Red Flag

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As a young teacher decades ago, Karen Randall was seriously threatened by a student. Her lack of options then, however, are relevant today.

I placed the elegant Magnin’s box on the principal’s desk. He carefully unwrapped the white tissue paper to pull out the twisted “objet d’Art”.

He looked puzzled.

“What is it?”

“What do you think it is? It’s a plaster cast of his you-know-what on a Popsicle stick. You might also read the note telling me what I can do with it.”


“Did a student send this?”

I gave the boy’s name and threw down my file filled with violent cartoons and a rape list with my name on top and a report I had given the counseling department about a rape scene he tried to per-form in my drama class.

“Have his parents seen this file?”

I filled him in on the parent’s belief in the multiple talents and brilliance of their son. They criticized me for not encouraging his dramatic pursuits.

Handing me back the pink “gift” box, he said, “If the parents are not cooperating, there is nothing more we can do,” which is pretty much what the counseling department had said, too.

No red flags would be hoisted, and I would be left unprotected and alone with my fear.

Later, I made an appointment with a criminal attorney.

After reviewing the evidence, he explained that it is against the law to send obscene objects through the U.S. mail and that, because the student was 18, he could go to prison. I could begin a serious investigation or do nothing. Fearing retribution, I did nothing. Like everyone else in this saga, my choices were bad ones or none at all.

There’s a lot of talk about red flag laws that would give authorities more power to intervene. Maybe that would help. Maybe not. But given the decades of slaughter and grief we have all seen, often accompanied by the pathetic “someone should have known sooner, acted sooner,” I understand that nothing has changed, and everything has changed.

The warning flags are still not waving, and the fear now is national.

With a Perspective, I’m Karen Randall.

After retiring as a teacher, Karen Randall became a student of literature and politics at the University of San Francisco.