I didn't know what the difference between assault and battery was until Latrell pushed me today.
When the principal told me that Latrell got charged with battery I had to ask him what that meant. He sort of raised his eyebrows at me and said "battery is when you push a teacher into a wall."
Latrell is a good kid. This is my second year teaching him. He's on the football team and he's really a gentle and sweet boy. His girlfriend is in the same period as him and they sometimes hold hands under the desks. Last year Latrell had a sort of joke in my class where he would call himself the best 'something' in America. "Don't worry about my homework," he would say, "I'm the best homework doer in America."
Today we were watching a movie in class and Travaris Martin walked up to Latrell and said something to him. I'm not sure what. It was at sort of a low volume and I might not have even noticed if I wasn't watching. All of a sudden they both stood up and I knew that meant they were about to threaten each other and eventually fight. I watched them for a few moments before I made a move hoping that it would diffuse on its own. I glanced at the computers near them and worried that they might topple one over and break it. I got up and turned on the lights in the classroom.
"Let's go, boys" I said and opened the door. They ignored me and kept sort of puffing out there chests the way that boys do when they want to be strong. I walked over to them. Latrell walked out of the room backwards while spewing threatening words toward Travaris. I walked him toward the door and Travaris followed. I grabbed my keys and told the class I would be right back and closed the door behind me.
In the hallway it was just me and the two boys. They started coming toward each other again and I got in between the two of them. They were coming toward each other harder and I was squished in between their bodies. Things started moving faster. Before I knew it the rest of the class had come outside and were yelling things at the boys. I was shouting at them to stop and getting sort of tossed around in between them. Latrell didn't look at me once, but I kept looking into his eyes "Latrell, stop. Latrell, stop." He finally spoke to me, but was still looking past me, "Get the fuck out of my way, girl!" he said and shoved me against the wall.
When security came the guards grabbed both boys and took them away to the detention room. "What do you want to do?" the guard asked me. "What do you mean?" I asked. "You want to press charges, right?" he said.
I didn't say anything.
Three hours later I did. I cried a lot first. Not because I got pushed. It didn't hurt. I cried because I didn't want to send Latrell to jail. I didn't want to send another black kid from my school to jail. I didn't want to put him in an environment that can only make him worse. But I had to.
I had to set the precedent that says "if you touch a teacher, you're out."
I had to.