Letter Of Conduct
By. M.J. Orz
My daughter was an amazing student. She was flawless in almost every way. I remember when her mother was alive, that her and I would sit and talk about all the potential we believed our daughter had and how shocked and surprised we were that our first, and now only, child turned out to be so wonderful. Leah was the apple of my eye and I was so proud of her. She reminds me so much of her mother and that is everything I could have wished for and more. I miss Michelle. So does Leah. But I am glad to have a lovely, beautiful reminder of her with me every single day.
Leah was about thirteen when the first letter came. I remember being in complete and total shock when I found out what it was. In fact, I had almost thrown out the envelope, mistaking it for another message from the volunteer board at Leah’s school or some type of invitation to an event the school was throwing to raise money for this or that. When I saw that it was a letter from Leah’s teacher, I was taken back a bit. Not only that, but it was about my daughter’s conduct in school – apparently she was struggling in whichever class Mr. Allen taught, acting out and such, and he recommended that she stay after school with him later on this week. I knew I had to say something to Leah about this, but this was sincerely the first time I had ever actually had to discipline my daughter, and it just felt…wrong.
I called Leah into the living room that evening, with the letter in my hand. I explained to her that I received a letter from Mr. Allen stating that she needed to stay late with him this week and I told her that I didn’t know how to handle this situation. I asked her what was wrong and reminded her that she could talk to me about anything. I told her I didn’t want to see her go down any bad roads and that this was the last thing I had ever expected to see coming from the school. Leah’s eyebrows were raised high and she carried a look of confusion on her face.
“Dad,” she said to me. “I don’t have a teacher named Mr. Allen.”
I stared at her for a moment and tried to decipher what was going on. Was my daughter lying to me? I knew the school wouldn’t send me something like this by mistake. I even stood up and dug through the trash for the envelope and, just like I had remembered, the envelope was stamped with the school’s return address that I had seen on many envelopes before and my name handwritten across the front. I showed my daughter the evidence and she joined me in standing. I could tell she was sincere when she declined everything, so I told her to go to bed and that I would go down to the school in the morning to smooth this whole thing out. She didn’t argue with me and made her way up the stairs to her room.
The next morning I drove Leah to school after calling my boss to let him know that I would be running a bit behind. Like most teenagers, Leah got out of the car before I did so she could run off to her friends. I couldn’t blame her – I know I wouldn’t want to walk into high school with my father when I was her age. I rang the bell in the front of the building; something that I still wasn’t used to that had been put in place for security reasons. The administrative assistant called over the intercom and I told her who I was and asked to speak with an administrator. She buzzed me in and met me at the front door, gesturing me towards the main office.
Once inside, I sat in the uncomfortable blue cushioned chairs they had in the waiting area while they contacted one of the Assistant Principals. The man that came forward was a tall, skinny gentleman in a short sleeve button-down shirt with a dull yellow tie. He shook my hand and introduced himself as Mr. Garrett, the Assistant Principal in charge of community outreach and the family advocate for the school. We walked back into his office and I sat across from him, placing the envelope on his desk.
I told him that I was Leah’s father and that my daughter, who was a straight-A individual, received this letter from the school saying that she was lacking conduct and in some type of risk of having her grades suffer. Mr. Garrett glared at me, his face incredibly tense. I could tell that something was wrong. I put the letter into his hands and he read it. He folded the letter back up and stuffed it into the envelope, excusing himself from the room. I tried to get him to sit back down and explain himself, but he told me to stay put as he left the room and I heard the overhead speakers call for my daughter to the front office.
When he returned, he did so with the police and my daughter. I stood up and now, full of a quick-drawn, overwhelming anger brought on by my confusion, slammed my fist onto the desk, demanding answers, knocking Mr. Garret’s name plate over the close edge of the desk onto the floor. Mr. Garrett sat Leah and myself down again and took a deep breath, preparing himself for whatever it is that he had to tell us. It took him a minute to compose his words before he finally spoke.
He explained that the school does not send letters home for conduct like this and that they hadn’t in many years since email was obviously a much easier route. He also told us that there is no teacher at the school currently named Mr. Allen, but there had been one only a few years ago. He had been fired and arrested for stalking, attacking, and forcing himself on one of the female students. I asked how he was able to stamp the envelope and I saw the large Adams apple in Mr. Garrett’s throat bounce as he gulped. He said that this was the reason he brought Leah back into the office. That somehow this man must have been able to get back into the building which meant that he could be there now. Furious, I asked how this could have happened and why was he sending letters about my daughter. I screamed, demanding to know how many times this sick-o might have been in the building, watching my Leah. Mr. Garrett explained that it was exactly what happened to the last girl Mr. Allen had preyed upon and that he doesn’t know. The police were quietly searching the building as we spoke and the security cameras were still being checked. He assured me that they would get to the bottom of this and that my daughter was safe there at the school – words I simply could not believe as he said them.
The police couldn’t find anything too suspicious around the building initially. I asked Mr. Garrett what Mr. Allen used to teach and if my daughter was in his old classroom at all. He asked the police to specifically search room 121 and that is where they found what made me make the decision to pull my daughter from the school, never to go back. The police were able to move away a part of the wall in the classroom closet, tucked away behind a small bookshelf which led to a small alcove. Inside they found food wrappers, an air mattress and an assortment of pens and paper…and envelopes stamped with the school press.
Leah never went back to that school and the story made the local news. They didn’t find this Allen guy, but I get a feeling he isn’t too far away. A real good feeling. I got another letter today. Just like the last.
But this time, it was taped to my front door.