This is a picture of my son, Zachary… 16-years-old (at the time), 120 pounds soaking wet, and all of about 5 feet 6 inches tall. The picture was taken the day he was assaulted by a principal in his high school, who looks to be at least 250 pounds, as Zachary tried to leave the building after the bell rang. Apparently, this principal decided Zachary should wait, go sit in another principal’s office and miss his ride home. Why? The principal was under the impression that Zachary did not have permission to be in the hallway 5 minutes prior to the bell ringing, which he DID (indisputable).
Even though Zachary had permission to be in the hall, he had begun his walk to the office as instructed prior to the bell ringing, but once the dismissal bell rang, he turned around and headed toward a classroom to meet a friend on his way out, and this time, was cornered by the teacher who put him in a choke-hold and wrestled him to the ground because Zachary was “disobedient”. Once on the ground, the teacher put ALL his weight on my son, preventing him from breathing and causing him to struggle to break free just to try to get some air. Ultimately, Zachary’s body went limp (lack of oxygen) and the principal released his grip.
As evidenced in the above picture, petechial hemorrhaging is visible beneath Zachary’s eye, indicative of asphyxia, or strangulation. A visit to our doctor immediately after being detained by the police (where Zachary was charged with Disorderly Conduct), showed that Zachary had, indeed, been deprived of oxygen to his brain. The doctors, nurses and everyone who saw him for the next week were appalled by the marks on him, and that they had been caused by a teacher/principal at his school. Everyone except the faculty at the school and the police, that is.
Whatever story the faculty was offering – and they had offered me 3 different versions to prepare me for what I was about to see before allowing me in the room with my son – none of them sounded anything like, “Zachary came into school with a shotgun and was about to kill innocent people”. To me, that certainly would have warranted such a violent take down. No, ultimately, they put their heads together and agreed on a version that sounded like: “Zachary was in the hallway and when told to go to the office (after the dismissal bell rang and everyone else is allowed to go home), he pushed Mr. Principal, began flailing his arms and needed to be restrained.”
Now, while my son is no angel and not an ‘A’ student, he has never had an incidence of violence against a student, and definitely never against a teacher. His flailing began when he was being choked and that was in an effort to breathe, but, unfortunately, Mr. Principal was standing out in the hallway with a friend of his, Mr. Teacher (conversing outside of a classroom, instead of teaching), and his friend parroted every word he said in the “official” report. As a result, the police wouldn’t even allow me to file assault charges against this man. Neither Mr. Principal, nor his friend had any bruising, petechial hemorrhaging – not even a scratch – on them as a result of all the pushing and flailing Zachary did that needed such violent measures of restraint, coincidentally.
These are not scratches on my son’s shoulder in this picture – they are crease marks from his clothing, indented into his skin from the principal’s full weight and pressure on top of him after he pushed him to the ground and while he held his neck in a choke-hold, preventing him from breathing.
[Reminder: Zachary was charged with a crime, not Mr. Principal.]
Why am I writing all of this? Out of sheer frustration. I can accomplish nothing toward achieving any semblance of justice and it just eats away at me. Nearly 10 months have passed since this incident took place and my son is a ‘marked man’ at the school, being picked on by those in power because I dared to hire an attorney and not just silently accept our punishment. Although my son is now in a trade school for his senior year of high school in order to avoid contact with the original principal who assaulted him, I am about 5 months behind in paying the attorney who made this arrangement possible for him – and still, we must continue to deal with the same school district, where our infamy precedes us.
But beyond contending with the issues of the school, the disrespect shown to me and to my son, the fabrications invented by one member of the faculty – then sworn to by another – that continue to cause trouble for him and great stress for me, I am haunted by bigger problems. Where does forgiveness come into the picture? I believe I have forgiven this man for what he did to my son, to the extent I am humanly able. But my question is this: Is seeking justice a sign of unforgiveness? Ten months have passed with little action on my part for two reasons, 1-because I have wrestled with this moral dilemma, and 2-because I have learned that most people get as much justice as they can afford… and I can’t afford all that much.
So I share this story via my blog, accepting opinions from wherever they may come. It will probably come as no surprise that the story has been somewhat condensed, but the pertinent facts are most definitely included… except for one. In the interest of full disclosure, I will add that Zachary did have a knife in his pocket during this entire episode, yet this was not known to anyone and he voluntarily offered it to a different principal after being assaulted. Naturally, I was appalled to find this out, but his excuse is, and has always been, “fear”. He has been bullied since grade school, since right after his father died when he was in fourth grade and began showing his emotions in school. Combined with his slight build, he was an easy target. Although the school district was no help to me in that situation, either (“Isn’t he over his father’s death YET?”), and he never used the knife, to me, this is still no excuse for carrying it… regardless of how much “safer” it made him feel.
Please feel free to share your opinion or offer advice. The stress from this situation is literally making me sick by exacerbating the illnesses I suffer from (Fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease) and I need to figure out what to do. It has been suggested to me that I just let it go and forget about the whole thing, to accept the injustice and go on with my life. But it’s not just my life, it is my son who was victimized and it is I who must stand up for him and show that I am his advocate. When he’s wrong, I throw the book at him, but when something like this happens, well….
Thanks for reading,