“Nuture does matter.”, Ashley West said. “Look at my next appointment, Lily Matsunaka. She’s more trouble than any other 6th grade girl in the entire district. She’s not proficient on most of her achievement tests. She’s always in fights. She steals. Is it a coincidence that she doesn’t come from a Christian family with a mother and father at home with her? I don’t think so.”
“You have a point,” said Mr. Jones, the assistant principal. He was also the football coach. He had had his eyes on Ashley West for some time.
Mr. Jones then walked out of Ms. West’s office through the waiting room for the guidance counselor’s suite, not even noting that Lily Matsunaka was quietly sitting right there. Mr. Jones has also long ago forgotten that it was he who had referred Lily to this appointment after Lily’s most recent fight. A sheltered boy who still believed in Santa Claus had turned to fists when Lily had insisted that there was no such thing.
Almost ten minutes later, several phone calls to parents and the county department of social services later, the time for Lily’s appointment came and Ms. West stuck her head out the door and asked Lily to come in.
“Lily, do you know why you’re here?”, Ms. West asked.
“No. Denny hit me and they sent me to the shrink. What’s up with that?”, Lily said.
“Do I need to remind you that this is not the first time you’ve gotten into a fight at this school?”, Ms. West asked.
“Is there anyone else in your class who gets into fights several times a month?”
“So, it’s my fault that I get picked on?”
“Maybe you need to take some personal responsibility for what’s been happening and look at ways to deal with situations more constructively.”
“Why can’t the kids who get into fights with me take more responsibility instead?”
“Did it ever occur to you, Lily, that some people don’t appreciate being taunted?”
“Some kids deserve it.”
“You need to learn to say something nice or say nothing at all.”
“That’s what the Germans did when they started carting off the Jews. That’s what Americans did when they carted off my great-grandfather Matsunaka to Colorado. Silence is death and I won’t do it.”, Lily said, letting anger slip into her voice.
“It isn’t as simple as that Lily.”, Ms. West answered.
“No it’s not, is it. The Jews and the Japanese, they weren’t from good Christian families, just like I’m not from a good Christian family. In your book it’s all about nurture. They were rotten and so they deserved it. Thanks a lot Ms. West. I don’t want your help. I hate people like you.”, Lily said, and stormed out of Ms. West’s office.
Ms. West started to reach to call the principal’s office, but she stopped herself.
“I’m a counselor, not a cop.”, she thought to herself. “My job is to turn kids around, not to drag them down when no real harm was done.” Ms. West took her hand away from the activation button.
Lily spent the rest of the 6th grade working at her farm, and roaming the fields and canals of Washington County, Colorado. Ms. West and Mr. Jones discussed it, and decided not to make a truancy report. The daily attendance reports came into the office of Mr. Jones, and he simply “didn’t find the time” to follow up on them. Lily’s grades for the year were miserable, of course. But next year she was someone else’s problem.
Neither Ms. West, nor Mr. Jones knew what to think when their cars each overheated for want of coolant, the week after school was over.