Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, February 27, 2009 10:11 pm

Teenage wasteland; or, the book thief

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 10:11 pm
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How bad are things in Detroit? So bad that some of the abandoned buildings are schools:

After I finally dig the car out, I drive away from the middle school in which I have just been trespassing. Built in the 1960s in the international style, none of the floor-to-ceiling windows are intact. Earlier I’d walked through one of those windows right into the principal’s office, where four decades’ worth of report cards lay scattered on the floor. There was a stack of yearbooks on the secretary’s desk: 2007, the last year of classes before everyone just walked away. …

After my first visit to the shattered middle school, I am haunted by what I found in one office: hundreds of file folders containing student psychological examinations complete with social security numbers, addresses, and parent information. I sat and thumbed through them. Many contained detailed histories of physical and sexual abuse, stories of home lives so horrifying I still can’t get them out of my head: sibling rape, torture, neglect that defies belief. The detailed reports explained emotional impairments, learning disabilities. There was another box full of IEPs. The dates revealed that many of these students are still in the school system somewhere. I found several of their faces in the 2007 yearbook.

I spend the next few months trying to track down someone who cares. I send e-mails to the school’s former principal, offering to go back and collect these records for her or destroy them. She never responds. I call my mom, a retired special education teacher and erstwhile administrator to determine the extent of malfeasance. Then I call the school district’s legal department and leave voice mails warning them of the liability of this gross violation of student privacy. I never receive a response. I track down the school psychologist to some address in Troy. Nothing. It turns out a daily newspaper reported abandoned records like these within many of the 33 schools closed in 2007 and the district did nothing. No one is responsible. Someone else was supposed to destroy them. The company that had been paid to secure the school never did its job.

So I did it. I went back in to destroy them so they would no longer be just sitting there on the floor for anyone to find.

But the stimulus package was too large and didn’t contain enough tax cuts. You can ask anyone.

In response to comments on the post, the author adds:

What I did was against the law and it was far from an easy decision to make. ultimately I did it because I felt it was more of a crime to allow those records to fall into the hands of someone who might hurt those kids.

I am far more ashamed of stealing the books (again, a crime) but I simply could not stand the thought of those beautiful books turning into what I have seen so many beautiful books in these schools become.

I hope to find a way—legal or illegal—to get more of these supplies into the hands of kids who need them. until I find a way to do that, I don’t deserve anyone’s praise.

I beg to differ.

(h/t: Nance)


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