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Every school principal deals with weird people and events on a regular basis. In honor of Halloween, I thought I’d share some experiences that have been scary or embarrassing. They might give parents something to think about.

Bomb threats used to be a regular occurrence at secondary schools. Some kid who was suspended or home ill would call the school and wait to hear about the panic that was caused. I hope with the ease of tracing phone calls today, these events don’t happen as often. Bomb threats required a heavy response—a call to the police, evacuating the school, and having the campus checked for anything suspicious.

Then there was a middle school where I was the assistant principal. Despite the district policy, when a threat was called in, the principal said, “It’s not real; ignore it.” There were some dicey moments in the office until the other assistant principal and I made our own decision to follow the correct procedure. Sometimes, insubordination is the only way to go.

Some parents find it necessary to conduct their custody battles on the school grounds. I once watched a mom and a dad in the parking lot, each pulling one arm of their child. Not pretty.

In my early days as an assistant principal at an elementary school, the principal and I were trying to work with a couple who were fighting. They both showed up at the school after hours and started hitting each other. The principal intervened and took the dad to his office. He instructed me to take the mom somewhere else to talk it out. Fine, except as soon as we released them, they started again to hit each other. Trying to restrain them was not a good idea. As a result of that experience, when I became a principal, I instructed my secretary to never wait for direction from me to call the police if there was a physical confrontation between adults. Scary stuff, and dangerous too.

Parents never know what their children are going to bring to school to impress their friends. I have dealt with kids who brought hash pipes, handcuffs, Playboys and once a photo of many sex toys. That last one was embarrassing for all, as I had to call the parents and ask them to retrieve the photo of their collection.

I once investigated a report from kids after recess that there was a “man with a gun” in the dry creek area next to the playground. It’s hard to believe a 6-year-old who says someone pointed a gun at him. From a distance, it could just as easily have been a finger. So although we kept the kids inside and called the police, I went out to look before they arrived. I found nothing, but got a scolding from Napa police—thank you, Officer Stornetta. You were right: everyone’s safety comes first, even the principal’s. Have a safe and wonderful Halloween.

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Lenore Hirsch is a retired school principal living in Napa. Send questions to lenorehirsch@att.net. Please include your child’s age or grade.

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