I just read a poignant blog post about a stolen purse (Veteran Kindergarten Story), and it reminded me of an experience I endured almost two decades ago when I served a 5-year stint as an assistant principal, the longest five years of my life.
I was working in a “challenging” high school, a school where we had great kids but also our share of kids who sold drugs and kids who disrupted classes. One year we had a small group of kids who stole items so swiftly, so slyly, and so shamelessly that they appeared to have popped right off the pages of a Charles Dickens’ novel.
Purses were their specialty!
When girls walked into bathroom stalls and locked the doors, one student would reach under the stall wall and swipe the purse. Or, a student would reach over the stall door and grab the pocketbook off the hook on the back of the door – long before the girl could leave the stall and identify the culprit.
When teachers showed movies or videos with the classroom lights turned off, one of the thieves would quietly grab a pocketbook off the floor, hide it, and then ask for a pass to the bathroom where he removed the money and credit cards from the purse before throwing it in the garbage.
The thefts finally reached teachers when a student stole two purses from two different filing cabinets late one Friday afternoon.
The thefts had become so brazen that we had to pull the faculty together on a Friday afternoon to inform them how serious the thievery had become and to suggest that teachers lock their purses in their car trunks instead of bringing them inside the building. That Friday we had a new Associate Principal, Sue, in the building since the principal was ill. At the meeting, Sue apologized to the faculty for the thefts and asked for teachers’ help as we tried to identify and punish the students who had wreaked such mayhem. While finding the thefts disturbing, teachers were at least thankful that we had shared our concerns with them.
After the faculty meeting, administrators returned to Sue’s front hall office to talk. We were exhausted. It had been a really long and tiring day, and we still had to wait around for another couple of hours before we would leave to supervise Friday night’s football game. As we sat in Sue’s office, we decided to order supper.
Sue opened her drawer to get money.
That’s when she realized that her pocketbook was missing.
While Sue had beenconducting the faculty meeting and advising teachers to keep their purses locked in their car trunks, a student had stolen Sue’s purse from her desk drawer.
At least we had the weekend to recuperate.