Butch Remembers His Students At Reform School
Many of you didn’t know this, but many years ago, right after I graduated from Purdue, I taught one semester at A.S.S.M…the American School for Student Misfits. It was a reform school for students who had been expelled from their regular school for behavioral problems, and had subsequently been adjudicated as juvenile delinquents. As their new teacher, I had to really keep a watch out on them at all times, as they were quite a load to handle. Let me tell you about some of these kids…
Joey was 13 years old and a very likeable boy. He was a good athlete, but not very bright. He hated to study and had been held back three times…stuck in the 5th grade. He was finally expelled for good when the teacher caught him using someone else’s crib notes hidden in his hand, and she saw him squinting really hard…trying to see the answers on another boy’s test. Being popular, he put his name in for class president, but when it was time to give his speech to the class, the teacher found him hiding in the boy’s restroom in the basement.
Joey’s best friend was Barry, a skinny little African-American boy who was very smart and provided Joey with cheat sheets. Barry had been caught by his teacher smoking pot, and the police had arrested him. He hated all cops and kept saying that he would get back at them some day. Barry was also very sneaky and made snide comments about the other White kids when they weren’t around. His only other friends were two African-American girls…Maxine and Kami, and one White girl named Nancy. Maxine was just outright vicious and hateful to everyone. Kami was kind of goofy and giggled all the time, while Nancy always wore expensive dresses and jewelry and acted “uppity” like she was better than anyone else…but Barry was always nice to all three.
The other girl in my class was a chubby little gal named Hillary. She was very smart and always wanted to compete against the boys. But I soon found out that she absolutely hated to lose at anything, and if she did not finish first or have the highest grade, she could be quite vengeful. She did quite well most of the time, but one day she lost a math contest to a little red-haired boy by the name of Donny. She threw a fit and claimed that he had cheated. And then she started some very nasty rumors about little Donny, all of which she had made up. I finally had to put her out in the hallway to cool off.
Now Donny came from a wealthy family, and he was very intelligent. But he was a very independent little boy and no one could tell him what to do. He was very brash and also often bragged about how much money he had. At his regular school, instead of playing sports at recess, he talked the other kids into playing Monopoly with real money, and he was estatic when buying and selling properties, and collecting rent from all the other players. When these kids told their parents how much money they had lost, the principal expelled Donny.
Another very popular boy in my class was Billy, who sometimes liked to hang out with Hillary. He pretended to like her, but while she was busy planning revenge on her enemies at recess, little Billy chased all of the pretty girls out on the playground. When he caught them, he made them give him a kiss before he would let go. In fact, that’s why he was expelled from his regular school after several of the girls’ parents complained and they threatened legal action.
There were three students in my class who I would say were just “weird.” They were Bernie, Elizabeth, and Beto. Bernie had a big mouth and always wore red T-shirts with the Russian symbol on it…very strange! Elizabeth kept telling the other students that she was a Native American. Of course, when no one believed her, she had a little temper tantrum and threw a tomahawk at one girl…barely missing her. She had been expelled from her regular school for threatening the teacher with a bow and arrow. Now little Beto was just an oddball if I ever saw one. Sometimes he would just sit there and stare into space. He had been expelled from his regular school for using LSD.
Well, that’s a few of my reform school students for you. After that semester, I was fortunate enough to get a job teaching right here in Montgomery County, Indiana. All of my students were normal little kids who knew right from wrong, behaved in the classroom, and got along with each other just fine. I never saw any of my former reform school students again, but a few years ago a friend told me that all of them had finally graduated…and all of them had become politicians….Can you believe that?
John “Butch” Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 32 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history