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Big Boy Jail

November 2, 2012
Orleans Parish Prison New Orleans

OPP is not a joke. (Photo from

I read daily. I do it when I have a few minutes to spend, wanting to feel a little connection to New Orleans. Secretly (not so secretly) I read the crime section because I’m always looking for my students. Today was unfortunately successful. Student found!

As a teacher at one of the toughest schools in New Orleans, it’s hard to pick the kid who was the most volatile. There were several to choose from. As a teacher, you sort of love them all because you have to. And you want to. The love comes in waves, and when the tide is out, love is fear, disgust, repulsion, frustration. I loved many of our kids in a way that you can’t help loving the worst kids who clearly need SO much more love to survive. The kid I found staring back at me today I admired for his quick mind. He was one of the smartest kids we had, but one of the most mischievous. In a bad way. His PO was at the school often. We knew he carried a gun, he talked about it freely, liked to fake shoot people with his hand in class. We knew he was zoned out, stoned every morning, and by the time it wore off in the afternoon he was a different child who had zero impulse control. When his dad threatened to pull him out of school for the nth fight or the nth joint found by security, no one argued with him. We couldn’t expel him. We were the school of last resort.

There were days at the end of the year that were terribly hard, like sit-in-a-corner hard, and those days, I’d say things to my co-teacher or principal or another teacher down the hall: “We think today was bad. Remember _____ (insert name of kid who made you insane on any given day)? Remember ______? What about green-haired ______? What if any of them were still here?”

I SHOULD NOT have said this. But on days that you think it can’t get any worse, you have to remind yourself that it can. Somehow. It was survival. We were not given the tools in a 5-week intensive training at teachNOLA to deal with the kinds of things we deal with in a classroom. Our education system does not have a folder in which to file this issue.

NOPD arrested this student last week, charged as a juvenile, not named. And this week the 16-year-old was charged in the murder of Velan May, his mug shot posted online, and he was moved to Orleans Parish Prison with a $400,000 bond, with the comment from the reporter that the student’s actions show he wasn’t pleased to hear about the move to big boy jail. OPP’s reputation as one of the toughest jails in the US is not unfounded. It’s a scary place, especially for a teen. And so continues the path for this kid– once in jail, likely to return– one that is sadly predictable in New Orleans, but nonetheless heart breaking for all.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 6, 2012 1:30 pm

    it really is heartbreaking 😦 i’m sorry it was a successfully unsuccessful read 😦

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