Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction 7.1 (2005) 123-130
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Laying on of Hands: In the Old Testament, an Israelite making a burnt offering was to lay his hand on the animal's head as a means of transferring his sin to the animal (Lev. 16:21). . . . The most frequent usage of the expression in the New Testament relates to the arrest or capture of someone
Once we have him pinned on the floor face up, we start taking off his jewelry, belt, shoes—anything he might hurt himself with once he's locked in a Quiet Room. I remove his right shoe. His sock is damp white cotton with a worn spot on the heel.
"We've got him down and secured. Now we're going to roll him onto his side on the count of three. We will roll towards Mr. Collins.2 Ready? One, two, three."
Heavy panting. Other shoulders bang against mine. His baggy pants slip down, revealing the fly on baby-blue boxers. I try not to look.
"Can you check his front pocket?"
Someone takes his foot and I move up to Anthony's cocked hip, propped up by someone else's knee. I reach in and pull out the flimsy white innards of blue-jean pocket. I hear myself say,
"Okay. Get the belt off."
Anthony starts yelling: "Better not take my belt. I said you better not take my belt! You can't just take my personal property like that, you motherfucking pigs!" [End Page 123]
Anthony kicks and flops, and I see the hands, our hands, coolly pin him back down. Still, he doesn't shut up. "Get your fucking hands off me. Get off me right now. You can't take me down if I say I'll go on my own! I said I could walk down to the Quiet Room on my own. And I want that fucking belt back. That's my belt, y'know."
We wait until he loses steam, stops to catch his breath.
"Try it again. We're going to roll him onto the other side, towards Mr. Carpucci on three."
Anthony—eyebrows always cocked, eyes always uninhabited, pupils always big and dark and pooled. Anthony—skin smooth caramel, hips narrow, legs long. Anthony—the first student I lay hands on. I'm 24, a rookie high school teacher. Anthony is in my ninth grade class.
We're both at a non-public high school. Here, students are monitored by a team of psychologists, social workers, administrators. Here, going into a bathroom stall without someone waiting outside is a privilege that must be earned. Each day students can earn points for not fighting, for keeping their hands to themselves. Enough points and they can go to the bathroom alone, with a hall pass. They can buy vending machine food with money their family may or may not have. Everything in small steps.
Just like laying hands on. Students are automatically restrained if they pose an immediate threat. All other infractions require a crescendo of consequences. First, a one-minute in-class timeout, then a two-minute out-of-class timeout, then a five-minute timeout, then Resource—the euphemism for the suite of rooms with the padded Quiet Rooms and the counselors. If students won't go to Resource to be counseled, then we lay hands on and take them forcibly.
There needs to be six of us when we lay hands on, seven if the student is a Biter. Anthony is not a Biter. He's just motherless. He's just 14, 15, and in and out of juvy hall. He's officially classified as ODD—Oppositional Defiant Disorder. What this means—Anthony likes to refuse to do things. We lay hands on Anthony this time because he keeps turning the classroom lights off.
I try reasoning with him: "Anthony, none of the other kids are going to be able to see their work. Someone...