Gwendoline Coventry had been stewing over the report from her son David all night and hadn’t had much sleep. She’d snapped at the maid and shouted at the gardener this morning and they were tiptoeing around her cautiously as they did their work trying to stay out of her way. This was the day the women in this street customarily enjoyed a card afternoon at her place and she could hardly wait to see them arrive so she could tell them all about it. Gwendoline fancied herself as the self-appointed leader in this community and being rich and having a husband who was well connected in the corporate and political world, she made her social contacts aware of her importance. The women in her social circle accepted that as they enjoyed sitting around the pool playing cards and catching up on all the juicy gossip from the upper crust world which Gwendoline always dished out with suitable embellishments.
She was immensely proud of her only son David. His school grades were good if not excellent and he was promoted as one of the rising stars in school sporting teams. He was constantly working out in their gym and Gwendoline loved to see the looks of appreciation from invited ladies as he preened himself at the pool with his disciples many of whom were the sons and daughters of invited guests. The ladies were prudent enough to ensure Gwendoline won at cards frequently as they enjoyed the trappings of their attendance with food and drinks laid on in abundance as they enjoyed their games.
So, when the ladies arrived that afternoon and settled into their favoured spaces around the table and cards were produced Gwendoline shouted for the servants to bring out drinks and food. After the usual banter around the table, she got down to the event that had exercised her mind since last evening when her son had returned home from school. Strong and well built as her David was there was indications he’d been in a fight and had been bested. Bruises were just forming, and his face was puffy and swollen. David had been tight lipped about it and had tried to escape to his room without his mother seeing him. But mothers have this sixth sense that tells them something needs attention with their children. This time was different. Usually, he headed for the kitchen on arrival and sampled cook’s food for the evening while pouring out his achievements for the day to a proud mother. Why the change in routine? She followed him to his room and dragged the story out of him. At least that was his story. One of the boys at school had sought him out and attacked him mercilessly without any reason. At least that was the story offered.
The ladies looked at each other uncertainly. Their children attended the same school and their children had arrived home in the evening with a different story. Not wanting to stir the pot and risk their friendship with Gwendoline they remained tight lipped occasionally giving a sympathetic expression. Gwendoline eyed them suspiciously. Something about their manner caused her to wonder what they knew about the event and she went on the offensive asking each in turn what they’d heard. The women assured her this was surprising news. Perhaps their children hadn’t seen anything at least they hadn’t received any report from any of them. Gwendoline settled down sullenly in disbelief and a cold breeze seemed to settle on the rest of the afternoon.
Next night Gwendoline interrogated her son who’d refused to go to school for the day. Had her friend’s kids been present when this attack had occurred? David not wanting to add to the humiliation he was suffering said no and implored his mother to leave him alone.
Gwendoline was waiting for her husband to return from his business trip then they’d go to the school and demand an investigation and the expulsion of the one who’d done this terrible deed to her son. That afternoon as she went through mail delivered in the morning, she came across a plain envelope with her name on. No stamp and no post code. Strange she thought. How did this get into the regular mail? There were just two words on the printed note inside. Stewart Grant. What did it mean?
On Doug Coventry’s return from his business trip Gwendoline poured her story and he made an appointment to see the school president. At the appointed time David’s parents appeared and the President and David’s teacher invited them to the interview room and indicated the lounge where they could sit. Doug chatted warmly with the President who he knew from the golf club until Gwendoline reminded him of their purpose in coming. She poured out the story as she’d been told by her son.
The President and David’s teacher looked at each other in surprise and David’s teacher handed the President a folder which he read carefully. Then he turned to address Gwendoline.
“Mrs Coventry, I think there has been a miscommunication here. Do you happen to know a student called Stewart Grant by any chance?”
Gwendoline shook her head then recalled the note received a few days ago. “Someone sent me a note with that name on. I don’t know him though.”
“Well Stewart Grant is a special needs student. During birth procedures sometimes the motor responses of the brain are damaged and those affected have difficulties in movement. In Stewart’s case he walks with a limp and holds his arm on one side in an awkward position. He walks with a pronounced limp. He has no learning disability and is actually quite smart. We were happy to give him a chance and educate our students to be tolerant and helpful to those who suffer disabilities. Unfortunately, a few students have been harassing this young man for a long time and have been warned many times not to hurt or make fun of him. Some of our students are currently on probation for pushing him frequently to make him fall over and walking around imitating his disability to make fun of him. Despite probation one young man pushed him over a few days ago and Stewart got up and gave him a sound beating. Would that happen to be the reason you are here to see us today as that student was your son?”
“My son would never do that. He said he was attacked for no reason and his face was a mess when he returned home, not to mention bruises on other parts of his body. This Stewart Grant should not be in a school that caters to civilized students. I believe we make a sizable capital donation to this school and expect you would not want to see us discontinue that if you are unable to control what happens here. Perhaps our son needs to be removed and sent to a school that has effective controls?”
The President sighed. “Perhaps you are right Mrs Coventry. Up to this point of time we have not wanted to embarrass you by bringing your son’s behaviour to your attention but despite our many attempts to reason with him he is disruptive and refuses to take counsel. We have been debating how to deal with him but in that you feel he’d be better in another school that seems to be the best course of action and we won’t have to take further disciplinary action. Was there anything else you wished to state?”
He then turned to Doug Coventry. “Doug the school has really appreciated your support all these years and we fully understand you would want to support the next school your son attends with your generous capital donations. I value your friendship at the club and trust this will not damage a relationship I value.”
Doug looked at his wife incredulously. “Gwendoline would you kindly wait outside I want to take with these men alone!”
Gwendoline Coventry looked at her husband in shock. “You may want my support!”
“No Gwen, wait outside please.”
She got up uncertainly and stared at her husband. Then turned and headed for the door. David’s teacher respectfully opened it for her and then closed the door behind her. She headed for their car humiliated.
Doug addressed the President. “I trust your judgment Sam and want to apologize for the appalling behaviour of my son. If you’re dismissing him from the school, you have my support and I’ll continue my donations to your capital projects as this is a good school. If there is any way to keep him here, I’d be happy and would follow your requirements.”
The President and David’s teacher looked at each other and the teacher spoke. “Why not let me work with him some more Sam?”
The President pursed his lips and thought, then spoke. “OK Ben, where is David now?”
“Probably at the gym.”
“Bring him here and see if you can find Stewart Grant and bring him here too.”
The teacher left and Doug and Sam resumed conversation as they waited. Ten minutes later the teacher appeared with both young men.
Doug’s heart went out to Stewart as he saw him struggle to enter the room. He looked at his son who entered the room and saw the fearful look in his eyes as he saw his father sitting there.
The President looked at David. “Son I would like to have you tell your father what really happened the other day and why it happened remembering you’ve been cautioned for a long time about your behaviour.”
David looked at the floor and remained silent. The President waited for a time then spoke again.
He read from David’s file the cautions given him over time and the reasons for those cautions. “Is this an accurate version David? We have a lot of witness signatures here.” The silence continued.
The President turned to Doug. “Your wife would like to remove David from this school, how do you feel we should respond to that?”
Doug spoke. “I would have to disagree with her and request that you discipline him and give him one last chance and if his insolence continues then regrettably you should expel him. Part of his discipline I’d suggest should be to have him apologize to this young man Stewart Grant for all the trouble he’s given him.”
“Do you agree with what your father has just said to us David?”
“Then apologize to Stewart.”
David glanced at his father who nodded gravely.
“I’m sorry Stewart.”
Stewart glanced at Doug Coventry in appreciation. “I’m sorry I beat you up David. It hurts me when you push me over.”
The President spoke again. “David your case will be discussed by the disciplinary committee and I’ll recommend you be given one last chance but there will be punishment you will receive, and your probation will continue for a time. Now both you young men return to your classes.”
Doug Coventry thanked the President and David’s teacher and headed for the car. He sat down and looked at his wife. “Gwen before you get me involved in another fiasco like this, I’d appreciate it if you took the trouble to find the facts first. That was embarrassing. Did you know our son has been a disruptor at that school for some time and its only their kindness he hasn’t been expelled! They are giving him one last chance. The young man he’s been so cruel to has a disability and David certainly needed to be taken down a peg or two with a beating from a disabled young man. Let’s hope he’s learned from this experience.”
The two of them completed their journey home in silence.
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