The three Rs: readin’, ‘riting and restraints

Jackson, Mississippi –  A public school district has agreed to end a disciplinary policy of handcuffing students to fixed objects as punishment, in a deal worked out between the district and the Southern Poverty Law Center, representing five of the district’s students.

The policy came to light last year, when a 19-year-old student at Jackson’s Capital City Alternative School spoke out after being handcuffed to a railing for having his shirt untucked.

“When you get uncuffed it’s 5 or 6 in the afternoon. After school. Sometimes you don’t even get to eat lunch,” the student told a reporter for

The school’s principal, in her deposition, admitted she personally developed the policy nearly 10 years ago, adding that the practice was done in good faith, and for student safety.

Changing classes in the hall at Any High School, Anywhere, U.S.A. …

“That wouldn’t be a loose shoestring I’d be looking at down there, now would it, Master Waterman? Tell me I’m just seeing things, lad.”

The voice was delivered with the lyrical, lilting accent of the Irish and while easy on the ears, it still sliced through the bustling din of the passing students. The young offender heard it, and his name, and knew for whom the question tolled. Looking down, one of the laces of his Converse high-tops had worked loose from the other, dangling and dancing unfettered on the hallway floor.

“You’re seeing things, Mr. O’Grady.”

“Clever, very clever,” O’Grady said, leaving his leaning place across the hall and approaching the boy. “But what have I told you so many times before about being so clever?”

“Uh, it could land me a guest spot on Conan O’Brien’s show?”

“No, no I don’t recall saying that,” the metalshop teacher said with a pained smile. “I believe it was the more clever you are, the more in trouble you’ll be finding yourself. Yes, I believe that was it.”

“So, what do you suppose I’m to do with a student careening down the halls, flaunting the dress code here at Anywhere High, and flapping a shoestring to and fro?”

“Awwwwww c’mon, Mr. O’Grady, not the handcuffs,” the boy pleaded. “Not again. Last time you cuffed me to a water fountain for having my zipper half down and you went on vacation for a week, with the key!”

“An innocent oversight on my part, I assure you, lad.”

“Yeah, well lucky for me you hooked me to a water fountain in the Home Economics wing. But not so lucky for me I had to promise to take Beulah Buckerstaff out on a date so she’d give me the banana bread she made in Baking Basics 101!”

“That was very industrious of you.”

“You’ve obviously never had any of Beulah’s banana bread, or looked very closely at her.”

“Well, that’s all in the past, lad,” O’Grady said. “And you must admit it was a valuable learning experience for you. I haven’t once seen your fly down since then.”

“I glued all of them shut.”

“OK, enough small talk, my boy,” O’Grady continued. “It’s time you learned another lesson in life, provided free of charge for committing such a ghastly act of recklessness.”

“The cuffs, again? Can I at least choose where I go? I’d like to serve my time linked to one of the lockers outside the girl’s locker room. Closer to the door, the better, I mean, the more heinous.”

“Ah, I’m afraid that an untied shoe is a far more dangerous transgression, son. What if you’d tripped, fallen on another student and crushed the person? No, I’m afraid a simple cuffing won’t do this time.”

“So what will do?”

“I’m afraid it’s The Hole for you, this time.”

“The Hole? The Hole? We have a The Hole?”

“One of the finest. Nothing but the best, and the deepest, for you, lad.”


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