There are two great injustices of my middle school years, inflicted from adult to child, that to this day infuriate me:  Mr. Tipton's and Mrs. Lumpkin's failure to do the reasonable and right thing in two very different circumstances.

The Great Letter Debacle

In sixth grade, I was madly in love with Greg; thing is, so was Linda.  It's hard to remember the detail of teenage romantic machination, but in this case, I think Greg liked me for five minutes before moving on.

During the time I was "going with him" (which meant nothing other then him asking me to "go" with him, in spite of class being our only destination), Linda wrote him a letter.  Greg passed it along to me and I was horrified to read what Linda would be happy to do with him if I wasn't interested.  I can still see her penciled handwriting and the way she phrased it.  I had never kissed a boy and I couldn't begin to wrap my mind around what she suggested; even in today's culture, this would shock your shoes and socks right off your feet and twist your toenails into corkscrew pasta. 

I promptly turned it into my teacher who in turn gave it to our assistant principal.

The next day he called each of us separately into his office.  His solution?  All of us were disciplined by having to write lines.  Mine?  "I will not read letters not addressed to me," 500 times. 

Let that sink in:  I was punished for turning in a sexually explicit letter.  Me.  Punished.

I don't remember if my parents were called or even if I told them.  This was shortly before or after my dad remarried and I'm sure I would've been too embarrassed to tell them (about the contents of the letter more so than getting in trouble). 

In my opinion then and magnified a hundredfold now, Mr. Tipton mangled this situation.  In 1975, Linda was a sixth grader crying out for help; I was too naive to process the words on the page; Greg probably simultaneously loved it and was rendered completely confused.

Linda and Greg laughed about their discipline; they never completed the lines they were required to write.  I spent the weekend filling six pages of notebook paper with words that bruised my heart and over flowed a cup with fury.

I learned that grown ups could be cowards and incompetent and imperfect.

And, as I sit here thinking through that process, I wonder if that's where a spark was ignited…where I began to believe "there's no greater use of my words than to use them to give voice for those who have none."

Because once upon a time, I was a little girl without permission to speak. 

I wonder….

I'll write my other "childhood story of injustice" later; for now it's your turn.  When you were younger, were you ever subjected to an "unfair" grown up decision?  Not just something that ticked you off because you didn't get your way, but through the filter of adult eyes, was truly an act of injustice?

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