“Dad?” I called tentatively from the other side of the living room.
“Yes.” He replied from the corner of the couch, behind the newspaper he was reading.
“Uhmm. I need to, uhh, ask you something.”
With a quick flip of his wrist, my dad folded one corner of the paper towards himself revealing his face to me. The other half of the paper, closest to the lamp on the end table, still up in the air caused a shadow to fall on his face. I couldn't tell if he was annoyed or concerned.
“I uhh. I need you to. What I am trying.” I muttered trying to find the right way to ask.
“Spit it out Mumbles.” He called me mumbles whenever I, well, mumbled my words.
“IneedyoutocometoschoolnextweekandmeetwithMr.DeLorenzotheassistantprincipalsoIcangetoutofasuspension.” I blurted.
My dad lowered the other half of the paper and asked for an explanation. I was his 6th kid. It wasn't the first time he was asked to stop by for a conference and it certainly wasn’t going to be the last. I explained the situation and my dad rolled his eyes. I could not tell if he was rolling them at me or rolling them about the whys and the whos.
The following week I was called out of one of my early classes and told to go the assistant principal’s office. As I passed the giant school mascot statue in the main hall I could see my father through the plate glass window that separated the offices from the hallways. I was overcome with a sense of dread. Up until that point I had never, ever, been in trouble in school. I was a good student. I don’t mean that I was getting As and Bs, I mean that I was a good kid. Most teachers liked me. I participated in extracurricular activities. I was on the student government. I was a good kid.
I followed my dad down to Mr. De Lorenzo’s office. Mr. De Lorenzo was on the phone. He waived us in and gestured for us to sit down in the chairs across from his desk. A few minutes later he hung up the phone.
“Thanks for coming in today.” Mr. De Lorenzo said smiling like a cat that ate a canary. “Did your son tell you why I asked you to come in?”
“Yes.” My dad replied. He then went on to repeat the story I had told him. “Apparently my son was working on planning the sophomore class trip, a ski trip to Jack Frost Mountain. He and the other officers collected money from all the students that were interested, made arrangements for the buses, planned the whole trip. You, Mr. De Lorenzo, as the class council supervisor, were supposed to send a deposit check to the ski resort in order to book the place. You never mailed the check. Two weeks before the trip the ski resort called and canceled because they were overbooked. My son was frustrated and apparently made a disrespectful remark about you, which you overheard.”
“Actually, your son, called me an idiot.” The assistant principal clarified.
“I know what he said.” My dad responded. “What is the punishment for a student calling a teacher or yourself a name like that?”
“Well, according to the disciplinary code, they would receive one day of an In-School Suspension.” Mr. De Lorenzo said with a smug look on his face.
“Then that should be the punishment Bill gets.” My dad stood, turned towards the door.
“I didn't call you an idiot.” I argued before my dad could leave. “I told another member of the class council that I thought you were an idiot for not mailing the check. You just happened to over hear me say it. I was not being disrespectful directly towards you. I was just giving my opinion.”
“Bill.” My dad interrupted. “You heard the man. In-School Suspension for one day is the punishment. Do I need to sign something Mr. De Lorenzo?”
“No, but you don’t have anything to say about what your son did? What he said?”
“No.” my dad answered.
“But the reason I asked you to come down here was because I don’t have to give him the suspension, I can reduce the punishment to just a detention. I just wanted to ask you your opinion on the matter.” Mr. De Lorenzo sat back in his chair and placed his hands behind his head. He leaned way back in the chair as if he wanted to watch my dad ask him for forgiveness and a lesser punishment for me.
“If what Bill said requires an In-School Suspension, then suspend him.”
Mr. De Lorenzo sat up in his chair. “So you agree that what Bill said was wrong?”
"You asked that I come down here so you could hand-out his punishment. I am missing doing my job so you can do yours." My dad looked at me he then looked at the assistant principal. “My son is entitled to his opinion. If voicing his opinion gets him trouble, so be it. He has to learn.”
Mr. De Lorenzo’s face went red. “But you don’t’ think he was wrong?”
“I just told you he will serve the suspension." My dad said and locked eyes with Mr. De Lorenzo. "You have here a boy who is on the class council trying to do right by his class and school. He doesn't have to do that. He also participates in student council, football, and other extra curricular activities. He got frustrated with you because you were supposed to do your job and you didn't. You want to suspend him, and possibly chase him away from giving back to the school because of ego. Your ego. I am not defending Bill right now just because he is my son, I would defend any kid in his position. But because he is my son he will serve the suspension. I will not admit that Bill was wrong for voicing his opinion in this situation."
“And why is that?” Mr. De Lorenzo asked.
My dad smiled at me. “Because I happen to agree with his opinion.” and my dad walked out of the office.
Three days later I served my In-School Suspension. I smiled the entire time.