Correspondence from the field

Wednesday 20 July, 2011:                                

I’m deep in the middle of preparing for Zion’s reconsideration meeting. But I’m weary now – I can’t get my head around all the strikes and counter-strikes. I’ll come back to it tomorrow; revisit the scene, as it were. What is Karys playing at? And how can I second guess her? Because I really need to. I meant to have it drafted by today, and I kind of have a mental layout (La-Verne helps with her ‘1 + 3’ strategy: make a central point and back it up with three key statements.)

I go see Zion and his dad again, after school. Zion is almost struck inarticulate when we sit down to talk. By the time I leave, he and Teki are outside, making guns with bits of pipe and rubber – cutting away merrily and sending pebbles flying into the fence. “We should take these to school,” comments Teki. “Shoot Miss Kirk in the ass.”

I almost choke with laughter at this. But I just say to Zion, “And don’t be shy at the meeting. Show those Board people how hard you’ve been trying, let them see that you’ve been working on your confidence.”

“I will Miss,” says Zion, speaking quite freely now.

“That’s good – and you don’t have to be shy of me either, when I come over, Zion,” I tell him.

“I’m not shy of you, Miss,” Zion says. “I’m scared of my dad.” He looks at me and sighs, in a resigned way, then laughs at himself.


Zion probably has a point, but I don’t really want to labour it right now. I need everyone on side. I say, “Well, your dad was pleased that you’d done your speech, anyway,” (which was true).

He grins, saying, “I’ll talk more this time, Miss. In front of those people.”

“That’s good, Zion. Because you’re doing great – and I really want them to see it for themselves.”


Later I ring the School Trustees Association, who are surprisingly helpful (considering their primary function is to look after the interests of School Boards). They tell me there’s nothing to actually prevent me from attending the disciplinary meeting. It is, however, the equivalent of a ‘hospital pass’.


Thursday 21 July:

Writing made-up stories, I think, is a sign of peace time. I’ve never been much of a story teller. For me, writing is more like correspondence from the field; the time spent sitting around in tents – in between battles. But the areas of crossover are becoming more important, there’s an overlap of forms of… of ‘testimony’, or whatever it should be called. I’m not sure I know what to call it. Yet I try to get the gist of it down.


So once again, everything is in place: “Got all our ducks lined up,” as La-Verne puts it. If I had the last 10 years over again, maybe I’d be a lawyer. I’ve never had to go through so much complicated legal detail in my life. But I think we might just have enough at our disposal to get this meeting called off:

Subject: Procedure for reconsideration meetings – BOT

Sent: Thu 21/07/2011 3:16 p.m.

Dear Barbara,

I would like to table the following information for the Board of Trustees:

There are a number of concerns regarding the reconsideration meeting for Zion Kipa, which is being held on Friday 22nd July.  These pertain to the fact that due process (as laid out in the MOE Legal Guidelines for Suspensions) has not been followed prior to the reconsideration meeting. Zion’s parents have asked me to relay these concerns to the board, on behalf of the Kipa whanau.

These concerns are as follows:

  • Zion and his parents have not been given the principal’s report to the board. Section 127(c) of the MOE Guidelines states that: ‘The board must also give the student and his or her parents in writing: the principal’s report to the board on the reconsideration of the suspension (so they know the case they have to answer).’
  • Zion and his parents have not been told what available options the board can decide on. Section 126(b) of the MOE Guidelines states that: ‘The board must tell the student and his or her parents in writing: what options the board has at that meeting for dealing with the suspension (so the student and his or her parents know the possible repercussions of failing to meet the conditions and the options available for the board to decide on).’
  • Zion and his parents have not been given information about the procedures followed at reconsideration meetings. Section 127(a) of the MOE guidelines states that: ‘The board must also give the student and his or her parents in writing: information about the procedures that it follows at reconsideration meetings (so they know what to expect).’
  • While Zion and his parents have received some information about the reconsideration meeting, this is incomplete as it does not contain the information as listed above. Section 128 of the MOE Guidelines states that: ‘Information given to the student and parent must be as complete as possible. This is a requirement of natural justice.’

 Please could you notify the Board of the above concerns. I would appreciate it if this could be brought to the board’s attention prior to the reconsideration meeting.

 Further to this, could you please advise me of the situation in light of these concerns, prior to the reconsideration meeting.

 Thank you, and kind regards,



In moments, today, I’m terrified, yet at the same time I feel actually elated to know that certain things are more important to me than my own private fears.

But my mind’s unsentimental about it. My goals are very concrete. Not just concrete, but minute. Like I’ve said before – the size of two fingers pinched together. They’re not large, abstract, social or collective goals. They’re small and immediate goals; but they’re important ones.

So when I think of Zion, I know I’m doing the right thing. For Zion, and for Tau too, ‘always already’; of course always for Tau. Like a prayer – well, something like that. And sometimes I wonder: is it always gonna be in me to miss Tau as much as I do. I mean – still, after all this time.

Tomorrow though, it’s for Zion as well. When I first met Zion, and he just slipped around on the sidelines, wearing his ‘empty’ look, employing his default persona – I never would have guessed that one day I’d be going 12 rounds in the ring on his behalf. And so here we are again. And what’s gonna happen? And God, don’t forget about us, not for one second… don’t forget.


Friday 22 July:

I’m not even scared when I wake up this morning. I have the Board statement all ready to go, then at 10:30 I miss a call – and then there’s a voicemail message from Barbara. She says she’s ‘postponing’ the meeting: there has been an ‘oversight’ in which ‘correct procedure has not been followed’.

In other words, the Board is saving face.

I ring and speak to Kost at work – he says he’ll pass on the message. Later I phone again, and this time I talk to Zion as well; he keeps laughing with delight at his last-minute reprieve. Esau’s “doing something under a house,” but Zion says, “He’s happy.”

Just for today (though I know it isn’t ‘over’), I allow myself to taste victory.


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