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There was once a school in our neighborhood. It was a small boarding school for boys. It used to sit at the end of our street in fact. It’s gone now and I am haunted by the knowledge of why. It all started about a year ago. Back then, my husband and I didn’t give it a seconds thought. For all we knew, it was just a harmless boarding school down the street. How gravely mistaken we were.
It was a warm summer night, one of the most peaceful nights of that year. My husband and I were in the middle of eating dinner, when I happened to look out the window. I saw a group of boys, around the ages of eight to twelve. They were wearing school uniforms: a white button down shirt, tie, and dark khakis. However, what caught my eye was that the boys seemed to be carrying a large rope with them. At this point, my husband had noticed it too. A large knot was visible at one end of the rope. The boys seemed to be frantically looking around, searching for something. After only a minute, the boys left our view. My husband and I exchanged the same look. We had no idea what to make of it. We’ve seen boys play in our neighborhood before, but something about these boys seemed odd. I probably wouldn’t have had mentioned this event, if not for what happened later that night.
I was sitting in the living room, reading a book, when I thought I heard whimpering from outside the window. I turned my head, only to see what would forever be burned into my memory. In the light cast by the window, I saw that it was the boys again, however this time they had another boy with them. It was a black boy, who was being dragged by his arms. He was also wearing a school uniform. Then I noticed that the boy’s nose was bleeding and bloody bruises covered his face. The last boy was carrying the rope, the knot dragging against the street, leaving behind a trail of dark red liquid. I stood up and screamed, my husband came running down the stairs. I told my husband to call the Sheriff.
The Sheriff arrived within five minutes. I told him everything I had seen that night. The Sheriff told me he would check around the school the next day and that I’d better get some rest. I couldn’t sleep after what I had just seen. I never really thought much of the school, but it had gained my attention. I pulled out my laptop and typed in the school's website. The website looked like any other school website. I scrolled down to the bottom of the homepage and saw in bold text:
"Unlike the accredited schools, we don't water down these subjects by allowing them to be taught drugs, fornication, homosexuality and other perversion …"
The Sheriff knocked on our door early the next day. He said he had visited the school and asked them if he could speak to a few of the students. He said that all the students he had talked to said they had no idea what he was talking about. The Sheriff had a look of uneasiness while discussing the students’ responses. He said that the answers the students had given seemed very tense and very similar. He then told me to keep an eye on the school and if anything else were to come up, I should notify him immediately.
After he left, I decided to give the school a call, using the number that was available on the site. There was no answer. I immediately tried again. No answer. I tried again an hour later. No answer. I sent an e-mail using the address provided by the site, it shared the same fate as my calls. I thought about calling the Sheriff and informing him about it, but I decided against it. Instead, I decided I would try to visit the school myself.
I put on my coat and walked to the school without telling my husband where I was going. The walk to the school was only five minutes. The school itself looked rather respectable. I knocked on the door of the school office and a skinny looking man, with dark hair answered. I told him that I was interested in the school and wished to look around, perhaps talk to some of the students. The man stared at me for about a minute before opening the door and asking me to come in. He turned out to be the receptionist of the school. Upon learning this, I asked him if he had received any calls or emails. The man only shook his head and sat down.
A tall man walked into the room. He had on a blue suit. He had blue eyes and blonde hair. He introduced himself as the headmaster of the school and brought me into his office. He poured us some tea while I asked him a few questions about the school. He smiled with each answer he gave. I don’t remember the entire conversation, except for one moment in particular. I had asked him about disciplinary actions within the school and how their detentions worked. He then seemed to smile wider than he had ever before. He told me that the school didn’t believe in detentions because he felt they were ineffective, and instead preferred something called “CC’s”, which stood for "Corporal Corrections" or, as he joked, “Carrot Cakes.”
I don’t remember how long the conversation lasted. By the time it ended, I just wanted to leave. I couldn’t yet. I told the headmaster that I wished to speak to some of the students, to get a better idea of the student life. He brought me to the only dorm on the campus. We walked in and called out a few names. Three boys quickly ran out of their rooms and stood before me. They stared at the ground while the headmaster spoke, never once looking up. The Headmaster then stood back and told me to go ahead and ask them a few questions. I turned to the headmaster and asked if I could speak to the children privately, explaining that sometimes students are scared to share their opinions when in the presence of a teacher. The Headmaster’s smile faded. He now looked like a completely different person. He told me that he couldn’t leave the students with a stranger, he then turned to the kids and told them to answer “truthfully and thoughtfully”.
I talked to only one of the kids. He was a pale, dark haired, nine-year old boy. He answered each question very quickly, almost as if he already had an answer. However, he stopped at one of my questions and looked over at the headmaster. In the corner of my eye, I saw the Headmaster flick his wrist. The dark haired boy flinched and quickly answered the question, his voice was trembling.
After I finished talking to the student, I thanked the Headmaster and turned to the exit. Something caught my eye. It was a sign hanging from the wall, entitled “Dorm Rules”. The rules ranged from understandable to actually really odd. The ones I can recall were “no talking during silence,” “no eating in the dorm,” and, oddly, “no rock music.” At the bottom of the sign was the text: “Any performance of these evils will result in a CC.”
However, I didn’t feel like leaving the campus just yet. I continued to look around, after I was sure the headmaster had gone back to the office. While walking around the school’s dining hall, I heard a familiar sound. I walked to the back of the dining hall and found a boy sitting on the concrete. The boy looked up and I recognized him immediately. He was the boy I saw being dragged away the night before. The boy looked as if he had been crying for hours.
I knelt down in front of him and asked him what was going on. He told me that the school didn’t like him running away, so he was doing “community service” in addition to a CC. I asked him why he ran away from the school. He wiped the tears out of his eyes and told me that he and some of the other black boys there were called “Rosa Parks” by the teachers and were placed in a “special class” which was actually a teacher lecturing them about how black people were only good for slaves and servants and that he ran away shortly after the class. Just then, the receptionist appeared behind me and told me I had to leave or he would call the Sheriff and report me for trespassing. I quickly left the school, ran back home, and immediately called the Sheriff.
I had told the Sheriff everything I saw before he had even gotten out of his car. He told me he’d get right on it and that I should take it easy for the rest of the night. I still couldn’t get any sleep. The Sheriff, along with a few Deputies, appeared at our house the next day. They all appeared pretty shaken. He told me that the staff of the school had been arrested. I still regret asking him what was going on at the school. The Sheriff told me what the children had told him, that CC’s were beatings that the teachers would give the students. The Sheriff also went on to say they found students stripped and chained in the boiler room and had been there for days without food. Most of the students at the school had marks around their necks, which they said were from chokings. The school's office was searched and a pile of letters from students and mothers were found in the drawer of the receptionist's desk. The Sheriff continued to tell me that they found no information on the school's licensing and it was most likely that agencies weren't even aware the place was even caring for kids. I couldn’t believe that something like this was happening only a five minute walk away.
I will always regret looking out that window, that summer night, but sometimes I wonder if it was better to know or to have never known at all.