#Abuse of Discretion
Read an Excerpt Below!
“What’s the matter, Mrs. Singletary? Why do I have to go to the principal’s office?”
I’m walking side-by-side down the hallway with my second-period teacher. Students are huddled together staring and pointing at us like we’re zoo animals. When a teacher at Marcus Preparatory Academy escorts you to the principal’s office, it’s a big deal. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. I’m a good student. I never get in trouble.
Mrs. Singletary won’t answer my questions or even look at me. I hope she knows she’s only making me more nervous.
“Mrs. Singletary, please tell me what’s wrong?”
“Just follow me. You’ll find out in a minute.”
I’m about to ask her another question when it hits me. Something happened to my mama!
My mama has been on and off drugs for as long as I can remember. I haven’t seen her in months and I don’t even know where she lives. No one does. I act like it doesn’t bother me, but it does. I’ve prayed to God a million times to get her off drugs. Even though my granny says God answers prayers, He hasn’t answered mine, so I stopped asking.
I jump in front of my teacher, forcing her to stop. “Was there a death in my family, Mrs. Singletary? Did something happen to my mama?”
“No, there wasn’t a death.”
She swerves around me and keeps going. I have to take giant steps to keep up with her.
Once we’re inside the main office, Mrs. Singletary points at a wooden chair outside Principal Keller’s office. “Have a seat and don’t move.”
She goes into the principal’s office and closes the door. My head begins to throb like somebody’s banging on it from the inside. I close my eyes and try to calm down. I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s probably just—Oh snap! The picture!
I slide my iPhone from my pocket. My hands are trembling so bad I have to concentrate to keep from dropping it. I open the photos app and delete the last picture on my camera roll. If anyone saw that picture, I’d be screwed.
Loud voices seep through the closed door. I lean forward, straining to hear. It almost sounds like Mrs. Singletary and Principal Keller are arguing.
“It’s only an allegation. We don’t even know if it’s true.”
“I don’t care. We have to follow protocol.”
“Can’t you at least check his phone first?”
“I’m not putting myself in the middle of this mess. I’ve already made the call.”
The call? I can’t believe Principal Keller called my dad without even giving me a chance to defend myself. How’d she even find out about the picture?
The door swings open and I almost jump out of my skin. The principal crooks her finger at me. “Come in here, son.”
Trudging into her office, I sit down on a red cloth chair that’s way more comfortable than the hard one outside. My heart is beating so fast it feels like it might jump out of my chest.
The only time I’ve ever been in Principal Keller’s office was the day my dad enrolled me in school. Mrs. Singletary is standing in front of the principal’s desk with her arms folded. I hope she’s going to stay here with me, but a second later, she walks out and closes the door.
Principal Keller sits on the edge of her desk, looking down at me. “Graylin, do you have any inappropriate pictures on your cell phone?”
“Huh?” I try to keep a straight face. “No, ma’am.”
“It’s been brought to my attention that you have an inappropriate picture—a naked picture—of Kennedy Carlyle on your phone. Is that true?”
“No…uh…No, ma’am.” Thank God I deleted it!
“This is a very serious matter, young man. So, I need you to tell me the truth.”
“No, ma’am.” I shake my head so hard my cheeks vibrate. “I don’t have anything like that on my phone.”
“I pray to God you’re telling me the truth.”
I don’t want to ask this next question, but I have to know. “Um, so you called my dad?”
“Yes, I did. He’s on his way down here now.”
I hug myself and start rocking back and forth. Even though I deleted the picture, my dad is still going to kill me for having to leave work in the middle of the day.
“I also made another call.”
At first I’m confused. Then I realize Mrs. Keller must’ve called my granny too. At least she’ll keep my dad from going ballistic.
“So you called my granny?”
“No.” The principal’s cheeks puff up like she’s about to blow something away. “I called the police.”
My mouth is as dry as sand. “I don’t have a naked picture of anybody on my phone, Mrs. Keller. I swear, I don’t. Why’d you call the police on me?”
“I had no choice.”
My right knee won’t stop bouncing up and down. “Who said I had a naked picture?”
“I can’t disclose that information.”
There’s a knock on the door. When two police officers step into the room, I almost pee on myself. They introduce themselves to the principal but ignore me.
One of the cops is short and Asian with biceps that look like two big rocks. He turns around and mean mugs me. “Is this the student?”
Principal Keller nods and hands him a piece of paper. He reads it, then turns back to me.
“I’m Officer Chin and this is Officer Fenton,” the Asian cop says, referring to a tall white man with slicked-back hair. He’s staring down at me too.
Officer Chin walks over and throws open the door to the principal’s private conference room. “C’mon in here, young man. We need to have a little chat.”
I’ve been sitting in a chair outside the principal’s office for more than twenty minutes now, getting more and more irritated. I don’t know why, but something doesn’t feel right.
What the hell did Graylin do?
I tried calling him, but got no answer. He must have his phone on mute since they aren’t allowed to use it in class.
The door to the principal’s office opens and Mrs. Keller shows me inside.
“What’s going on? Where’s Graylin?”
“Why don’t you have a seat, Mr. Alexander?”
I sit down, but I’m still on edge. “I need to know what’s going on with my son. Where is he?”
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but we received an anonymous report that Graylin had an inappropriate picture on his cell phone.”
“What kind of inappropriate picture?”
“A photograph of a female classmate.” Mrs. Keller swallows. “Naked.”
I’m momentarily taken aback. My son’s no angel, but this isn’t something I would’ve expected from him. But then again, in this day and age with everything kids are exposed to and all this technology mess, who knows what they’re up to. I start to breathe a little easier. A naked picture of a girl isn’t the end of the world.
“Okay. I’ll handle it. Who took the picture?”
“We don’t know.”
“Well, what did Graylin say about it?”
“He denied having it.”
“Did you see the picture?”
“Then how do you know he has one?”
“As I said, we received an anonymous report.”
“Did you check his phone?”
I’m not one of those parents who thinks my kid can do no wrong, but this sounds like something blown way out of proportion.
“So what you’re telling me is that you don’t even know if the allegation is true.” And that’s all it is as far as I’m concerned. An allegation and nothing more.
“You have to understand that when we receive a report like this, there’s a certain protocol we have to follow.”
I exhale. This is a bunch of crap. I can’t believe I had to drive all the way down here for this bull.
“I’ll talk to him. Where is he?”
“He’s being interviewed by the police.”
Once we’re inside the principal’s conference room, the white cop sits in the chair next to me and turns sideways, facing me. He’s sitting so close that his knee keeps brushing up against my thigh. I want to ask him to move back, but I don’t. Officer Chin is on the opposite side of the long table, glaring at me like I shot somebody.
“So, Graylin, do you know why you’re here?” Officer Chin asks.
“Nope,” I mumble. Then I hear my grandmother’s voice. She’s old school and is always telling me to be respectful to adults. “I mean, no, sir.”
I don’t like looking at the Asian cop. If they try a good-cop, bad-cop act on me, he’s probably going to play the bad cop.
“First, I need to tell you that you’re in some major trouble,” the mean one says.
I’ve already decided that’s what I’m going to call Officer Chin—Mean Cop—because that’s what he is.
I don’t say anything since he hasn’t asked me a question.
“How old are you?”
“Your principal got a report that you have a naked picture of one of your classmates on your phone.”
“But I don’t.” Not anymore.
“Do you know Kennedy Carlyle?”
“Is she your girlfriend?”
I screw up my face. “No.” Kennedy is way too stuck-up to be anybody’s girlfriend.
“Well, how do you know her?”
“She’s in my English and algebra classes.”
I don’t want to talk to them because I know they aren’t on my side. I watch a lot of crime shows on TV with my granny. The cops always act like they want to help you, but they’d rather shoot a black kid than help him. They just need to read me my rights and—Oh snap! I suddenly remember what my dad told me to do if the police ever stopped me.
I sit up straight and try to look brave. “My dad told me not to talk to the police without his permission.”
Mean Cop rolls his eyes. “Is that right? Does your daddy know you have a naked picture of one of your classmates on your phone?”
But I don’t. I want to smile, but I know that will get me in even more trouble.
Mean Cop grips the edge of the table and leans forward. “If I were you, I’d want to defend myself. So, if you want us to hear your side of the story, you better start talking.”
I don’t know what to do. I want to defend myself, but my dad gave me strict instructions. If a cop stops you, don’t say a damn word.
Officer Fenton bumps my thigh with his knee again, which makes me flinch. “Look, Graylin, we need you to be honest with us. If you do, we can cut you some slack.”
Even though I wish he wouldn’t sit so close to me, at least he talks nice to me. Still, I keep quiet.
“According to the report we received,” Mean Cop continues, “you’ve been going all over the school showing people a naked picture of Kennedy Carlyle.”
Before I can stop myself, I blurt out, “No, I didn’t! Somebody’s lying on me!”
Of course, I’d planned to show the picture to my best friend Crayvon, but you can’t go to jail for something you were only thinking about doing.
“If you have the picture on your phone,” Officer Fenton says, “just be truthful about it and we’ll see what we can do to keep you out of trouble.”
They must think I’m stupid. I do what my dad told me to do and keep my mouth shut.
Mean Cop pounds the table with his fist, making me jump two inches out of my chair. “Where’s your phone?”
I still don’t answer. Everybody has the right to remain silent, even kids.
“I said where’s your phone?” Mean Cop repeats.
I hide my hands underneath the table so he can’t see them shaking.
Officer Fenton pats me on the shoulder. “C’mon, Graylin, you seem like a good kid. I bet you make good grades, don’t you?”
I nod and start to tell them I got honors certificates in math and science last year, but I figure they still won’t let me go. “My dad”—I start to stutter—“my dad told me not to talk to the police without his permission.”
“Why don’t you help us out here?” Officer Fenton says. “We really need to see your phone. We’ll take a quick look and if there’s no picture, we’ll send you back to class.”
A squeaky voice comes out of my mouth. “It’s…it’s in my backpack.”
As soon as the words are out, I want to kick myself. Now I’ve just lied to the police. Again.
“And where’s your backpack?”
“In my locker.”
“Why don’t we go with you to your locker so you can get it?” Officer Fenton says.
“My dad told me not to talk to the police without his permission,” I say for the third time.
Officer Fenton frowns. “This is a very serious matter, son.”
Mean Cop thumps his fingers on the table. “Why don’t you just—”
The voice of Young Thug singing RiRi fills the room.
Do the work baby do the work
Tonight baby do the work baby do the work.
When I hear my ringtone, my stomach lurches up into my throat. I’m about to throw up the oatmeal I had for breakfast.
Mean Cop scrunches up his face like a WWE wrestler. “Did your daddy also teach you to lie to the police? Give me the damn phone!”
I shakily pull it from my pocket and set it on the table.
Officer Fenton picks it up, taps the screen, then looks over at me. “What’s the password?”
I stare down at the table.
“I said what’s the password?” Now he’s turning mean too.
“For your sake, young man, I hope you’re telling us the truth.”
After a couple of minutes, Officer Fenton looks at Mean Cop and shakes his head. “Nothing in his photos or texts. I only see a few recent emails. Nothing there either.” He sets the phone back on the table.
Mean Cop grunts. “Let me look.” He stretches one of his short arms across the table and grabs my phone.
He taps the screen a few times, then starts smiling. “Well, well, well, what do we have here? Looks like you forgot to check his deleted pictures, partner.”
Mean Cop holds up my phone and shows me the picture I thought was gone forever. A warm trickle of pee runs down my left leg.
“You’re quite the little liar, aren’t you?” Mean Cop yells at me. “Where’re the rest of the pictures?”
“There aren’t any more,” I stutter. “That was the only one I had.”
“Did you take it?”
“You lied about your phone being in your locker, you lied about having this picture, and you’re still lying now!”
“My…my dad”—I can’t get my words out—“my dad told me not to talk to the police without his permission.”
“When your daddy told you that, he didn’t realize you’d be in this kind of trouble. If you didn’t take this picture, how’d it get on your phone?”
“Somebody sent it to me.”
“I don’t know.”
My throat hurts and it feels like somebody’s pressing down on my chest. If the table wasn’t in the way, I’d hug my knees to my chest.
Mean Cop pulls out his handcuffs and dangles them from his finger. “Stop lying and tell us the truth,” he barks. “If you don’t, you’re going to jail.”
“The police?” I shoot to my feet so fast the chair topples backward, banging into the wall. “Like hell he is! They can’t talk to my son without my permission. Take me to him. Now!”
I hear yelling coming from the door to my right. Before the principal can stop me, I burst into the room.
“What the hell!” My son is in handcuffs, a white cop gripping him by the forearm.
“Dad! Dad! Please help me!” Graylin cries. “Dad, please don’t let them arrest me!”
I charge up to the cop holding Graylin. “What are you doing to my son?”
“Sir, you need to calm down,” yells an Asian cop. He extends his right palm toward me while his other hand grazes the butt of his gun. “Please back up, sir!”
I defiantly stay put. “I asked you what you’re doing to my son. You can’t interrogate him without my permission.”
“I told you to step back!” the Asian cop yells, twice as loud as before.
When I still don’t move, he snatches his Beretta from its holster and points it at me. “I said back up! Now!”
“Oh my God!” the principal cries. “Please, Mr. Alexander. Please step back!”
“Dad, Dad, please go back!” Graylin’s sobbing hysterically now. “They’re going to shoot you. I’m okay! Please, Dad, go back! Please!”
The only reason I take two small steps backward is because the cop’s hand is so unsteady I fear he might actually shoot me. But I’m way madder than he is nervous.
The cop lowers his gun but doesn’t return it to the holster.
Heat stings my face. “What are you doing to my son?”
“Sir, you need to lower your voice,” says the cop restraining Graylin.
“You can’t talk to him without my permission.”
“We don’t need your permission,” he says.
“Please, Dad!” Graylin cries. “It’s okay! I’ll be okay. Please, Dad! I don’t want them to shoot you! Please do what they say!”
The Asian cop looks past me at the principal. “We found the picture.”
Principal Keller gasps and cups her mouth.
I’m so pissed off my vision is blurry. But it’s my son’s terror-stricken face, not the Beretta still in that cop’s hand that forces me to regain control of my senses. I take a few more steps back, lower my voice, but amplify my outrage.
“Why is my son in handcuffs?”
The Asian cop eyes me with contempt. “Because he’s under arrest.”
“Possession of child pornography.”