School for Scandal

 Where a movie tragic meets political correctness       30 July 2008

CHARACTERS: Frank parent in early 50s attending teacher-parent interview. /Gordon Livesy (principal) 40-ish school teacher. /Ms Ella Daniels (teacher) Late 20s class teacher. /Cooper Frank’s 11-year-old son, part of Ms Daniels class.

Frank, father of Cooper, is at a parent-teacher meeting with the principal and Cooper’s teacher

THE WAY WE WERE: KIDS WITH EXPRESSION

Principal

Thanks for coming in Mr Wright. Ms Daniels and I wanted to discuss Cooper’s recent behaviour with you. 

Frank

That’s fine. Where is he by the way? Shouldn’t he be here?

Ms Daniels

I’m afraid that would be contravening DETWA policy, Mr Wright.

Frank

DETWA?

Ms Daniels

(surprised) The Department of Education and Training WA.

Principal

Yes, it’s considered better that parents and teachers resolve these matters together and identify a course of outcomes best fitting the student’s future. At the conclusion of this interview we will bring Cooper in and inform him of our decision.

Frank

I see (clearly he doesn’t). So, what’s he been up to?

Ms Daniels

Mr Wright, we are concerned that Cooper’s IBS are mounting and he is not travelling down the path we would have hoped.

Frank

(a tad impatient) What’s IBS?

Ms Daniels

Inappropriate Behavioural Streams…his poor behaviour.

Frank

Okay. Well I’m here to tell you, if the kid’s been out of line, I will give you all the support you need. He’s too bright a boy to go off the rails at this stage of his education.

Ms Daniels

That’s very gratifying to hear that you support POTPE Mr Wright.

Frank

(almost incredulously) Pot – Pee?

Ms Daniels

Oh, I’m sorry, Parents Offering Teachers Protection and Encouragement.

Frank

Pot – Pee ha? Well put me down as one of those p’s.

Ms Daniels

(smiling) Mr Wright, Cooper has shown some examples of boisterous behaviour and inappropriate language towards myself and his classmates of late. I’ve gathered a number of examples of this which I feel need to be addressed.

Frank 

Okay.

Ms Daniels

Last week he said to another student in the playground (pauses, looks at notes and gives slight embarrassed cough) ’I’ll rip off your head and shit down your neck’ 

Frank

Teddy Duchamp.

Ms Daniels

(questioningly) I’m sorry?

Frank

Teddy Duchamp. …Stand By Me…It’s a Rob Reiner film. Teenage boys’ coming of age story – you know the thing. Teddy says it to the junkyard man when he threatens him.

TEDDY (COREY FELDMAN)

Principal

Be that as it may Mr Wright, it’s a very aggressive thing for an 11-year-old boy to say in the playground.

Frank

Yeah, it is pretty tough….Who did he say it to?

Ms Daniels

James Park.

Frank

James? Isn’t that his best friend?

Ms Daniels

Well, yes….but …

Frank

(interrupting) If he said it to James it would be a joke. He’s just letting off some steam and repeating something he heard from a movie.

Principal

Yes, but repeating somethink (sic) you’ve heard in a film doesn’t warrant it being broadcast throughout the school playground.

Frank

(with emphasis) Some – thing.

Principal

Pardon me?

Frank

Some – thing. You said somethink.

Principal

No I didn’t.

Frank

Yes you did. …Sorry, it’s a thing of mine.

Ms Daniels

(reclaiming the high ground) Cooper was also quite aggressive towards another boy, Callum, while they were waiting in line the other day. The boy was trying to hold his ground in the line and Cooper said: ‘Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!’

Frank

Charlton Heston, Planet of the Apes – the original. Sounds like a bit of horseplay to me.

Ms Daniels

Mr Wright, Callum is Indonesian.

Frank

(looks askance) So?

Ms Daniels

(taken aback) Well…some people think Indonesians look like monkeys and ….

Frank

(interrupting) Cooper doesn’t think Indonesians look like monkeys. I took him to Bali last year. You’ve never seen a kid get on so well with people from another culture – he loved them….And they loved him.

WHO’S ON FIRST? ABBOTT & COSTELLO Getty Images

Ms Daniels

(recovering position) He also showed aggression towards me last Friday when I told the students there would be additional WHO and ….

Frank

(interrupting) WHO?

Ms Daniels

Cooper.

Frank

No, WHO?

Ms Daniels

(looking perplexed) …Cooper.

Frank

Yeah, ‘Who’s on first?’ Oldie but a goody. No, I mean what does WHO stand for?

Ms Daniels

(awkward laugh) Oh. WHO? … Weekend homework onus?

Frank

(shaking head slightly) Onus eh? – Well I might have been to blame there because I took the kids down south on the weekend and he probably didn’t want to interrupt his surfing. … You give me that homework assignment and I’ll make sure he does it tonight. I’m constantly on his back about the amount of work you take home increasing as you get older – high school, university, work. He has to manage that.

Ms Daniels

No, it wasn’t that he wouldn’t do the homework. It was what he said. I told the class about the additional WHO and he screamed out loudly: ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore’.

Frank

Peter Finch…Netw— (realises the two aren’t with him). Surely you’ve heard that one? (laughs) Or shouldn’t I call you Shirley.

Ms Daniels

(totally without humour) My name is Ella.

Frank

I’ve got an Ella. Of course, she’s much older than Cooper. Went to this very school…Look, what I’m seeing here is a young guy with a quick wit trying to get a laugh from his mates. I could have a word.

Ms Daniels

Mr Wright, I feel threatened. Many of his remarks are salacious and totally inappropriate around 11-year-old children. He asked one of his girl class members if he could ‘borrow her underpants for ten minutes.’

Frank

Fuck, that’s a bit of a shocker. When he did say this?

Ms Daniels

(With raised eyebrows at the profanity) It was the day the visiting nurse came to give them their inoculations. I told the class that the inoculations were compulsory and he said it to Annie Godfrey.

Frank

What did Annie do?

Ms Daniels

That’s hardly relevant.

Frank

She laughed didn’t she? I bet she’s seen Sixteen Candles too?… Are there any other examples of him frightening you.

Ms Daniels

Well, one day, I set the children a test and he looked straight at me and said ‘Someone once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.’

Frank

Silence of the Lambs, paraphrased of course…..(looks at Ms Daniels) You don’t get out much do you?

Principal

(looking pleased) Oh, it is too.

Ms Daniels

(looking at the principal as though she has been betrayed but speaking to Frank) Then there was the small matter of the sex education class.

Frank

(sarcastically) Do you take those?

Ms Daniels

(without missing a beat) Yes I do…. When I mentioned masturbation ….

Frank

(interrupting) Let me picture this? You are giving 11-year-olds a sexual education lesson, the black board…..

Ms Daniels

(interrupting) Power point.

Frank

…..Power point….the power point has some diagrams up and you mention cottoning and Cooper says something like ‘Hey don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love’ and the rest of the kids fall about in fits. 

Principal

(looking at Ms Daniels) Cottoning?

Frank

Cotton. Cotton wool. Pull. It’s rhyming slang for …(he stops before saying wank).

Ms Daniels

(ignoring this rave) It is consistent with their age demographic to exhibit embarrassment at these moments and laughter is usually their defence mechanism in these situations.

Principal

It is what Cooper said. Well, he could of (sic) confused some of the other students.

Frank

Could have. 

Principal

What?

Frank

Could have. You said could of.

Principal

I said could’ve. It’s an abbreviation.

Frank

Not the way you said it. I know an abbreviation when I hear one and that was no abbreviation.

Principal

I am merely trying to communicate….

Frank

(interrupting) ‘What we’ve got here is failure to communicate’.

Principal

(again refusing to argue) Cooper said ‘You meet a much better class of people’….

Frank

(interrupting) Hey! That’s one of mine.

Ms Daniels

Mis-ter Wright. This is a classic example of Cooper’s IBS …. Inappropriate Behavioural Streams …. being out of hand. However, having spoken to you I can see no POTPE and ….

Frank

Did you punish him?

Ms Daniels

I put him in the corner.

Frank

‘Nobody puts Baby in a corner’.

Principal

Mr Wright. I agree with Ms Daniels. We aren’t making much progress here.

Frank

Look, I come from a word world. I’ve listened to you both telling me examples of my son’s inappropriate behaviour but I believe they only exemplify that he has mastered comprehension. When I was at school….

Ms Daniels 

(under her breath as Frank continues) Here we go. 

Frank

….comprehension was a subject and if you were proficient at it, you were able to understand all kinds of things that you read, heard or were shown by your teachers.

Principal

Be that as it may Mr Wright. I feel we should terminate this interview now….

Frank

(interrupting) And my son has shown outstanding comprehension it seems to me while being taught by a headmaster who says ‘think’ and ‘of’ instead of ‘thing’ and ‘have’ and a teacher, remarkably devoid of humour or a knowledge of modern film, surely one of the major media components of the past century. I hope you can excuse my cynicism?

Ms Daniels 

(under breath) Never.

Principal stands and leads Frank to the door. He opens it, doesn’t offer to shake Frank’s hand and motions for Cooper to come in. Cooper looks nervous as he passes his father.

Frank

(looking at Cooper) ‘Houston, we have a problem.’

Frank sits in the waiting room while the principal tells Cooper that he is going to be punished for his behaviour by having to spend after school detentions with Ms Daniels. Camera pans back to Frank as we hear Cooper’s raised voice.

Cooper

‘The horror. The horror.’

ENDS

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