Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Where There's Fire Alarm, There's Smoking.

For the last few months of last school year, the students at Gateway were pulling the fire alarm, on average, at least once a day.

It all started when on the last day before spring break some gutsy student pulled the alarm during 2nd lunch. While everyone was forced outside to wait for the all clear from the fire department there was a series of fights that the student body found far more entertaining than class. When the fire department came and gave the all clear the students were told to go back to class. A few did. The rest ran the halls roughhousing until the principal came over the intercom and announced that there was a riot in progress on the first floor and that the police were on their way.

Personally, I doubt that the action on the first floor hallways that day amounted to a riot, but it was very exciting. That one fire alarm pull taught the whole student body that a fire alarm and near riot is a great way to pass some time during a boring school day.

We spent a lot of time waiting for the all clear from the fire department last year. So much time, that the fire department eventually refused to respond to fire alarms at Gateway Tech, which I'm pretty sure is illegal. They would only come to Gateway if the alarm was accompanied by a call from an administrator. When the administrators called, they told the firemen whether this particular alarm was false, or whether it was one of the many times that the students set fire to a trash can in one of the bathrooms. Which was more common? Six to one, half dozen to the other.

Over the summer, ending the fire alarm epidemic was one of the administrations first priorities. For the first day of school this year, every fire alarm was fitted with covers that spray indelible ink onto the hands of whoever triggers the alarm. For the first 7 weeks of school there were no fire alarms.

Today, during 1st lunch, the alarm fire sounded. I was alone in my classroom eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my 30 minute lunch break. I finished a half pint of milk and made my way down the stairs and out emergency exit #8.

It was just like old times as we all waited in the pleasant fall weather for the all clear from the fire department. As we were waiting I overheard a nearby teacher saying something about a cigarette. 30 feet a way, down the mellow grassy hill near the decrepit tennis courts a female students was puffing casually away on a cigarette looking up at the building vacantly.

To see a student smoking so casually in that situation, it caught me totally off guard. I mean, its not like we were in the boys room or something.


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