I Always Knew Gym Teachers Were Out To Kill Me

, , , , , , | Learning | May 30, 2020

I had major back surgery during seventh grade. I was out of school for three months having the surgery and then doing in-patient physical therapy and occupational therapy to learn to walk and do things like dress myself and use stairs again. I still had to do schoolwork, which my teachers sent in monthly packets and which I worked on daily for four hours in a “classroom environment” at the hospital.

Before my return to school, there was a meeting with my principal, vice-principal, teachers, and mother. We checked that I was caught up in all of my classes and then discussed the plan going forward. One of the teachers present was the gym teacher, and the principal explained that since I was still having trouble dressing myself and took a long time, and because I was forbidden by my doctors from doing anything physical, my PE grade would be purely attendance-based. I merely had to go in and sit down on the bleachers. I was told that I was welcome to bring a book and read, so I did that for the rest of the year.

At the end of the year, grades came out, and I’d been given a failing PE grade. I went to my teacher to ask why, since I’d only missed two days — which were excused, as they were follow-up appointments with my doctors. She snottily said, “You did nothing all year! You sat and read and didn’t participate! You didn’t even dress out!”

I reminded her of what we had discussed at the meeting and she said, “That didn’t happen.” I had to go to the principal to get my grade changed, and the teacher ended up being fired from the middle school.

Because I had a 504 plan for my accommodations, her attempt to ignore it was an ADA violation. Under her terms of employment, that resulted in an automatic dismissal. It was not something I requested at all.

Unfortunately, on my first day at my new high school, guess who I saw in the hallway! That summer, my doctors had given me documentation to excuse me from the state’s high school PE requirement completely, as it consisted primarily of contact sports. I had gone through the process of getting the documentation signed by the county superintendent and filed with his office and with the office at my high school. So, while I saw the gym teacher around occasionally for four years, we never interacted.

Three weeks before graduation, I was called into the principal’s office and there was the gym teacher with a smug look on her face. The principal said they couldn’t graduate me because I’d never taken the required blocks of PE. I reminded him that I had paperwork on file that showed that the superintendent had personally waived the requirements based on information from my doctor. He didn’t remember, so they pulled my file and there it was. The principal apologized and said that he would have my graduation approved.

The gym teacher tried to murder me with her eyes all the way out the door. Nearly twenty years later, I will never forget that look of pure hatred.

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