Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Theft

I was a P.E. teacher today in a middle school, where the sport of the day was dodge ball. I got to hit middle schoolers in their groins and I also got to fill out a police report--an eventful day! The police report had to do with my iPod and all of the money in my wallet being stolen from the teacher's office in the locker room. I'll try to recap what happened, but I find it a weird coincidence that I am also reading "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoevsky. I'm not far into the book, but he gets incredibly deep into so many aspects of crime--the good, the bad, the why, the how--that my mind is still racing with all of the implications from the theft today.

My story starts just finishing up lunch in the teacher's office located adjacent to the boy's locker room. The bell rings for 4th period to start, and I put my things away while the first few boys get into the locker room. There are two open doors between the teacher's office and the locker room, and as I'm putting my iPod into my jacket pocket, I wonder if it is a good idea to do this in view of a few students, but I figure it'll be alright. The other male gym teacher and I usher out all but a few stragglers from the locker room and start taking roll.

Fifty minutes later, class has gone just fine, until I notice after all of the students have left the locker room for their next classes, that the pocket to my jacket is unzipped. Fuck. I check the pocket and my keys are there, but my iPod is gone. I check my other pocket with my wallet, and everything is there except for the cash (which I guessed to be $10-$40). My season's pass to Stevens is still in the upper pocket. There are four new dum-dums on the chair my jacket was hanging on, a parting gift from the thief? Funny.

I immediately go tell the other gym teachers, and they can't believe it. The older teacher says he thinks he knows who was in the locker room--the two Hispanic kids who asked for ice and then disappeared. I remember them heading into the locker room, but I also remember a few stragglers coming out late from the start of the period, and I really don't think the Hispanic kids had anything to do with it. The older gym teacher and I walk to the main office (5th period is luckily the prep period for gym) and on the way just happen to run into the on-duty police officer for the school. I explain to him what has happened and we go find the two Hispanic kids who are in the lunch room (this school staggers lunches for 4th and 5th period, depending on the grade). The older teacher immediately has the two Hispanic kids come with him and the officer to the officer's room to discuss what happened. They deny any involvement, and I feel awkward, but I am also pissed for having my stuff stolen. I continue asking around in the lunchroom, knowing that most likely the thief is in the room, and I'm trying to pick up on anyone acting differently, even though I have no idea who most of the kids are, or if they were even in one of the gym classes (I only worked with half of the students in 5th period gym). Realizing walking around the lunch room asking for my stolen iPod wasn't a good use of my time, I made my way to the officer's room.

The older gym teacher had left, and it was just the officer and the two kids in his office, and the officer was interrogating the two students about what happened and why they were in the locker room. They said they were getting ice for one of them who sprained his ankle, and that they didn't know anything about the stolen iPod. The officer thought he caught them, and said, "What stolen iPod? I never told you what was stolen" But the two kids said the older teacher and I had told them in the lunch room, which of course I had, and felt stupid about now, making it harder for the officer to do his job.

Again, I felt uncomfortable having these two kids being interrogated by the officer, because I knew their story checked out, and they really did not seem like the type of kids to do this. But the officer didn't share my view, and he kept asking the two students repeating questions. I got more uncomfortable, until the officer eventually said he knew that the two students had more to tell that they weren't telling. The students finally said that they saw two other boys in the teacher's office when they went to the locker room looking for ice. They named the two boys after more prodding, and the officer radio'd for someone else (another officer?) to go grab those two kids.

K came in first, and the officer asked him if he knew anything about a theft in gym class. He denied knowing anything. The officer had the two Hispanic kids tell their story again, this time with K in the room. K again denied any involvement. The officer said, "I've been doing this for a long time, K, and I know when someone is lying, or not giving me the entire story. What happened?" K eventually said the other kid had given him the iPod, and he had slipped it into his friend A's purse at lunch. The officer called for the girl to be brought down to his office.

A arrived next, and she had her purse with her. The officer asked her if she had an iPod, and she said that K had given her one at lunch, but she didn't know whose it was. The officer took the iPod from her, and handed it to me (and it was mine, same style, same music, same distinct dent in the corner). The officer continued to question K and A, and letting them know the severity of their actions, being accomplices, etc.

Eventually the boy who K accused of giving him my iPod showed up. S completely denied everything, and the officer again had the two Hispanic boys tell their story, and then had K tell his side of the story. S continued to deny everything. K said he only received the iPod from S, and that K had no idea where any money was. The officer put a lot of pressure on S to fess up to the theft, including expulsion from school and criminal charges. This is when he had all of us except S fill out incident reports of what happened. I went back to the gym to fill mine out, to make sure no credit cards or anything else was taken. When I arrive back in the officer's room, all of the students but K and S had been allowed to go. S was in tears, and had admitted to taking my money and iPod. S and I go back to the gym and he gets me my cash from his gym locker.

There are so many frustrating and weird things about this experience.

First, I feel partly to blame, because not only did I allow for a student to see me putting an iPod away, but the other gym teacher and I left the teacher's office open. I feel like the opportunity to steal my iPod was way too tempting to pass up for this kid. I know it isn't my fault, but still, as an educator I value prevention, and I did very little prevention in this instance, and it ends in a kid getting expelled from school.

When I first found out my iPod had been stolen, I thought there might be a 5% chance of getting it back. We jumped from two kids we knew were in the locker room, to a kid who had been handed the iPod and stashed it in another student's purse, to the actual thief. There is no way we go from A to B to C without truth-telling from A and B. The pressure applied by the officer seemed very surgical, and he had a very keen sense for when the students were withholding information, it was very interesting to observe. I also feel very lucky to have my iPod and money back.

It turns out that the kid who originally stole my iPod already has a record of theft (at age 12). Not terribly surprising, but I wonder what will come of this. It seems like this incident could be a good thing for this child if it shows him that there are consequences for his actions. If he does this when he is 18, the outcome will be a lot worse, so maybe there is time for him to change before he becomes an adult. I think the statistics are against that change for him, but I hope at least some good comes out of this, because when I left the school I felt, besides great work on the cop's part, nothing good came out of this whole ordeal.

The kid who stole my iPod and I had a few minutes of walking to the gym and back together, and another few minutes in the officer's office together alone, and I had no idea what to say, so I didn't say anything. I felt sorry for the kid. One part of me wanted to ask him why he did it, but I knew I wouldn't be happy with the response however he answered. I wonder what will go through this kid's mind tonight. Will he wonder what he can do better next time to not get caught? I wonder if his parents are going to beat his ass. All could have been prevented by me just locking the teacher's door like I do at nearly every other school. Sigh. But if it didn't happen today, the kid probably would have stolen from someone else, and maybe he wouldn't have gotten caught.

3 Comments:

Blogger SirFWALGMan said...

Seriously stop being a liberal ass fucking enabler. Goddamn kid stole your iPod. I do not care if you left it on the desk in front of him. HE stole it. I don't care if he eats bugs off the floor because his momma can not afford food. HE stole it. It was his decision not yours.

He probably is going to be a thief his whole life because he did not learn the first time he got caught.

If you feel so bad for him then stop crying in your fucking frosted O's and do something to mentor him.. otherwise just write him off as some scumbag kid with a bad upbringing or morally corrupt dickweed and go on with your life.

8:08 AM  
Blogger MHG said...

Honkey, Honkey!

Your conservative East Coast bias is at it again, you non-fucking lint licker! I don't like frosted O's, and I'm not a role model (or mentor), just like Charles Barkley.

I feel sorry for the kid. I'm not condoning his actions and his lying, but the likelihood that his upbringing has been terrible, and that his father (if he has one still around), is a big reason for him being in the situation he's in right now, and that sucks ass. It isn't the kid's fault he has a shitty dad, or no dad at all.

4:14 PM  
Blogger GeneGinny said...

All's well that ends well?
Lesson learned, I hope.

4:31 PM  

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