I love this question. The fact that they have to clarify “as a child” makes me wonder how many people got in trouble at school as an adult, which, honestly, could be a whole different kind of trouble than I think they were actually thinking of. But okay, let’s give this one a go.
Getting into trouble in school* was a no-brainer for me. I got in trouble all the time. But I also got myself out of trouble. I was the Ferris Bueller of my friend set. My locker held a treasure trove of hall passes, student requests, and whatever other bits of official documentation I could snag from the desks of secretaries or others in official capacities. Thinking back now, though, I’m struggling to remember more than a few specific incidents.
As I went to two (well, three, really) high schools, I’m guessing there were incidents at all of them**. For example, I knew my time in the military was probably a bad idea when I was sitting outside of the main building at Western High School (, in civilian clothes, and a superior officer (Walt by name) walked by, also in civilian clothes. He was kind of a dick to begin with and when I didn’t immediately snap to attention, he said “You’re supposed to salute a superior officer.” To which my response was “fuck you.” Needless to say, I was reported and had a disciplinary meeting with the two men, a retired Colonel and Sergeant who ran the ROTC unit.
“Now Jaq, we know he’s a bit of an ass, but you have to respect the rank, if not the man.”
I apologized and made it right and my punishment wasn’t very severe, but it was a black mark (well, slightly gray) on my record and let me know that the military probably wasn’t for me. At the same time, for a variety of reasons, I found myself in a remedial reading class (don’t ask). I very quickly got a reputation in that class for being a smart ass as well as just being smart and so, from time to time, I would get asked questions by other students. On one such occasion, a girl yelled across the room at me to answer a linguistic question which had been plaguing her:
“Hey, Jaq,” she yelled. “What’s another word for ‘dumb’?”
Of course, I took a moment to consider what she was asking and the best way to respond. Finally, I yelled back “Mute!”
Needless to say, that didn’t garner me too many friends. Nor did the antics of myself, AAron, and John, when we would buy a pound or two of cumquats and proceed to whip out our locking buck knives, cut the fruit in half and devour them in our health class (I think it was health?). Seriously, imagine what would happen if three of the “weird” kids in school all had knives in class these days? 1983 was a different world for sure!
The following year I moved to Clark and I think in my junior year, I was relatively scandal free. I do remember at one point breaking in to the school in order to finish building a set for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest but that was about it, really. It wasn’t until my senior year when things really started to go a little crazy.
At some point in my senior year, after Mr. Mills was sure I’d be the one to start a revolution when he was trying to teach about US history and the American revolution, I started an actual one. See, the administration had decided to enact a policy to punish people who were late for class by randomly locking the doors at the moment the bell rang and anyone caught in the hallways would get an automatic suspension. This happened right before my civics class and I thought it was a BS policy. But what could we do?
Me and a couple of other kids (whose names I no longer remember) created an acronym, UNFAIR (and I wish to god I could remember what it actually stood for) and implored students – ALL students – to stay outside their classrooms on a specific day the following week. Our reasoning was that they couldn’t suspend us all (we had a graduating class of several hundred and maybe 2000 students in the school in total).
At the time, I was working as a student aid for my Spanish teacher (I had dropped the class but needed something to fill the period) so had access to the ditto machine*** and could print up the flyers telling the entire school population our plan. I had told my folks that I would probably get suspended and I went off to school to distribute the flyers and by the end of the day, I had, in fact, been suspended. I had been summoned o the vice-principal’s office. Seems I was fairly well known in those parts. Might have had something to do with getting a bit irate about the thought of Jewish holidays being counted against us when everyone got Christmas off. I was rather vocal about coming in Christmas day to make up for the days I would miss by not coming in on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The one-sided conversation went something like this: “Jaq, I don’t know if you had anything to do with this or not,” she said, pointing to the flyer. “I think you did, but even if you didn’t, you know who did.” She claimed I could get charged with “incite to riot” but we had, quite specifically, said in the flyer and otherwise that this was a peaceful protest (things I had learned about from Gary Kaempfer, among the many other things he taught me).
At that point, there was nothing to do but ‘fess up. I want to say I took the whole of the blame and didn’t turn anyone else in, no naming name for me, but I’m not sure at this point if I was that much of a stand up guy.
What I do know is that our little protest made an impact. The district put our several full page memos on how to deal with us and the district never again pulled that kind of a stupid stunt, at least not during our senior year.
So there you go, my career as a trouble maker. I’m sure I did other things after school and beyond, but in school, these were the highlights.
* “School,” I’ve learned living over here in Lithuania, is different than “University.” School is specifically grades 1-12 and lo the derision one will incur if one happens to equate one with the other
** I’m not going to count anything before high school as that doesn’t seem fair to the spirit of the assignment. Although in 9th grade I did often get into trivia contests with my social studies teacher, Gary Kaempfer, who proceeded to let me know, in no uncertain terms, I was an example of why some animals ate their young.
*** If you don’t know what a ditto machine is a) consider yourself lucky and b) check here.