‘My place. My people. Peace.’

‘My place. My people. Peace.’

One 13-year-old discovers that in-school suspension means being banished to a space where one must read, think, write, and draw quietly. In other words? Heaven.

BRATTLEBORO — The first time I went to in-school suspension I was innocent.

I'm not saying I'd never smoked in the girl's room. But that time I didn't.

In-school was a revelation, though. I found my student spirit home there.

Once I tasted the academic, intellectual, and social freedoms of in-school, I spent the rest of public-high-school hell going back - as much as possible. And I had to see the principal before each trip. So we were buddies.

* * *

In-school happened in a dilapidated construction trailer out back of the campus.

Inmates “had to miss gym class.”

We “could not eat in the cafeteria.”

Approved activities were “silent reading, drawing, writing, and sleeping at one's desk - with minimal social interaction.” Lunch was - honest-to-goodness - wheeled over on a cart and placed on our desks. We got coffee and smoke breaks - once in the morning, once in the afternoon.

The staff person who ran the joint was mellow and forgiving. A kind person. There were rumors she drank. She did. She'd gently remonstrate with us for a few minutes, then wink and turn on her stories. Days of Our Lives came on at 1 p.m.

I read everything. I wrote volumes. I was 13. I was safe from my peers and from, god help us, English teachers. I “had” to read, think, write, and draw quietly the entire school day.


It was heaven.

* * *

The school kindly and efficiently listed in its student handbook exactly what steps a student could take to get put on in-school.

There were 10 worthy infractions. My favorites were pulling the fire alarm and smoking in the girls' room.

No one actually got too upset about those, and the results were reliable: I would get a three-day vaca at in-school.

My place. My people. Peace.

After yet another 10-minute chat with my buddy, the principal.

I wonder if he knew I needed the refuge.

I would've committed greater crimes to escape school hell.

Maybe he realized this was the better way.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates