I was a student at Ramapo High School. I was on the combined basketball team and I played the trumpet. I had a routine: school in the morning then right after school straight to work. I take public transportation or I walk in order to get to my destinations.
I’d leave for school early in the morning carrying two book bags and sometimes my instrument. I rarely had time to make a quick stop home to drop off anything. Everyday was a long day, I may have not been the best student but that was my challenge, to keep up with everything improve on my grades and make time for extra help after school. I was aiming to achieve my goal be proud of myself and for my parents to see how much of an independent young woman I am.
One day, while going from one class to the next, my pocket knife fell on the ground. I picked it up and put it away, but a teacher followed me and spoke to me asking if I was in danger or if I was being harmed in any way. I responded saying no. I wanted to be left alone so I could go to class because I was worried about being late.
I got to my bio class and got started on the packet that was at my seat, when I saw the same teacher who spoke to me & numerous security guards in the hallway. They escorted me to the assistant principal. I’m told to give up my pocket knife, I say no you don’t understand why I have this I need it. I’m told that if I don’t give it up I will be arrested. I kept trying to explain my reason for carrying it in the first place. They explained to me that because the superintendent is on a strict no weapons policy its out of their hands to actually do anything.
After the conversation, my mom arrives. They explain to her what happened, due to the fact that English is not her first language it was difficult for her to understand. Me and my mom were escorted to clean out my locker. I went to the band room to get my instrument where a teacher wished me good luck on my situation. I went to spring valley high school to clean out my basketball locker and to return the uniforms. The people that I knew there were confused as to why I got in so much trouble they had also wished me good luck and told me to do the best I can.
In the car I got a very long speech from my mom, she was very angry and upset. My reason for carrying the small pocket knife has NOTHING to do with school. It is because I take public transportation or I walk in order to get to my destinations. There had been way too many times a stranger had approached me in their vehicles demanding me to get in the car asking if i need a ride or asking if they could talk to me. I’ve also been in situations when they decide to follow me. I feel that I’ve been so lucky to still make it home safe and sound with all these problematic events taking place. That’s why I decided to get a pocket knife to protect myself.
I had a hearing at the central district building. I had some support that attended as well, my supervisor from work and a woman that used to be my dance instructor and my mom. These people took the time off work to support me. I was recorded answering questions and reading my statement.
The hearing officer explained the weapons policy on school grounds and that this is the superintendent’s rule. The AP made a recommendation that I be out of school for 1 year and when I return I would be on pass restriction, meaning if I need to use the bathroom or leave the classroom for any reason “it must be an absolute emergency”, and social restriction, meaning I cant join any after school activities.
The AP stated that if he did not make these recommendations it would seem as if he wasn’t doing his job. The superintendent was able to make these decisions about me although she was not present during the hearing. I’ve never got to speak to her in person.
It took a while to get a steady schedule with my “tutors”. Months went by of struggling with tons of homework, not learning anything, and constantly behind. I was told to do the work the best I can. I received letters saying I was failing classes or in danger of failing. I wasn’t able to do any labs for bio class because i had to be in the classroom to do them but if I’m not allowed in the school how can the work be completed? I asked multiple times how will I be able to do the labs so I can be able to take the lab regents, I was told they would work something out but NOTHING was in motion. I did as much work as I could. I received a letter at home saying I did not meet the lab requirements therefore I cant take the regents, but there will be a test I have to take but I wont receive regents credit.
I took a bio final during class with my “tutor” or should I say while under supervision. I took my other regents at the Martin Luther King center. The teachers did not have the test. They said nothing had been ready, they had to wait till they prepared the test to bring to the center. The test was supposed to begin at 11:30 but we started way later than that. I did not say anything I just did the test as best as I could. The teachers themselves even said there is lack of communication. It’s not fair to the teachers trying to do their jobs who are not fully being told everything, making it difficult for them. They constantly had to make phone calls.
What bothers me is that many people want to say how school should be the youth’s main focus, and that we need to strive for greatness, but here I am crying out for help and the best advice I could get is “do your best”. I truly feel alone. I am a minor that needs help from an adult. I am a young black woman who actually cares about her education.