Deidre Collins was enjoying the click of her freshly manicured nails across the keyboard of her personal computer. She did not know what she enjoyed more about her day off, the invigorating wash, blow dry and curl at Prim Rose Beauty Salon, the luxury of having someone else do her nails or the leisure time she had to delete old e-mails and drift through cyberspace. By the third page of e-mail scams and spam, Deidre was saving time by clicking the button to select all the mail on that page and purging them unless something in the message line prompted her to open it. The top line of page four read, Finding Nympho. She wondered how the web master of this site could get away with exploiting a wholesome Disney title to sell filth. That would be all her fourteen year old son, De Andre, would need to see before his curiosity would have him viewing a lot of things she has tried as a God fearing parent to keep him from. Lord knows he was on the computer more than she cared to be. The devil is everywhere, she thought to herself as she checked the parental control options.
Just as Deidre was about to delete page four, an email caught her attention with a message bar that read, Tardy Notice from Pemberton Middle School. She had remembered thinking how progressive the school systems had gotten when they asked for e-mail and cell phone information on the parent contact form at the beginning of the year. She read the informing her that De Andre was tardy for school on March 19th. That was over a month ago. She wondered why they hadn’t called. Then she remembered that DeAndre typically came in two hours before her. Naturally he had erased the message with no intentions on telling her. She knew her son, he wasn’t a saint. Lately his behavior wasn’t even close.
Deidre examined her e-mails more closely. She found two more tardy notices, March 28th and April 15th. Despite feeling angry, she couldn’t help but feeling a little guilty about not checking her messages more regularly. And when was the last time she had been to his school to check on him? She had only been to Pemberton Middle school twice since he started there last year as a seventh grader.
Deidre couldn’t understand what was stopping DeAndre from getting to school on time. After winning the battle of getting him out of bed each morning, all he had to do was walk a few yards to the bus stop and get on. She purposely worked the swing shift, from 11a.m. to 7p.m., at least three times a week to make sure he was prepared for the day. Most of the time she left nothing to his imagination in regards to what she expected from him when he came in by himself in the afternoon. Head nods and barely audible grunts let Deidre know he had at least heard her to-do lists. God knows how many other notices she had deleted in her haste to empty her e-mail box.
Deidre was up before DeAndre this morning to make her nine a.m. hair appointment and was sitting in the nail shop by 12:30. Her best girlfriend’s wedding was the next day for which she was an attendant. The latter didn’t thrill her in the way she would have been in her twenties or if she was married herself by her present age of thirty eight.
The single phone line she used for both the telephone and the computer rang the moment she logged off of the internet. It was probably Sheila asking her to pick up yet another thing she or her overpriced wedding coordinator forgot.
“Hello, I’m trying to reach Mrs. Hicks. This is Jeff Riley, the principal at Pemberton Middle School where her son, DeAndre, attends.”
“This is Ms. Collins. I am DeAndre’s mother.” Deidre’s upper body tensed the way a person would in preparation for receiving a shot.
“Ms. Collins, DeAndre has gotten himself into trouble and I was wondering if it were possible for you to come down to the school and pick him up.”
“I don’t understand. Are you saying he’s been kicked out of school?”
“Yes ma’am, he will be suspended.”
“Excuse me.” Deidre yielded to a short coughing spell from the lump rising in her throat. “What did he do?”
“This is why we want you to come in. When a child has been suspended, we have what is known as an exit conference where the school explains the circumstances surrounding the suspension.”
“That is what I am asking you. Why was he suspended?”
“It allows you to meet with a team that includes DeAndre’s teachers and counselor, so that there are many perspectives on how DeAndre can be more effective when he returns to school.” He continued as if he didn’t hear her question.
“And when will he be able to return, Mr. Riley?”
“The day De Andre will be permitted back to school will also be explained at the conference. Rather than upset you further on the phone, it would be best if we sit down and discuss his conduct in detail.”
“Are you telling me you’re kicking my child out of school, but cannot tell me why over the phone?”
“Calm down, Mrs. Hicks. Is transportation a problem?”
“It’s Ms. Collins, DeAndre’s father and I aren’t married. To answer your question, transportation is not a problem. Mr. Riley, I am a supportive parent and I am also a Christian. You can be assured that before I leave for the school I will be praying for an outcome that aligns with my faith. Just like you have prepared your team to be a united front when I arrive, I would like to be equally prepared.
“He’s being suspended for sexual harrasment.”
“I’ll be right there.”