When National Public School suspended me

In the light of a class 10 girl from National Public School HSR Layout committing suicide after being suspended from school, a debate has broken out on social media, mainstream media, online forums and mailing lists as to whether the school was right in suspending her for “befriending a boy”. A question that has popped up is whether the school was right in suspending her for such a “trivial issue”. Based on anecdotal evidence (!!) , I can confirm that National Public School has a history of suspending people for rather trivial issues. Here is my story.

It happened in 1999, when I was in class 12. It was “Computer Science Practicals” period, and we were hence in the computer lab. The exciting thing about the lab was that it had LAN (local area network), which meant all the computers were connected up. There was no internet, mind you, but it being 1999, that the computers were connected and we could send messages to each other was a big thing. And our messenger of choice was Winpopup. Not that there was much choice anyway!

As the name suggests, when you received a message through Winpopup, the thing would actually pop up a window right in the middle of your screen. Some people found it annoying and so closed the program. But for some others, looking for some respite from all the hard work we were putting in then for our entrance (and board) exams, it was welcome relief. It was actually exciting.

The cool thing about Winpopup is that it allowed you to send group messages. You just hit “send all” or something and the message would pop up on the screens of everyone in the lab who had the program open. When this kind of a platform is offered to a bunch of stressed-out 16 and 17 year olds what would you expect? You would expect them to freak out (positively) of course, and that is what we did.

It was a great stressbuster. We would sense nonsense to each other. Sometimes the nonsense would be laced with profanity. Given our age, profanity seemed rather cool back then. Soon, network effects and peer pressure meant that profanity became the norm for Winpopup messages. And ultimately that became Winpopup’s, and our, undoing.

Dopey was seated next to me. Snuff, our computer teacher, was standing behind him checking his code. It was a rather quiet day on Winpopup (if not, Dopey would have shut down the program before Snuff came to check his code). And then a message popped up. In hindsight it seems pretty nonsensical, but perhaps at that point in time it made sense.

How the cunt are you?

That’s what the message said. Snuff saw it before Dopey did when it popped up on his screen. “Sooooo vulllgaar!!”, she exclaimed loudly. Dopey panicked and by the time she was done saying that he had closed the popup. Snuff’s exclamation had startled some of us, too, and we had closed the windows before reading who had sent it. So it was established that someone in class had sent a “vulgar” message to the whole group, but it wasn’t known who it was. And so we were called one by one and asked to confess and point fingers.

In hindsight I’m amazed at the social capital we displayed at such a young age, for we all acted like good children and refused to point fingers. I was told, though, that there were a couple of other kids who had said they suspected me, though they weren’t sure. I responded that they were just trying to cover their own arses, perhaps, and that I wouldn’t have dared to do that with Snuff in such close vicinity. No evidence was found, so the school took the next step in finding the perpetrator. They suspended the whole lot of us – everyone who was seated in that computer lab during that class (we had two labs, and they weren’t connected to each other, so people in the other lab went scot free). This happened on a Friday.

We were told that we would be let in to class only after our parents had met the principal. On Monday, my mother accompanied me to school, profoundly embarrassed (that I had brought such shame to the family by getting myself suspended from school), and upset (that I didn’t sit with the “decent boys” in the other lab (my friends who my mother knew well were in that lab and went free), instead choosing to hang out with the “poli” crowd). I have no clue what the principal told her or vice versa. I was back in class, as was everyone else who had been suspended along with me. Life went on as usual after that, except that they uninstalled Winpopup from our school computers.

Soon after graduating in 2000, I visited school to collect some papers. I met Snuff, and she asked me to confess, “now that I had graduated and she couldn’t do a thing”. I told her that I hadn’t done it. The last time I visited school was in 2004. Snuff was still around, and she said “at least now you confess”. I pleaded innocence again, and we had a good laugh about it. Even recently, when I met one of the guys who had said he suspected me (and who I had pointed fingers at), we discussed this episode and laughed about it. That is my lasting memory with respect to Winpopup, for I never used it again.

Circling back, the point I’m trying to make is that getting suspended from NPS is no big deal – the things they suspend you for, most people go through it at some point of time during their time in school. I have friends who were once suspended for bunking school without permission to go watch an air show! Most of the time it’s rather trivial, and looking back, hilarious. Assuming that the culture is still the same now, and in other NPSs (I went to the one in Indiranagar), I would be very surprised if a student would take a suspension from school so seriously as to kill herself.

It’s a kind of Bayesian analysis here, but my hypothesis is that given the school’s practice of suspending people for all sorts of trivial things (once suspended you are let back in only if you bring your parents along – that’s standard practice), you can’t really blame them for suspending a girl for “being too close to a boy”. Essentially the “information content” in being suspended from NPS is way too low!

12 thoughts on “When National Public School suspended me”

  1. Sad story through and through. A simple newspaper article gives so much info showing the stupidity of caretakers involved -The student’s body was held for 45 min with no med help while the building security decided what to do. It is also possible the kid was a poor student to begin with before this friendship drama happened. Why else would the parent scold about focus on studies? Another angle is this was more a love story than a friendship and the adults are covering up with a friends plot.

    Overall the stress level is too much for the teens to handle. We did have bad experiences and influences but no way did it get blown up because we did not have the networks and soc media that is available these days.

    1. From what I’ve read it’s likely that the girl had issues, and possibly needed help. For being suspended from school (even if it isn’t a habitual suspender like NPS), or your parents getting to know of your fling, is hardly reason to take your life! The sad part is that these issues weren’t identified and she wasn’t given help when it was required. The punishment was not the problem. Ignorance of her possible issues (in hindsight) was

  2. In 2009, we were called to NPS Koramangala because my son and friends squeezed a pomegranate seed on a girl. Same thing happened. No one gave out the name. We parents had to give a written apology. They were all in class XI, aged 17.

    1. That’s the great thing about NPS – it creates high social capital and kids refuse to point fingers at each other and stick to each other! 🙂

      Problem with NPS is they treat KG and class XII kids alike

  3. Snuff is the same person we (XII batch of 2003) called Nuff I’m assuming.

    But yeah. Hellhole. Like a lot of other schools which pride themselves on turning out utter monsters with high grades. (Applied very much to me until better sense kicked in much, much later in life)

    1. Yes the same. The etymology is “how will she pronounce ‘snow’?”

      Looking back though, I think most of my classmates from there are doing pretty well for themselves. If not anything else I think it helps inculcate a healthy disrespect of the system and instills a rebellious nature in you which is useful later on in life!

  4. I think suicide is a very subjective thing. As in, we don’t know how a certain event affects a certain person. Some might have the mental fortitude to deal with it while some need help.

    Like I know of this once (supposedly) “high-performing” guy who repeatedly made some spectacularly wrong decisions in his life and lived to rue them later on. Got fired more than once, got rejected by at least 3 girls and finally married another girl. He fakes illnesses, has a low self respect and suffers from a serious case of the ‘Failed Potential Syndrome’. He’s currently jobless and has stooped to new lows to occupy himself. But he is very strong mentally. I don’t know if he is faking it but he seems to be absolutely fine and is in fact spewing wisdom on a daily basis! Well, good for him, but I don’t know if I would have been able to take it all and be as composed as he is.

    So yeah, people are different!

  5. Absolutely agree with the person above! People are different. You make judgements but you’re open to engage in a dialogue about your judgements even if you very well chose not to update them while some people stop at making judgements (Anonymous comments, really?!)

  6. Hi SK,

    I know this is off-point, but I got caught for the same reason (popup messenger) in computer class. Gas Rao sent a message saying “HOOF HEARTED, ICE MELTED?” to the whole group (read it aloud). Teacher saw it on my computer and demanded an explanation. I very politely excused myself from the computer lab, stepped outside where I had an uproarious and uncontrollable fit of laughter, then stepped back in, perfectly composed again… needless to say, this did not go down too well… 🙂
    I miss those days… 🙂

    DK (one batch above)

    1. hahaha 🙂

      Who’s Gas Rao? Don’t remember him at all!

      And I’m assuming it’s the same teacher who was involved as in our winpopup case? Surprised how she just didn’t learn 🙂

  7. I draw the opposite conclusion from your anecdote. Your school shamed kids needlessly and frequently, and the frequency of their suspensions doesn’t really reduce the shame. When the offense is something trivial like yours, of course you’re not going to react so badly. But when the offense is something that’s already deemed shameful, like inter-sex relations, the ignorant and backward action by the school shames and stigmatizes the girl. The school may not be the only factor, but it and whoever was directly responsible for the punishment bears the blame for her suicide. It’s perhaps lucky for them if that’s the only suicide for which they’re to blame. Certainly there’s no end of emotional scars for which they’re responsible for.

  8. Who’s the author of this post going by the name “SK”? I’m the illustrious one to be suspended for going to the air show!!! Get your facts right. It was not a case of bunking. I had gone with due permission which the person below had given and later denied having done so when the matter went up to her superior.

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