Forbes: “If you observe any of these warning signs, you need to intervene now:” Thank you to Zeynep Ilgaz.


She said, “You can suck my dick.” Thirteen year old, “I don’t like myself”, mostly engaged in the lessons, bullied- Raneetha. Ohh, Raneetha. She was standing her full, four foot four, her splayed fingers digging into wide, maturing hips, and her chest puffed up and out. She spat the line with genuine frustration, dropping her jaw with each beat to reveal pink gums beneath mostly straight teeth. “You.” Jaw drops. “Can.” Jaw drops. “Suck.” Jaw drops again. “My dick.” Marking the performance that she knew, deep down, she was capable of performing, her eyes furtively shifted to gauge my reaction, but received little information. Then they were off and back to focus on her epitaph’s receiver, Jamari. Jamari just laughed, while Raneetha tried to suppress her own smile. I could see both of them, but my eyes were focused on Brandon.

Brandon kept interrupting Raneetha, as she was losing her cool with Jamari. Brandon also, now, was standing, shifting weight from one foot to the other, “Raneetha, you got to calm down.”

“Brandon.” My stern voice out. “Brandon, please sit down now, and stop talking. Please. This is the last time that I’m gonna ask.”


Raneetha: I have nothing to calm down for.

Jamari: (laughing) Just quit your playin’ Raneetha.

Brandon: Just be calm.

Raneetha:(shouting) I AM NOT PLAYING!!!


Leveling my voice, “Brandon, sit down now. And stay out of this, please.” Raneetha’s hands began pounding at the sides of her head as she repeated her shout. I decided that this escalation had been allowed to progress as far as I felt comfortable. Standing from my own seat in our circle, I walked directly to where Brandon was standing. I stood as close to his 4-foot frame as I could without touching. “Sit down, Brandon. Now.” I said, looking down.

Brandon sat. “But she just,” he was still talking, even as he was sitting.

“Brandon,” I interrupted. “Stop talking.”

“But she just…”

“I don’t wanna hear it right now. We can talk about it later, if you still want to, but for right now, you need to be here, seated. And with your mouth shut.” I looked down into his upturned face, and his wide brown eyes found mine. Then, head swung down, and eyes leveled, to look out and to his right, beyond me.

“Fine.” Brandon’s skinny dark arms crossed. Now, I was able to return to my seat in the circle.

On my way back, I admonished Raneetha quietly as I passed her, “Stop beating your head, Raneetha. Please.”

Once, I was seated, I asked for everyone’s attention. “Alright, let’s have everyone’s attention here; eyes on me, please.”  Raneetha was still standing; she stopped beating her head. Jamari was already back in his seat, smugly smiling, lounging legs outstretched, shoulders back. Brandon’s head was shaking back and forth, but at least, he wasn’t talking.

“Everyone should now be back in their seats, sitting upright, eyes and attention focused on me.” Jamari pulled himself to straighten at his back. Brandon stopped shaking his head, turned and looked at me. Everyone in the circle, ten or eleven of us, were basically now sitting upright and focused on getting back to the program. Raneetha looked around, then dropped into her seat, with a small huff. She raised her head to look at me.

“Language that is inappropriate during your regular school day is also inappropriate during this program and please refrain from using it.” I stated. I did look directly back into Raneetha’s eyes, and also scanned all the eyes of our circle. Then, I asked, a slow smile on my waning face, “Now, what are some things that can happen when one person is losing their cool, and their is an audience? What do you think about the audience’s role in conflict?”

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