As a continuation of Part 1 of this series: http://leasavoy.com/2023/10/06/i-survived-the-cruelty-of-the-texas-public-school-system-part-1/, this story picks up again when I was 7 years old, in 2nd grade at the same rural Texas elementary school in the 1970s.

One morning when I arrived at Miss Brown’s 2nd grade classroom, there were what looked to me to be several older teenaged Hispanic males sitting at some of the desks along with the rest of my 7-year-old classmates.

Miss Brown took roll call, then briefly welcomed and introduced each of our new guests by their first names, Roberto, José, etc. She told us that they were new students to our class. Each of these boys were between 14-16 years old, Roberto was at least 6ft. tall and all of them looked like they should be in their last years of high school, playing prep sports. Apparently, the boys, who were from Mexico, tested at 2nd grade level for education and so that was how they ended up in my class.

Customarily, in the U.S. K-12 school systems, schoolchildren are separated by age/grade groups in some variation of the following — Elementary is Preschool/Kindergarten through 4th grade, Junior High/Middle School is 5th through 8th grade and High School is 9th -12th grade. Even the schools start and end times and bus route schedules are different to isolate the age groups if the school system is big enough to accommodate that. This policy is one of logistics but also to prevent the older children from bullying the younger children.

For some reason, the administrators of the Texas public school system felt these time-tested policies did not apply to age groups of undocumented and migrant worker children. Instead of creating separate schools where foreigner teenaged kids could be brought up to grade level and learn amongst their own peer groups, the administrators threw them in the mix of small children half their age, within the existing classrooms.

Not only did the teenaged boys share class and lunch periods with us, but they were allowed to be with us at recess. And this is where the age-difference dynamic got real ugly.

My 7-year-old classmates and I were terrorized on the playground every day since the teenaged boys arrived. They rough-housed many of us, assaulting some of the little boys. They also tried to force we girls against walls, lift up our dresses to see our panties (this was the era before shorts were worn under dresses) and touch us, away from the view of the playground monitors.

One day, I was on the swingset by myself when one of them started pushing me from behind to swing me higher. It quickly became obvious he was not going to stop making me go higher and higher, in spite of my yelling for him to stop. Finally, the swinging got out of control, I didn’t have the strength to hold on anymore and I flew out of the swing at about 10ft high off the ground, fell and landed hard on one of my fingers breaking it (no more piano lessons for awhile), slammed my head into the ground. I was out of breath for what seemed a long time, bleeding and had to be sent to the hospital.

I’ll never forget when 6ft. tall Roberto, the teenager who pushed me off the swing and caused me to be injured, stood over me afterwards, laughing, and told me “I hope you broke your neck”, while I was crying in pain on the ground before a teacher noticed and ran over to help me.

After that, I decided to read books on the school’s backyard stoop where the teachers congregated during recess, to avoid the teenagers on the playground for the rest of 2nd grade.

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