My name is Walter Kole and I am a single parent residing at 1900 Green Terrace Rd. along with my daughter Joni. Up until today I had been a model citizen. I controlled a wholly owned consulting firm bringing in about $160,000 per year after taxes, bills all paid up to date, member of the Rotary and Optimists Clubs, etc. That's why this journal entry is such a hoot. You see, this week my fourteen year old daughter Joni, is Naked in School.
Now, I had never considered myself a crusader or a cause-celebre', as I've always taken a 'live-and-let-live' attitude. However, this issue - coming as it did out of the blue - sent me screaming right over the edge and which is why I found myself, fifteen minutes after the sobbing cell phone call from my only child, sitting across the desk from her Principal, Mr. Saunders.
In place of the usual pleasantries I got right to the heart of the matter. "Mr. Saunders, it's my understanding that my child, Joni, was inducted into 'The Program' this morning. Is that correct?"
He then confirmed this information and proceeded to wax lyrical about The Program and all the benefits the staff expected to see bloom in my little girl. I let him run on in this vein for about five minutes and then interrupted with, "Excuse me, but who exactly, made the decision to include my child in this event?"
"That would have been the school Program Counselor, Ms. Gilmore and I. We pride ourselves on a thorough psychological review of possible participants before we implement anything," he replied with a self-satisfied smile.
"That's certainly good to hear. Would it be possible for Ms. Gilmore to join us for the remainder of this meeting?"
"I certainly don't see why not," he stated as he picked up the phone.
A few moments later we were joined by a 26 year old, pink cheeked, fresh out of school, Program counselor. With one look I pegged her as a first time, on the job training, admin person. Oh, this was going to be so much fun.
She greeted me warmly with a handshake and then seated herself laying some folders on the Principal's desk in front of her.
I asked if there was a small conference room we might use in place of his office. I was assured that such a place was nearby and they would be more than happy to make it available. As we were headed that way I requested a quick restroom break.
Once inside, I pulled out my cell and place the call to our family attorney letting him know exactly where we would be. I then asked him to bring Joni's file with him along with at least two copies of one document. He stated he could be there in fifteen minutes or less. Hanging up, I washed my hands and rejoined my companions.
As we entered our destination, I knew this room would be absolutely perfect for my purpose. The drop ceiling was about ten feet from the floor which gave about seven feet of headroom from the top of the conference table.
When we were seated I turned to Ms. Gilmore asking if those were her files on my daughter. She replied with evident pride that they were indeed Joni's. I smiled back and asked her to please explain her process for selection and particularly how she arrived at my Joni as a prime candidate, all the while thinking that the school board could not have found a more naive person to fill this position.
She proceeded to explain the basic parameters of selection with a look of enthusiasm filling her face as she talked. When she got to the criteria she had used to select my daughter she was nearly gushing.
As this saga was unfolding, I was wondering if the tape in my micro recorder was going to be long enough to capture the entire episode.
When she was winding down toward her conclusion a knock came from the door. Looking up, I smiled and said, "I invited one other person to attend this meeting with us. I hope you don't mind." After getting their nods of consent, I walked over and let Malcom in. He strolled over and shaking hands, introduced himself to the other meeting participants.
When they heard, "Malcom H. Levi - Attorney at Law", the room temperature dropped several degrees. Malcom then asked the only vital question of Ms. Gilmore. "When you were doing your research in preparation for your selections, did you by any chance seek to verify the legal standing of any of the candidates?"
"Why certainly not sir, after all, they are all minors. That data had no bearing on whether a candidate was suitable as a participant in The Program," she replied. "I mostly concentrated on whether the person fit the profile of someone who would benefit from going through The Program."
"Thank you for the information, Ms. Gilmore," Malcom said as he turned his head and raised one eyebrow at me. I nodded once in return to confirm that, yes, this was an idiot he was dealing with and to please proceeded.
He then cleared his throat while retrieving two copies of the pertinent document. After sliding one copy each in front of the others, he then stated, "The copies in front of you are the court summary of the legal proceeding to emancipate the minor, one Joni C. Kole. It is dated June 22 of this year and has had the force of law from that same date. It also I might add, is somewhat in advance of today's date of September 18."
"Let me explain a bit what this means to you both. As of June 22 of this year, Joni was entitled to all the legal status that any 'Law Abiding Adult Citizen' carries. These include: the right to freely come and go as she sees fit, the right to invoke privacy as she wishes and most importantly, the right to make informed choices in regards to her own welfare."
Malcom paused for breath - and I think, drama, the frigging Jewish ham - then dropped the other shoe with, "What you did personally and in conjunction with the entire admin staff - not to mention the tactic approval of the school board and school district - was to: kidnap her, coerce her with threats of expulsion, transcript withholding, or even physically being stripped by other staff members if needed. You then sexually assault her by exposing her to the other students and classroom situations with the distinct or implied foreknowledge that their touching her was approved by the school staff. But most important of all, you raped her by transforming her from a person, into an object and denying her the most basic human right any person has the expectation to exercise; the Right to Choose Freely. By doing that, you literally reduced her to the status of a 'Slave', or that of a convicted felon. Both of which; she IS NOT!"
By this time Principal Saunders and Ms. Naive were picking their jaws up off the table and Saunders began sputtering, "You ... you can't come in here ... waving those types of accusations around."
Malcom looked over and with evident disdain, said, "Oh, are you referring to what you think of as the blanket protection of The Program Statute?" After he got the confirmation he continued with, "Sorry to disabuse you, but that law is only in force when dealing with MINORS ... not ADULTS. Here, let me prove my point."
Turning to Ms. Naive, he said, "Ms. Gilmore, would you stand up please." As she rose from her seat with a slightly dazed look, he said, "Now, everything I ask of you from here on out I will phrase as a 'request', but make no mistake. You have no choice but to comply. Would you please remove all your clothing and place it on the chair next to you? If you do not comply, I will be compelled to physically force your cooperation."
As Malcom was setting the stage for the education of Ms. Naive, I once again shot a thankful thought toward the heavens and to Joni's Grandmother.
When Martha had passed away last year and after all the funeral, burial, insanity was over with; Malcom had called us to his office for the reading of her will. Since Joni and I were Martha's only living relatives and I was already earning a comfortable living, she had left her entire estate to Joni. Because the estate was held in a Living Trust, Malcom laid out several different paths we could take to transfer the funds and encouraged us to talk it through. We did just that.
When the dust settled, we had decided to take the Emancipation route, since the entire estate fell under the one point two million dollar threshold that would keep Joni from having to hand over Martha's 'last-pound-of-flesh' to our dear Uncle Sammy and right now, I was tickled pink that we had.
Ms. Gilmore, looking a great deal like a fish out of water, simply gaped at Malcom then blurted out, "You can't do that. I'm an adult!"
Malcom with that 'Mr. Spock' poker face he's famous for, drove the last nail in her coffin with, "Yes -- you are. But -- so-is-this-man's-daughter; the same one that you gave no choice to but to be a participant in your beloved Program. Are you beginning to see the point yet?" Malcom said, with the driest delivery I'd ever heard.
The phrase, "Oh, my God!" escaped her lips as she plummeted back into her chair.
"Mr. Saunders, by forcing this man's daughter to participate against her will in The Program, you have opened the school board and district to felony liability issues that will be financially astronomical by the time they are settled."
Saunders, it seemed, was still trying to come to grips with the enormity of this disaster blowing up in his face. His mouth was working but no sound was emerging.
Looking at Saunders, I said, "You might want to page my daughter to this room. Because every time she is touched or even looked at in an area of her body that would normally be covered by clothing, the financial settlement goes up ... substantially."
You'd have thought I slapped the man, as hard as he jumped. He then grabbed the phone and speed dialed to Joni's classroom. After a hushed and hurried thirty second conversation ending in a harshly whispered, "Just get her here, now!" He set the phone back down and fearfully glanced at the clock while whispering, "Please, get here in time, please."
Three minutes passed in dead silence and then came the knock on the door.
The man must have teleported, because I swear I didn't see him move. He jerked open the door and grabbed my very surprised daughter into the room. While at the same time he slammed the door closed in the face of some pimple faced kid with his hand out and starting to say, "Reasonab ... He then hugged her to his chest as if she were the Prodigal Child returning while fiercely whispering, "Oh, thank God."
Joni at first gasped and then squeaked when his hug went into overdrive, but finally was able to tilt her head off his chest and draw enough breath to say, "Mr. Saunders, I like you too, but not quite this much and certainly not dressed like this."
Trust my little lady to keep hold of the family sense of humor; God, how I love that girl.
At this statement, Saunders released her and jumped back like she was covered in plutonium -- unshielded plutonium.
About this same time my baby caught sight of Malcom and her eyes almost bugged out in surprise. Turning her head she caught sight of me and her eyes did bug out. She blurted out, "Malcom, Dad -- what in the world are both of you guys doing here? And by the way, what's going on?"
Malcom grinned and with a cheery wave, saluted her with, "Hi, Sparkplug."
I added, "Hi, baby."
Up until now, no one had ever accused my girl of being a dummy and if the conclusions she drew from this tiny bit of info were any indication, no one ever would. Her mouth opened as she saw the final person in the room and she breathed out, "Oh, my."
Right then that ear-to-ear grin plastered itself across her face and I knew we wouldn't be able to get it off with a belt sander any time soon. With her eyes alight with glee, she bounced over to the chair beside me and looking me in the eye said, "All of it. Now, please. Pretty, pretty please."
Holding a finger up, I said, "Hang on a second baby. Ms. Gilmore has a gift for you." My eyes swiveled in her direction and I whispered, "Don't you, Ms. Gilmore?"
At my look I could see her will collapse and she began rising to go get Joni's clothes.
Joni jumped in the middle of this action with, "Hey, I don't need that."
I thought someone must have stuck a live wire up that woman's ass the way her fanatical gleam exploded along with her hissed out, "See there, and all in less than a day."
Joni glanced over at Gilmore and her indelible grin faded a bit. The look on her face said, "God, what a twit." Then her mouth opened and she torpedoed the moron with, "Don't get your hopes up Ms. Gilmore. My not wanting clothing right this minute has nothing to do with The Program. It's just that this is the first fun moment I've had since I walked into his office this morning," hooking her thumb at Saunders, "and I'm not going to waste any of it on playing dress up."
I swear, that woman could put The Gods to shame with her travel ETA; from Tartarus to Olympus and back again in just under three tenths of a second. I'm surprised she didn't develop emotional whiplash or terminal jet lag.
Shaking my head at the follies of fanatics, I said, "Go ahead Ms. Gilmore while I fill in the details for Joni." Then I did just that.
When I'd brought her up to date event wise, I asked, "Well, what do you think baby?"
The Grin was back full force and a chuckle - born in her tummy - erupted as a full blown, almost hysterical, string of laughter - complete with tears down the cheeks - as she howled out, "OH DADDY, THAT'S JUST TOO PERFECT!" She then launched herself around my neck while repeatedly whispering, "Thank you both so much. I love you both more than I can say."