Roger Thompson’s phone vibrated in his pocket. His boss, Evan, couldn’t hear the vibrating phone, but he noticed Roger’s distraction.
“Do you need a minute?” Evan asked Roger.
“No. Sorry. Damn phone won’t quit ringing. I’ll turn it off.”
“Maybe it’s important. Go ahead.”
Roger pulled the phone from his pocket and looked.
Missed Call: Briarhaven Elementary
“It’s my kid’s school,” Roger said. “I should probably call them back.”
“Go,” said Evan.
Roger left the meeting room and walked into the hallway as he thumbed the “return call” button on his phone’s screen.
“Briarhaven Elementary School, this is Elizabeth,” said the voice.
“Hi. My name’s Roger Thompson, and I . . . “
“Oh, Mr. Thompson,” Elizabeth interrupted. “We tried to reach Mrs. Thompson first, but we need one of you to come to the school immediately.”
“What’s wrong?” Roger asked.
“David was involved in an altercation, and the principal thought he should go to the hospital. The ambulance is on its way.”
“Oh my God. Is he okay?”
Long pause. “You need to come to school,” said Elizabeth.
“Will David be there? Or should I go to the hospital? Where are they taking him?”
“Come to school.”
Roger waved to Evan and took off for his car. He drove just a little faster than usual until he arrived at the school. A dozen police cars with lights flashing adorned the school parking lot. Roger parked in the first open slot and approached the building.
“This is a secure area,” said a police officer to Roger.
“They called me. My son was involved. David. David Thompson,” said Roger.
The cop looked at Roger, then spoke into his shoulder microphone. “Mr. Thompson here.”
A crackly voice responded from the cop’s hips. “Send him through.”
“Go on in,” said the cop.
Roger Thomspson jogged toward the wall of doors that led to the main hall of Briarhaven Elementary. He turned right after passing through the doors. He opened another door to enter the administration area. The principal, Nancy Flanders, waited.
“I’m Roger Thompson,” he said. “Where’s David?”
“Hi, Mister Thompson,” said Ms. Flanders. “I am so, so sorry about this. David is on his way to the hospital. We need to talk.”
“Which hospital?” Roger said. “I need to get there.”
Ms. Flanders looked at her folder hands. “I’m not sure,” she said. “We’ll find out. But you and I need to talk first.”
Roger stared at the principal. He looked perplexed.
“No. I need to be with my son. He’s hurt for sure if you sent him on an ambulance.”
“You don’t understand,” Ms. Flanders said. “David isn’t the victim here. He’s the perpetrator. He’s lucky he wasn’t hurt worse.”
Roger felt his head swooning. He sat down on the first miniature chair he could find. He leaned forward, put his head in his hands, and asked, “what did he do?”
Ms. Flanders said, “there was a mock election today. Students had to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.”
Roger pulled himself up and looked at the principal. “That’s normal for school. Did David get belligerent?”
“No,” she said. “But after the straw poll, we asked students to state why they voted as the did. David was the only student who voted for Trump. And his reason triggered other students.”
Roger waited for the school principal to continue. After a few moments, he realized she was done talking.
“What do you mean ‘triggered’ other students?” he asked.
“Trump is a divisive figure, Mr. Thompson. I’m sure you know. Just mentioning him can cause sever trauma in young children. Some of those children attacked your son.”
“What do you mean they attacked David? How?”
“Seven or eight of the students attacked him with pens and fists. They cut him in a few places, and he was crying about his shoulder. And headache. It went on for quite a while.”
Roger shook his head. “What do you mean it went on for ‘quite a while?’ Didn’t you try to protect him?”
“We believe Donald Trump is a threat to many students, so attacks on Trump supporters are a form of self-defense,” she said.
Roger stared and blinked. Then, “Are you fucking insane?”
“Mr. Thompson! You must leave immediately. We do not tolerate hate speech in this school.”
“Hate speech? Fuck you! Where’s my son?”
“Leave, Mr. Thompson. Before I call the police.”
“What happened to my son?” Roger shouted. He popped out of the tiny chair.
“Excuse me, Mr. Thompson?” said a man standing behind Roger. Roger turned to look. It was a police officer.
“I’m Sergeant Franklin. Please come with me now.”
Roger turned to follow the cop but shot a final scowl at Ms. Flanders before leaving the office.
Sergeant Franklin closed the principal’s door on his way out. “Let’s talk outside,” he told Roger. The two continued down the hall and out the main door to the school’s parking lot. The lot was crowded with cars but the two were alone. The sergeant shook Roger’s hand.
“Mike Franklin,” the cop said.
“Roger. Roger Thompson.”
“Look, Mr. Thompson, I need you to remain calm. I realize this upsetting. I’d be upset, too.” Franklin stared into Roger’s eyes, searching for compliance.
“Where’s my son?” Roger asked.
“Your son has been taken to St. Mary’s hospital. I don’t know his condition because I arrived after the ambulance left. But the report from the officers at the scene said he had minor cuts and abrasions on his arms and face, a swollen lip, and possible head injury.”
“Jesus Christ! What happened?”
Franklin looked around the parking lot. Then he leaned in toward Roger. “Listen,” he said, “this is just between you and me.”
He waited for Roger to acknowledge his request for confidentiality. Roger nodded.
“In social studies class, the teacher was talking about the election. Your son indicated he liked Donald Trump. The teacher warned him that by saying so violated the school district’s rules against hate speech. Your son argued with her, and she sent him to the principal’s office. While he was waiting in the hallway outside Ms. Flanders’ office, a group of boys circled him and started mocking him. Apparently, your son stood up from his chair which the boys interpreted as a threat. They jumped him and beat him up pretty bad.”
Roger stared at the cop. “What happened to the other boys?” Roger asked.
Franklin stared for a moment, sizing up Roger’s level of agitation. “They were returned to class. Flanders determined that they behaved appropriately, that your son was the cause of the fight.”
Roger clenched his jaw and looked back at the door to the school.
“You have got to be shitting me,” he said.
“I wish I was. Look, we have the reports of the officers, but they’re very friendly to the school.”
“Can I get your card? I need to get to the hospital.”
Franklin reached into his shirt pocket to retrieve his business card. “Sure. Take care of your son. David, right?”
“Yeah. David,” said Roger. “Thanks. I’ll be in touch. I appreciate your honesty.”
The men shook hands and Roger jogged to his car.
to be continued
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Also published on Medium.