Confessions of an Urban Principal/ Of Angels and Fallen Boys
by Frank Murphy
Installment (2 of 9)
Today I received a call from a school police investigator. He asked me if I had a five-year-old student by the name of Jared or Jarod White. I told him that we did have a Jared White-Miller enrolled in our first grade. The investigator asked me to check and see whether the boy was in school.
The assignment of this school police officer was to monitor the Philadelphia Police radio. He had heard a call for a patrol car to investigate a report of a five-year-old boy falling out of a third floor window of a house. The address of this residence was located near our school.
The school district officer said, “I’m checking to see if he is one of our kids. It doesn’t sound good. According to the 911 call, he landed in a cement backyard.”
There are several White-Miller siblings in our school, a first grader, second grader, fourth grader and seventh grader. Initially, I thought I was receiving this alert so that I could arrange counseling support for the siblings of this child. I was impressed by this central office display of sensitivity to the needs of our school.
After an aide made a quick check, we determined that all of our enrolled White-Millers were accounted for and safe. I personally talked to Jared the five-year-old first grade student. From him, I learned that he had a four-year-old brother named Jarod, who was at home.
This information I shared with the investigator. I expected him to respond by saying that a crisis response team would be deployed to the school. That would make sense, since I was sure that the brothers and sister of the injured child would be traumatized when they were told of his fall. Instead the officer simply thanked me for the information that I had provided.
He concluded our conversation by stating, “It doesn’t look like the boy is one of ours.”
As soon as I hung up the phone I realized that there wouldn’t be any crises response team coming to Meade. The inquiry of the school police officer wasn’t about offering our school assistance. It was about gathering information that Paul Vallas might use in responding to a reporters inquiry.
The public relations office of the Vallas administration has a reputation for putting a positive spin to every story. I had just received a first hand glimpse of how they work. They needed facts so that they could plan an appropriate response from Mr. Vallas in case it was needed. The police officer that had called me was assigned to gather the information that the press office needed. He had accomplished his mission.
Later in the day, the aunt of the White-Millers came into the main office. She was there to pick up her nephews and niece. I engaged her in a conversation. She told me that it had indeed been the younger brother who had fallen out of the window. According to her account the boy was banged up but he was going to be all right. His mother was still at the hospital with him.
This is how I learned of the outcome of this story. I didn’t hear back from the school police or any other school district officer regarding this accident.
Just before lunch Ms Sample pulled a document from the day’s mail. She said, “Take a look at this.”
It was a copy of a letter from the regional superintendent to Christie Sims. He stated that he was granting her request to transfer her two daughters to another neighborhood school. Oddly, I felt no emotion as I read his letter. The departure of these two girls will be good for the school. It will put an end to the troubles that they were creating almost everyday. Whether it will be good for them, remains to be seen.
The rest of the day was peaceful. It was only inches away from the finish line, when a fight broke out. Samuel was one of the combatants. I was not happy. It seemed like he wasn’t getting what I had been saying to him about staying out of trouble.
It was three-forty p.m. when our school police officer brought him into my office. At five p.m. Samuel and his parents were due to be at family court. This was the day of his hearing pertaining to the charges, which had resulted from his fight with the twins. It was unbelievable that at this time he had chosen to be in another foolish street fight. Talking to him was becoming an exasperating experience for me.
When we met, he once again acted as though there was nothing wrong. I wasn’t in the mood to play mind games with him. I cut our conversation short. I just wanted to be done for the day. I was tired of dealing with hardheaded and troubled people.
Monday started fast. Many parents were waiting to see me. The pace stayed hurried throughout the day. The Sims girls did not come to school. Later in the morning there was a call from the Regional Office. The secretary there requested that we transfer the records of Christie’s girls to another school.
Around noon there was a lull in the action. I took a break. Someone had left a copy of Saturday’s Daily News on my desk. In it was an account of the White-Miller boy’s fall. The reporter didn’t mention angels but after reading the article, I was convinced that a divine intervention had occurred at this child’s home last Friday.
The four-year old boy had fallen out of a third floor window.
He landed on a second floor roof then he fell again to the concrete ground of the backyard. At that point he should have been trapped in the fenced-in yard. But some how he managed to climb a six feet tall cyclone fence, which was topped with razor wire. The boy’s shredded clothes were found snagged in the razor wire.
The next-door neighbor to the White-Miller boy ‘s home had heard some scraping sounds at her back door. She thought it was a stray cat, and had ignored it.
Once he was free of the yard the boy had wandered for several blocks. Two facilities workers from Temple University discovered him standing in a vacant lot. He was wearing only the torn remnants of his underpants.
When the workers took him back to his home, the adult who greeted them at the door begged them not to call the police. They did. Officials from the Department of Human Services are conducting an investigation. Other than for some bruises, minor scrapes and cuts, the boy was uninjured.