We didn’t have privacy, we had bodies.
Our bodies were the doors by which we covered ourselves. They became temporary hinges and planks of wood to hide our small selves.
Of course, I’m speaking of the girls’ restroom.
At age 7, going to the restroom allowed second grade boys and girls to be a little mischievous. Having short moments of levity in the children’s restroom was essential to maintaining sanity especially when we became human doors in front of the bathroom stalls. One child positioned herself at the bottom while the other stood on the broken hinges to give her classmate seclusion.
That was the norm in my elementary school. Some stalls useable, others not; some books had spines while others did not.
That’s what Detroit Public Schools were made of.
A school lunch didn’t satisfy, but it sufficed when I didn’t get to eat breakfast.
What’s worse was when some students were given food to eat and others did not have that option. I recall waiting as my fellow classmates sat on benches ahead of me to receive day-old burritos while my small belly ached for food because I skipped breakfast.
Kix cereal, juice and milk from the morning’s breakfast program was our meal. The cold, corn-based pieces were better than nothing.
I am not surprised of the news. Early in January, DPS schoolteachers organized a sick out that led to 64 school closings. The protest to address poor teaching conditions left 34,000 children without an education for a day. Teachers complained of roaches, rodents, standing water, lack of heat, mold and other problems. I recall all but the rodents.
After sixth grade, my parents pulled my brothers and I out of DPS. The illusion was that charter schools were the better alternative, but they faced similar problems.
In early May another sick out occurred, closing 94 schools including my younger brother’s Renaissance High School. This all came after news that the state could not pay educators past June 30 for their already-earned salaries.
As Michigan legislators are under pressure to find a solution to the issues affecting teachers and students, you may wonder why I bother to report this.
Many Jay County residents have never been to Detroit, have never experienced what I or any other child and teacher have gone through. Residents may wonder why a broken system applies to them when their schools provide more in terms of teachers, resources and education.
Some Wolverine legislators have also never set foot in southeast Michigan. They have never heard the plight of these teachers. They don’t understand why or how someone like me had to scrape the small pieces of information and create a makeshift education.
Everything at the end affects the children. As the adults bicker, and as the bystanders shake their heads in disapprovals, never once inquiring about how it came to be and how it can be fixed. They simply recall their own experience as the cookie cutter solution for everyone.
It will require a lot of lawmakers finally seeing what was missing for so many years, seeing the years of neglect and caring about a solution.
After all, we are just bodies. We have no privacy. Our bellies ache for food. There are no hinges on our doors, so we stand in front of our fellow classmates to offer them seclusion.