. His face was impassive; only a raised eyebrow suggesting concern and maybe even disappointment, but no obvious anger.
“Be seated,” he said to Ro, with a nod toward one of the chairs in front of his desk, then added, “Please tell me what happened out there on the playground, Miss Delahanty.”
Ro described the altercation, leaving nothing out except how enraged she’d been. She tried to tell the story in as precise detail and as objectively as she could. She imagined herself as a cop on the witness stand in a courtroom being asked to describe some situation.
“So, you were fighting?” Driscoll asked.
“Yes, sir,” she said. Ro didn’t see any point in trying to deny it or blame someone else.
The question kind of confused Ro, as she thought the answer was obvious. “My friend was being bullied. I had to protect her.”
“It didn’t occur to you to look for a teacher to stop the boys?” They had once had an assembly about bullying and there were posters around the school, both of which emphasized that if you witnessed bullying the first thing you should do is find a teacher.
“I…” She almost said, “I didn’t see one around,” but knew that, in fact, she hadn’t even looked. “No, sir,” she said, then added as a small measure of justification, “My friend was being hurt.”
“Were you mad at the boys, Miss Delahanty?”
The question really threw Ro for a loop, as it hit too close to home; she wondered how he knew. “Yes, I was mad,” she said, then added with more force than she’d wanted to, “I had to do something!”
“Regardless of the consequences?”
At first Ro thought he was talking about the consequence of her getting into trouble, but then he surprised her by adding, “There were three of them, all bigger than you, Miss Delahanty. Didn’t it ever occur to you to be afraid? What if they’d turned on you? They might well have beaten you up…”
Ro stared at the principal for a moment, perplexed by both the unexpected direction their conversation had taken and by the specific question.
Finally, with a brief shrug she admitted, “I guess I didn’t think about that.”
Collier stared back at Ro for a moment; she thought she almost caught the hint of a smile in his eyes.
“Are your parents here?”
When she nodded, he said, “Please ask them to come in.”
When Ro, Mike and Kate – Kate did not acknowledge in any way that she had known Dris Collier for years, as they were both members of the Illowa Community Chorus – had sat down in front of Collier’s desk, he said, “As I’m sure you know, the school has very strict rules about fighting, even if it might seem justified.”
“Tomorrow is Friday. Miss Delahanty will report to this office at the beginning of the day and will spend it in the detention hall serving an in-school suspension. I would suggest that she bring plenty of material to read or study, as there is no talking or socializing in detention. I will ask that at least one of you return with her first thing Monday morning and we will talk about what happens next.”
Next: Ro is a hero around school
(C) 2018 Dave Lager