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Seaton: Sheriff Roy and the Outrage Tornado

Sheriff Roy Templeton had a headache. The assembled group of adults before him hadn’t stopped yelling since he stepped into Principal Doreen Jessup’s office at Nick Saban Intermediate School and asked “What’s the problem?”

When the school called about a row involving some parents and teachers, Mud Lick’s head law enforcement officer decided he’d handle the incident personally. Roy Junior started at Saban Middle in the fall and Sheriff Roy thought getting a little positive face time with the principal of his son’s new school would be advantageous.

Plus he needed to pick up a sixth grade orientation packet for Roy Junior and a school supply list. It was a good way to kill several metaphorical birds with one short car trip.

Or so the Sheriff thought at the time. Now he wished he’d sent Deputy Miranda.

Rubbing his temples, Sheriff Roy asked, “Can someone please start from the top and explain this whole thing to me again slowly? And can it just be one of you and can that person not yell?”

“These school administrators are bigots and unfit to teach my children!” yelled one adult, a white woman most likely named Karen.

“And these unbelievable parents are some of the biggest racists in the State of Alabama!” a young black man who was apparently a DEI consultant shot back.

“That’s inappropriate! We have a Black Lives Matter sign on our front lawn!”

“Your sign can kiss my black ass!”

And the yelling started again. Sheriff Roy calmly retrieved a whistle from his breast pocket and blew it. The ear splitting blast got everyone’s attention.

The Sheriff smiled. “Works better than a warning shot. Now then. Let’s talk and sort this out.”

After one on one discussions with everyone, Sheriff Roy pieced together the following:

There was a group of parents who had issues with two teachers not using three transgender students’ preferred pronouns. The teachers weren’t being terribly malicious about it; the kids in question chose very odd names that weren’t on anything official and seemed to change every other week. Pronouns were an issue too; if the teachers missed a pronoun they were accused of committing verbal acts of violence against the children.

“One of them even said there’s an ‘LGBTQ Demon’ in our schools! As if a child’s non-conformity of gender and sexual orientation are evil!” said one parent with a look of aggravation and offense the likes of which Sheriff Roy had never seen before.

“She’s a deacon at her church!” an administrator said, rolling her eyes with a look of disbelief.

“And that’s a problem! Nonconsensual prayers are acts of religious genocide!”

“You’re mad about the chocolates she handed out on Halloween!”

“Chocolate crucifixes, Andre! Crucifixes! There’s a thing called separation of church and state!”

“Okay,” Sheriff Roy began with the group reassembled. “I think I understand the general gist of your grievances with one another. What I don’t understand is why half of you are calling the other bigots and racists.”

“Isn’t it pretty damn obvious? Sheriff Templeton, these school teachers are committing hate crimes against some of our most vulnerable children on a regular basis! Deadnaming, improper pronoun usage, non-consensual prayers…surely this has to be criminal!” said one parent.

“And it’s pretty damn obvious to us the only reason y’all got the cops involved is because you can’t handle black and brown teachers showing your kids REAL diversity!” spat a teacher.

“If all of you decided to stop attributing bad intentions to one another you might not be yelling right now. Did any of you ever think of that?” asked Sheriff Roy.

“Maybe the reason your kids are getting ‘dead-named’ is because the teachers are absent one day and a substitute is using what roll sheets the school gives them. Maybe the teachers are tired and forget to use ‘xir’ or ‘xe’ when they refer to your child. I seriously doubt Mrs. Garcia or Mr. Billings really think your children are demons from the pits of hell just because they’re non-binary or whatever.

Can we just give these nice folks the benefit of the doubt and get on with our lives?”

“NO!” shouted the parents in unison.

Sheriff Roy sighed. He turned to the teachers.

“And these parents are already going through enough with their kids. These children are having a devil of a time growing up in bodies they really don’t understand at all. Between most of the world and their peers not accepting who they are on the inside as well as out sometimes, the nicest thing you can do is just bite your tongue, smile and call a kid “them.” Can we maybe do that and show some compassion to parents going through the hell of teenagers?”

“NO!” shouted the teachers in unison.

“And that’s the problem. None of you are really interested in right or wrong in this whole damn argument. You’re all so hopped up on offense and outrage you’ll do anything for another fix of it. One of the worst things that ever happened to this country was this stupid fascination we have with oppression and ‘marginalization.’ The more of a special snowflake you are, the more you get applauded for it.

Then one day someone comes along who doesn’t bow and scrape and tell you how wonderful you are. Maybe they just happen to be doing what they can to get by in this world and didn’t really mean to offend you. But offend they did, and now because you personally feel slighted you get to unload with the ‘racist’ this and ‘bigot’ that.

And it solves nothing. It’s solved nothing before I got here and it’s not going to solve a damn thing after I leave today. Only thing that will solve any of this is we kick the offense addiction cold turkey and focus on living together as Americans.

But people don’t want to do that.”

Sheriff Roy stood from the conference room table. He pulled a notebook out of his breast pocket and jotted something down. “I think I’ll be going now. There’s nothing I can do here except arrest the lot of you for being stupid, but stupidity isn’t a crime in this jurisdiction. Neither is being a racist or a bigot, despite what y’all might want to desperately believe. Now if you will excuse me, there’s actual crimes out there being committed I need to address while you folks are busy yelling at each other.”

“Did you need anything else, Sheriff Roy?” Principal Jessup asked as she walked beside Sheriff Roy to his cruiser.

“No ma’am I do not. I’m happy I could be a little bit of service to you today and get that mess quieted on your campus though.”

“And we appreciate you and the rest of the Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Roy. Drive safe now.”

Sheriff Roy smiled as he left the parking lot. As soon as Nick Saban Middle School was out of sight he dialed his wife, Arlene.

“Honey,” Sheriff Roy began, “What do you say to homeschooling Roy Junior for a couple of years?”

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