Three months to the day after my son was forced to knock the bejeezus out of a bully at the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, I received a phone call from Rabbi Daniel Price.
"Hello, Mr. Meth. I hope everything is well. I’m calling to check up on how Jesse is doing with his psychologist."
"With his what?"
"I thought you said that. My son doesn’t see a psychologist."
"I believe that was our agreement."
"And which left field did this just come out of?"
"Excuse me?" said the rabbi.
"Are you telling me," I asked, "that there’s been another incident?"
"No," said Price. "Everything is fine."
"Then why are you calling me?"
"Because our agreement was—"
"Our agreement," I interrupted, "was that my son would see a psychologist once so you could ascertain that he was no danger to your other students; that you weren’t on the verge of a Colunbine incident. And we complied. He went. Once. Your school shrink received a letter from her colleague declaring that my boy was fine, and he was re-admitted. In other words, you covered your ass. Now why are you really calling?"
Rabbi Price explained that, according to his notes, there was an agreement was that my child would attend regular sessions with a psychologist—sessions designed to help the boy deal with anger management and any potential rage issues.
Now watch two adults deal with theirs.
"Is there something wrong with your memory, rabbi?" I asked.
"I don’t believe so, Mr. Meth."
"Then you must have completely tuned out three months ago. My son didn’t have a rage issue; he knocked shit out of the school bully following your personal failure to curtail that misanthrope’s behavior. What my son did was GOOD and RIGHT and PROPER and by every stretch of the imagination NORMAL." I took a breath.
"What your son did," said Price, his voice rising, "was cold and calculated. He beat the boy senseless and without mercy."
"Exactly," I said. "After months of being tormented, and your office doing nothing about it, my son put the little fucker out of everyone’s misery. And he did it precisely because his father told him to do it."
"He should have refused," said Price. "He should have told you that it was foolish—"
"Perhaps that’s how you spoke to your father, rabbi, but in my home, children don’t talk that way to parents."
This was going nowhere. We were about to start insulting each other’s mothers. I could smell the threat of suspension for my son until I complied with this mandatory psychologist edict, so I refreshed Price’s memory once more. Apparently he hadn’t paid attention in October, 2007, when I warned him that if he didn’t solve the bullying problem in his school, then I would. Apparently he hadn’t heard my warning that I was ready to level a negligence suit against his school, and him personally, for ignoring repeated warnings that my son was being tormented by another boy with a thick file of complaints from yet other parents. Apparently our young rabbi doesn’t read this blog!
So I painstakingly refreshed his memory, yet again, concluding with the lawsuit.
"It’s not something I want to do," I said, meaning sue a yeshiva, "but if you leave me no choice..."
"Are you serious?" Price screamed. "You’re going to sue us? Your son beats up another child and you have the audacity to threaten a suit against us? If anything, the other parent should be suing you!"
"They can certainly try," I replied, "but that’s not what we’re talking about. I have a solid case against you for the months of neglect, despite repeated warnings, which forced this situation to a head. And my attorney is only too happy to take this case on a contingency. He smells a payday. And don’t think this won’t hit the papers and internet, rabbi. That’s what Tiggers do best."
I can’t remember who hung up on who first. I suspect it was mutual. No one actually said fuck you but it was in our voices. Two things were clear: Daniel Price was going to chase this up a tree. He was going to borrow trouble just to prove that in his role as “educator” he didn’t have to take shit off nobody.
And I was going to sue his ass.
This morning, I entered the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy at 8:20. I signed in at the security desk, then proceeded to the school office and requested that the yeshiva send my son’s transcripts to the local public school. On the advice of my attorney, pending our lawsuit, I was withdrawing my boy from the yeshiva before they had an opportunity to harass him further.
Two hours later, my ex-wife phoned. I was sitting outside the office of the Kalever Rebbe, shilta, waiting for my appointment with the Ohave Yisroel when I got the call.
“They don’t want any trouble,” said my ex.
“Kushner. The school. Mrs. Deitsch just called me. They’re backing down.”
“And they called you?”
“Apparently they’re afraid of you. Please don’t sue them.”
Uncle Harlan loved this story. And I loved bringing him good news for a change. He said it was a monument to personal responsibility. Had his missus call me 20 minutes later just so I could repeat it.
I was going to end it with, and then I went in and got a brocha from the Kalever Rebbe. He told me to be more b’simcha.
But I’m going to end like this:
If this school ever forces my hand, I'll sue them—win, lose or draw. And I’ll report on it. And I’ll expect all of you—my friends with blogs and newspaper columns and other media at your disposal—to report on it, too. And to name names.
I’ll owe you one. Or perhaps you’ll be repaying one you owe me.
And I’ll enjoy every moment of it. B’simcha.
Personal responsibility. With fanfare.
That’s what Tiggers do best.