Mrs. Sims, the vice-principal,
calls the team together
and informs us that Michael,
who averages three referrals a week,
will be moving to California
to live with his father.

Officially, this is his last day; however,
his mother has requested that Michael
attend school on Monday,
since she has to work,
which translates into babysitting.

Sims says Administration is thinking
of going along with this, but wants our feedback.
Going around the table, five of his teachers
think that one more day isn’t going to matter.

When it’s my turn, I tell them
now Michael doesn’t have any ownership in the school.
He will do whatever he wants.
This is like welcoming a shark
into our aquarium.

His referrals have been escalating
from intimidation to fighting. I’ve witnessed
students don’t want to be anywhere near him.
With all the school shootings,
I believe we are safer if he isn’t here.

A social studies teacher tells me
she thinks I am overreacting.
I tell her I see the signs—
a thunderstorm brewing,
a coiled rattler ready to strike.

After teaching in the state prisons,
then twenty years in public schools,
I listen to my intuition. My gut tells me
hurricane flags are flying.

I leave the meeting a majority of one.

Come Monday, we learn
Michael stabbed a man
at the transit station
and was taken into custody.

Those from the meeting dive deep into denial.
They don’t have the integrity to look me in the eye
or acknowledge my assessment was accurate.
I don’t take pleasure in being right,
only in keeping everyone safe.

The victim could have been anyone of us.


Mark Thalman is the author of Stronger Than the Current, The Peasant Dance, and Catching the Limit. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Oregon. Thalman retired from the public schools after teaching English and Creative Writing for 35 years. Please visit