EDITOR’S NOTE: The following first-person piece is part of a collaborative series produced by The Fresno Bee and The Know Youth Media, examining restorative justice programs as an alternative to suspensions and expulsions in schools. In this piece, a young person from Fresno shares her experiences of being suspended in middle school.
My name is Jane Carretero and I am 14 years old. Towards the beginning of my 8th grade school year at Fort Miller I started doing drugs, and my mom found out about it.
One day, she and I got into a huge fight and she found a bottle of marijuana in my backpack. It was a difficult choice for her to make, but she ended up calling the police. They ended up taking me in for that.
After three days at juvenile hall, it finally hit me. I remember falling on my knees and I started crying for my mom, and I was like, “Why did I have to mess up so badly?”
When I went back to school, I had fallen behind a lot. A lot of people thought that I snitched them out. Some people even thought that I had gotten pregnant, and a lot of girls wanted to fight me, because they thought I was saying things about them.
The teacher started yelling at everyone, and he turned to me. I said, “You’re yelling at us for no reason.” Then the teacher said, “Don’t talk back to me. I know kids like you. You’re messed up in life, and you’re going to mess up when you’re older, too. You’re going to go off to high school thinking you’re all cool and pretty like that, thinking you’re all hard. And you’re going to get beat up one day by a girl better than you,” he told me.
My mom taught me manners, and I didn’t want to say anything back to him. I was tired of people judging me. I’ve done a lot of bad things in my life, and I don’t like people looking back at me and putting things in my face. So I walked out.
I ended up sneaking into a couple of classrooms. When school ended, I left campus through the side gate, because I had found out that they were looking for me. I didn’t want to get in trouble. It was a stupid decision, of course.
I had forgotten that the school had my iPod, so I tried to walk back onto the campus. When I asked for it, they said, “No, you left.” I said, “No, I didn’t.” They called me a liar and yelled at me in front of everyone. They ended up suspending me two days. I was more afraid of going back to juvenile hall than of facing the consequences when I went back to school after being suspended.
After two days of being suspended I went back to school. As one of my teachers was taking attendance, he asked where everyone was. I wanted to say something bad, and I said, “Up in beds, where we should all be.”
After he kicked me out of his class for saying that, I found out he wrote down that I said, “Up your ass” when he asked where everyone was.
Right when I walked into the school office, one of the staff said, “It’s her. Suspend her.” She didn’t even look at my file.
It wasn’t just about being suspended; it was more to me. I risked being locked up again and being sent to juvenile hall. This time, I wouldn’t have been locked up for two or three weeks, but three months for violation.
Jane Carretero, 14, is a freshman at Edison High School in Fresno. She has been a writer for The kNOw Youth Media since February 2012.
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