Wednesday after school, I saw "Deondre" and "Leon" rushing past my classroom with looks of anxiety on their face. Normally these are kids - especially Leon - who would stop by and say hi, but they rushed past without even turning their heads. I sensed something was up, and called Leon's name. He didn't see me, or ignored me, and kept on trucking down the stairs. I actually chased after him, shouting his name again - I felt like something was up - and finally he turned around. "Is everything okay," I asked, to which he replied, "Yeah, everything's good," and I let him go so I could tend to the 40 kids in my room for a baseball pre-season meeting. I still wasn't convinced, though.
When I heard sirens a little bit later, I didn't make the connection. I should have. This morning, I learned that Leon, as well as several other kids I teach, had been suspended for fighting. And apparently it was an all-out brawl, with Leon and Darien getting into it and rolling around at the front of the school. Both of these kids are mine, and both are at risk - both appeared on the list of 17 kids who, after the first quarter, had failed four or more classes (the bottom 17 of the 300 ninth grade students at the school). I happen to like both of these kids a lot, have taken them under my wing a little bit. Both passed my course, and I think both are sweet - if a little playful - kids. Why were they fighting?
Well, Desean gave me the scoop after 5th period. Both are Bloods - I've heard Leon's older brother is one of the biggest Bloods in Baltimore, though I'm not sure - but Darien had been making statements that Leon didn't belong anymore, and Leon wanted to confront him about it. Text messages rang through the school, and the fight between two became a brawl, and I know of at least five kids who were in the middle of it that I teach. All 9th graders. 9th graders in gangs.
Today, as I told my 10th period, the class with Darien in it (though suspended now), my heart hurt. Maybe I could have stopped Leon, if I would have followed my instincts. These kids need so much help, and I just can't give it to them, and missed a prime time to give them some on Wednesday.
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