“Ladies, lets hurry up and get to class” I instructed a group of 6th grade girls standing at their lockers. “Okkkayyyyy, Mr. Bacchus” the four girls responded as they continued gathering what they needed for class. As Susan closed her locker, she turned and whispered something to the girl next to her. I watched as the secret was passed from one girl to the next until all four girls were giggling. Brian’s locker was next in line but when the secret reached him the giggling stopped. Brian shaking his head simply said “that ain’t right”. The four girls entered my classroom and took their seats but Brian stayed out in the hallway. He approached me outside of my class, took a deep breath and said “Mr. Bacchus, I think you should know that Susan was telling those girls you took her virginity”.
I didn’t know what to say, do, or think. The utter look of disbelief on my face prompted the English teacher to walk over and ask “Bacchus are you okay”? I directed Brian to repeat exactly what he had just told me. He took another deep breath and said “Susan is telling people that Mr. Bacchus took her virginity”. Thank goodness those words didn’t have the paralyzing effect on the English teacher as they did on me and she immediately sprang into action. Mrs. Ruffin pulled each one of the girls from my class and escorted them to the principal’s office.
In this day and age an accusation like that against a male teacher is a death sentence and I believed the executioner was en route to my classroom. It was only my second year of teaching at Lindsay Middle School and I had already witnessed the end of my career. Why would she say something like that? Who else had she told? Was it already around school? A million more questions scurried through my mind but I knew the answers didn’t matter. I knew I was done. I stood there picturing the headline that would be all over the news in my hometown of Hampton, Virginia. It would say “Former Football Star Tackles Young Girl in Classroom”.
The principal’s response stopped that headline from ever seeing the light of day. She held an impromptu assembly with all the students on team 6C and warned them about the dangers of making up lies about your teacher. The girl who started the rumor was actually expelled from school (it wasn’t her first time being in trouble) and Brian was applauded as a hero (he could do no wrong in my class for rest of the year). It seemed as if every teacher in the building came by to offer their support but it was the words from Principal Coleman that have stayed with me 8 years later.
“Bacchus think of this like a bomb that was a near miss. It was inches away from being a direct hit and destroying you but it didn’t. It missed! This won’t be the only bomb that nearly blows you to pieces as you go through life but always remember these near misses. Embrace the fact that you survived! Embrace that fact that something brought you through and protected you. Embrace the fact that your still here! Once you begin embracing the near misses in life, it’s only a matter of time before some of the incoming bombs you face won’t even sound the alarms.”
Embrace it? Embrace an 11 year old girl saying I took her virginity? I thought Mr. Coleman was crazy at that moment! However, after I showed my class a naked lady a few years later I began understanding the importance of embracing the near misses. (To be continued)
*All names were changed to protect identity of former students