I didn’t attend the best high school as a teen. Detroit isn’t known for its exceptional educational system. But I was a decent student when I wanted to be. Unfortunately, I was almost held back in eleventh grade. That year I was engaged hanging out with friends rather than studying. To make up for it, I was given the opportunity to attend summer school so that I would pass to the next grade.
Summer school was held only three days per week and few classes few taught. Most of the three-storied high school was empty, save for the few students that attended and a handful of staff that ran the place.
The worst students went to summer school, and I had gotten myself stuck with them that year. The class was filled with the likes of cocaine dealer and member of the Latin Kings, Tony Sanchez. There was Darnell Williams who was in and out of juvenile for selling drugs, breaking and entering, and car theft. Suzie Simmons was once arrested for prostituting her little sister. Suzie was extremely violent and once stabbed a girl in the park (the girl survived with minor injuries).
Some of the teachers at West High were abused by these thugs and most of them who were, quit teaching; can’t say that I blame them. However, there were some teachers like Mr. Fosse who taught algebra. He was one of the few educators who thought he could make a difference. He was a mild-mannered man, short, and wore bifocals too large for his pudgy face. Mr. Fosse always treated me well and I liked the guy.
I sat in the back of math class in the row next to Suzie. As Mr. Fosse attempted to explain the equation, spit balls and paper airplanes zipped across the room. Excessive profanities and laughter were uttered throughout the class.
Suzie was obnoxiously loud that day, louder than everybody else. She was gabbing something to Jennifer Mosley about her ex-boyfriend. Mr. Fosse on more than one occasion told her to quiet down.
“Suzie, please quiet down.”
She would comply but less than a minute later start chattering again. This happened three or four times and I could see Mr. Fosse becoming more frustrated as his chubby face turned red.
Tony decided it was a good time to rise from his desk and with pride, throw up gang signs with his hands.
“Tony, please stop that and sit down,” Mr. Fosse insisted.
Tony paid no attention and continued a display of street sign language. Typically soft spoken, it was rare that Mr. Fosse would raise his voice, but he repeated his demand with greater fervor.
“Tony! Stop that! Sit down, please!”
Tony ended his demonstration then walked to the front of the class and wrote “f**k you” on the black board with loose chalk. Some in the class chuckled at the disrespect. I think that’s when Mr. Fosie began to lose it.
“Get out of my class, Tony!” Mr. Fosse roared.
Tony didn’t blink or bother to look at the instructor and swaggered back to his seat.
“Tony, I said get out of my classroom! Do not come back! Pack your things and leave!”
Tony casually looked up at the teacher.
“What are you trying to say?”
The sarcastic remark resulted in more snickers from the class.
“Get out, Tony! Right now!”
“I’ll leave when I’m ready, puto,” Tony said defiantly, remained in his seat and began to roll a joint.
That’s when Suzie and Darnell started making out at the back of the class at a small table.
“Suzie! Darnell! Do that on your own time! This is not the place for that type of behavior!” screamed Mr. Fosse.
They continued their little love affair without pause as Suzie lifted her right hand and gave Mr. Fosse the bird. Mr. Fosse walked toward the back of the room to confront them.
“Cut that out right now!”
They stopped kissing but Mr. Fosse had to take a break from the class. He stepped outside of the room into the hall and shut the door. I could see him pacing, trying to get his bearings together through the door window. Everyone in the class continued in their disarray.
“I think Mr. Fosse is losing it,” I said aloud to no one in particular.
“Who cares,” Darnell said. “F**k him.”
Moments later our instructor stepped back into the class seemingly a little more relaxed and began to finish the equation on the board, after erasing Tony’s words of course. Not soon after, Darnell and Suzie went at it again at the table at the back of the room. Darnell had his hand up Suzie’s shirt, in front of everybody.
“I told you two to stop that! That’s inappropriate behavior!” said Mr. Fosse as he walked over to them. “Stop that and get out of the class!” he said, grasping Suzie and Darnell each by the shoulder separating them.
Suzie didn’t appreciate Mr. Fosse’s move.
“Get your dirty hands off me!” Suzie screamed as she stood up from the table. “Don’t you ever touch me!” she screamed, retrieving a small knife from her purse. Unexpectedly, she jammed the blade into the side of Mr. Fosse’s neck. He gripped the handle with both hands as blood spurted from the wound. The class fell silent, and Mr. Fosse plummeted to the wooden floor, a grimace of pain on his face.
I was taken aback momentarily but came to my senses.
“Call 911!” I yelled. Not one person responded. I didn’t have my cell with me so I couldn’t call.
“Come on! Somebody has a cell phone! We need to call for help!”
Again, I was ignored, and the class began about its business as Mr. Fosse lay on the floor bleeding.
“Help me, please,” Mr. Fosse managed to verbalize, begging for help.
Everyone in the class carried on and Suzie sat back down and could be heard screeching.
“He put his hands on me! He touched me!”
No one bothered to help the man as he lay dying on the floor. Everyone watched with indifference. Nobody cared, except me it seemed.
The nurse, I knew, was on the second floor of the building, if she was in. I got up from my desk and ran out of the class into the hall. I turned right around a corner to a stairwell, ran up the steps to the second floor and burst into the first room on the right.
Ms. DeJesus, a school counselor, stood there in the middle of the office, speaking with Mrs. Almyer, the nurse. I’ve had a crush on Ms. DeJesus since ninth grade; all the boys did. She was a gorgeous Latina woman with a nice figure, brown skin, long wavey black hair and wore thin framed glasses. One time me and my friends were at the park and saw her there on one of her off days, during a festival, wearing a pair of Daisy Dukes and a black tank top. She did not look like a guidance counselor that day.
“What’s wrong?” Ms. DeJesus asked.
“Suzie Simmons! She stabbed Mr. Fosse in the neck! He’s on the floor bleeding!”
“What room is he in?” Mrs. Almyer asked.
As the three of us raced down the flight of stairs, Ms. DeJesus called 911. The police and an ambulance were on the way.
Back on the first floor, Mrs. Almyer prevented Ms. DeJesus and me from entering the classroom.
“Stay out here,” she said. “I want to attend to Mr. Fossie and don’t want to cause too much commotion in the class to make sure Suzie doesn’t leave.”
Shockingly Suzie had not skipped the scene; her arrogance and stupidity caused her to believe she had the right to do what she did. Mrs. Almyer went into the class and shut the door behind her. I watched through the window; Mr. Fosse lay on the floor motionless.
Ms. DeJesus and I stepped about fifteen feet away from the door.
“Rodolfo, explain to me what happened,” she asked as we stood in the empty hall.
I explained how Tony threw up gang signs and wrote on the blackboard. How Suzie and Darnell were making out and when Mr. Fosse physically broke them up, Suzie went nuts and shanked him in the neck. Ms. DeJesus listened, clutching her red purse as her brown eyes became watery.
“I knew it,” she said softly. “I knew that this would ultimately happen. They would kill one of us in the end.”
She had a point. Events at school could cause one to believe that a teacher’s eventual murder be caused by a student. Julio Rodriguez beat up Mr. Klooney, an English teacher, in the school parking lot. Mrs. Shoemaker was struck in the jaw last year by Jimmy Burton. And last semester, crazy Sean Ferrister hit Mr. Cavallero, the music teacher, with a chair. He even threatened to come to school and shoot some of his street rivals, other drug dealers and gang members.
I continued, explaining that no on in the room tried to help him, except for me. I told her how they didn’t care that a man lay there was dying. At that moment the classroom door opened and strutting out with Darnell at her side was Suzie.
Ms. DeJesus’ eyes narrowed as she pulled a small silver gun from her purse, a silencer at its tip. She pulled the trigger and let two rounds in Suzie’s stomach. Before Darnell could flee, Ms. DeJesus gave him two in the chest. Both fell dead on the hard hallway floor.
I was speechless. I didn’t know what to say or do but I wasn’t scared.
The door opened again, and Tony walked out wearing his white wife beater, showing off his tattooed arms and neck. He immediately saw the two bodies on the hall floor.
“What the f**k?”
Before you knew it, Ms. DeJesus shot him twice, one in the chest, the other in the stomach. He fell on the floor near Suzie and Darnell but kept moving. She shot him one more time for good measure.
“Antonio Sanchez,” Ms. DeJesus said under her breath. “If there is ever a drug deal on the street corner you could find him there. How many lives has he helped ruin? How many were babies born addicted to crack because of him?”
Just then Mrs. Almyer walked out of the classroom crying, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“Mr. Fosse is dead,” she said, voice trembling. Ms. DeJesus concealed the gun before Mrs. Almyer could notice.
“Oh God!” Mrs. Almyer screamed. “What happened? Who did this?” she said referring to dead bodies on the floor.
“Sean Ferrister!” I responded instantly. “He shot them! Sean came in here and shot them like he said he would!
“He ran down the hall towards the east side of the building!” Ms. DeJesus added.
Ms. DeJesus called 911 again to report the crimes committed by crazy Sean Ferrister. Soon after, the authorities arrived, removed the bodies, and asked all kinds of questions. The other students in the class and I testified that Suzie stabbed Mr. Fosie. None of them saw what happened out in the hall.
Ms. DeJesus and I corroborated each other’s story that Sean was responsible for the students’ deaths. He managed to enter the school somehow through as side door. Ms. DeJesus and I saw him coming down the hall wielding a gun, so we hid around the corner that led to the stairwell upstairs. When Sean’s targets came out of the class, he took them out and fled the scene. There were no cameras installed at West High back then, so the cops took our word that Sean was the one who murdered Suzie and Darnell.
Turns out Sean Ferrister shot and killed two people during a drug deal gone sour later that same night. It looked like a killing spree. He was caught and charged with five counts of murder.
That horrific event went down as statistical, urban high school violence. I never went to summer school after that and graduated the next year. Eventually I finished college and got a job as an engineer.
Ms. DeJesus left West High soon after the ordeal. I was told she moved to Puerto Rico but haven’t heard anything about her since. That was fourteen years ago. Wherever Ms. DeJesus is, I hope she’s in a place where she doesn’t have to carry a gun in her purse.