What is it like when those closest to you are not there any longer?
Tuesday, March 19, 2019; Noon
Kevin Young went to Edison High School Tuesday and arrived at noon; that was in the middle of third period because this was a block schedule day. Everyone would be in class, which is what he wanted. He didn’t want anyone he knew to see him until he officially returned to school.
This would be his first day back in just under seven weeks, and he assumed he’d waste time in the admissions office for a while, so he went there first. Unfortunately, things went downhill, fast. They told him that he wasn’t a registered student. He showed his student ID card. They found his record. Because he’d been absent without notice for over thirty days, they had removed him from the student rolls.
“So what am I supposed to do?”
“You’ll have to go to the registration office and see Ms. Joffrey. She’s the registration secretary.”
Kevin went to the registration office. He explained what he’d been told in the admission office. Ms. Joffrey explained what he would have to do.
“I’ll give you the forms that are required. They will have to be completely filled in.
“Here is your personal information form. Since you were previously a student at Edison High School, a copy of your existing form is included to aid in filling in your required information. You must enter any changes and all of the other information on the new personal information form. If there are no changes, you can return your previous form marked ‘No Changes’ in the top margin of the first page.
“Here’s a form to be filled in with a detailed explanation about why you’ve been absent without notice, and supporting documents will have to be provided, such as hospital admission and discharge documents.
“There is a form that lists the proof of residence documents that you are required to provide, so we know that you live in the Edison High School attendance area. Note that copies of two different original proof of residence documents must be provided, such as a mortgage statement, a residential lease, a bill from PG&E, and so on; there’s a list of authorized proof of residence documents on the form. If you bring original documents, we’ll make copies and return the originals to you.
“We’ll need a copy of your birth certificate which we will retain with your records; you don’t need to bring in an original. If you don’t have your birth certificate, you will need to provide some other proof of citizenship or right to reside in the United States.
“A copy of the Student Policy Manual is included, and you and your signatory will be expected to have read it so you can certify that you will comply with all Edison High School student policies.
“There are a few additional forms which should be self-explanatory.
“Since you were previously an Edison High School student there is no requirement for you to provide transcripts. You can ignore that form.
“You along with the person who is your authorized signatory will have to return to this office with the completed forms. The forms will need to be signed here in the office where indicated by you and by your authorized signatory. The package includes a list of those who are eligible to be authorized signatories, such as one of your parents or a guardian.
“Do you have any questions?”
“Just one. Since you already have a copy of my birth certificate, why do I have to bring in another copy?”
“Hmm… that’s a good point. Let me check with the District office.”
She stepped away for about five minutes. When she returned, she was smiling.
“That was an excellent question, Kevin. You’re right, there’s no need to bring in another copy of your birth certificate. We will update the list of attachments for returning students.”
She handed him a stack of paper that looked daunting, but if that’s what had to be done, then he’d take them home and fill in the forms, get two recent proof of residence documents and make copies of them, and so on, and return Wednesday morning. At least he wouldn’t have to find his birth certificate and copy it.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019; Early Afternoon
Kevin’s attorney was part of a large law firm with specialists in specific practices of the law. Members of that firm had been his parents’ attorneys. Jonathan MacIntosh was now Kevin’s attorney. His specialty was juvenile justice. He was effective and quick to take action. He had evaluated Kevin’s situation, then filed an emancipation petition with the court. The judge reviewed the petition, and he was granted his Declaration of Emancipation. Mr. MacIntosh filed it with the Contra Costa County Registrar, and it was certified. He requested thirty certified originals from the County Registrar’s office — he knew that certified copies of this document would be required for many things that Kevin would need to do to establish his rights until he turned twenty-one.
So, at sixteen years of age and a sophomore in high school, Kevin Alan Young was emancipated and as a result, had most of the rights of an independent adult.
Three of his father’s siblings lived on the East Coast. They had offered to take him in, but he didn’t want to leave the Bay Area. California was his home. Besides, he didn’t know any of them very well. It would have been like moving in with people who were practically strangers.
His father’s other brother and his family lived on the west coast of Canada, in Vancouver, British Columbia, but as an emancipated minor Kevin couldn’t move to Canada.
Kevin’s paternal grandparents had died before he’d been born.
Kevin’s maternal grandmother was his only living relative on his mother’s side. She was suffering from Alzheimer’s and was in a care home in Arizona. He’d specified that a stipend from his trust would be paid to his grandmother’s care home as long as she was there. The stipend paid for upgrading her to the top level of care. She’d never know about it and might not be able to appreciate it, but it made Kevin feel he was doing something to help her.
Kevin inherited everything from his parents including the payoff from their life insurance policies and all of their investment accounts, as well as the payoff from his siblings’ life insurance policies and savings accounts, so access to funds was not a problem. All the money was invested, some in a bank account to which he had access, most in trust accounts. The trusts were held by the bank his parents had used. He also held the title to the house which was mortgage free.
The manager of his trust account had hired an accounting firm to manage Kevin’s bank accounts and credit card accounts, pay the bills including utilities, liability, life, and medical insurance, property tax, and file and pay Kevin’s federal and state income taxes.
The accounting firm hired a gardening service that came every week to take care of the yard including mowing the lawns, planting flowers, pulling weeds, and trimming the bushes and the trees.
They hired a woman who came three days a week, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Connie prepared meals he could warm up. Because of his age, Kevin didn’t have a drivers license, so she took him when they went grocery shopping Saturday mornings, and downtown if he needed to buy clothes or anything else. She cleaned the house on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She did the laundry. She changed his sheets each week and made sure that everything was kept neat.
Connie was very personable. Whenever they were together, she would sit down and talk with Kevin. He liked her.
He now owned the house, three cars — cars he couldn’t drive because he was only sixteen years old; being emancipated didn’t lower the driving age in California — and he had more money than he could ever have imagined. He’d never have to work for even one day as long as he lived. But that wasn’t what Kevin wanted. He wanted to continue to get straight A’s in high school then go to U.C. Berkeley and get Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in computer science.
Tuesday, March 19, 2019; Late Afternoon
When Kevin got home Tuesday afternoon, he walked slowly through the house ending up in his bedroom. Living alone is lonely. He wanted his family back. He wanted his friends back. Only one of those choices was possible.
He had friends, but ever since his folks and his brothers and sister had died everyone treated him differently. Maybe part of it was that he was only sixteen years old and living alone. Maybe it was because this was the house where his family had been murdered in an apparent home invasion robbery. Or maybe it was because his friends — or their parents — were afraid the killers might return while they were visiting him.
So he sat down and tried to figure out how to get his friends back. That was something he thought he should be able to accomplish. But he didn’t have a clue how to begin.
Well, the unwritten rule was, if you want to find out about something, Google it. So he entered “how can a teen make friends” and Google reported that there were 72,400,000 results. He looked at that and started to laugh. “Over seventy-two million results?” he thought. “Freakin’ unbelievable!”
He tried other options. He changed it to “new friends” and that resulted in 21,700,000 results.
He tried “how can a teen renew friendships after his family has been killed” which resulted in 2,620,000 results. Then he tried “how can a teen renew friendships after his parents have been killed.” It resulted in 1,260,000 results. That was a lot fewer but still a ridiculously high number.
He explored links from the last two searches.
He read through the first few pages of results from “how can a teen renew friendships after his family has been killed.” Many of them included the terms “self-esteem” and “confidence” and included links for websites that included those words. There wasn’t too much of value from those links; the definitions were too general and too wordy, weren’t focused on teens, and seemed to push psychotherapy as a solution.
He read through the first few pages of the results from “how can a teen renew friendships after his parents have been killed.” The first few were about grieving and sympathy; the rest seemed to focus on unrelated things like the death of teens and divorce.
Kevin sat back and thought about two of the words: grieving and death. That described how and why he was suffering.
After seven weeks he was still grieving the death of his family. His attorney had suggested that he talk with a therapist. Kevin had lots of reasons to blow off the suggestion. The home invasion. The murder of his family. Dealing with the police. Tons of paperwork to read and review, some of it requiring his signature. He’d had to find out from the attorney which he should sign and which not and the reasons he should or shouldn’t sign. All this took him back, and he didn’t want to relive those terrible days.
There were three important reasons to see a therapist:
First, now that he would return to school, how could he focus and catch up on his schoolwork after being out for seven weeks?
Second, what could he say to his friends at school so it wouldn’t result in a, ‘Oh, we’re so sorry, Kevin, it’s good to see you. We’ll get together later,’ and then there’d be no later? That’s what he was afraid would happen. That is what happened when he tried to reach out to friends right after the funeral and before he was ready to go back to school.
Third, there was a reason only he knew, and no one else had ever known. Kevin was gay. It was his secret, and he wanted to keep it that way. He was tightly sealed in a closet of his own making, so there’d never been an opportunity to have a boyfriend. He realized that if he’d had a boyfriend, it would have been someone he could hang onto and who would be there for him now. But that wasn’t possible. It was too late. Now, he wanted to stay securely ensconced in the closet.
So the idea of talking with a therapist scared him. They’d find out everything about him, including his secret. But therapists were supposed to keep everything confidential — weren’t they?
So, what was the solution? He Googled “do therapists keep everything a patient tells them confidential” and almost all of the answers were yes, they do.
Kevin finally decided he needed to find a therapist — like a grief counselor, self-esteem counselor, some kind of counselor or therapist — and see if they could figure out how to fix what was wrong. Wrong with him.
Kevin phoned the attorney’s office. Jonathan MacIntosh was in, and he said he had the names of two excellent therapists for teens. They did counseling, helping teens when they encountered rough spots in their lives, and both were licensed professionals. One was a woman, one was a man. Kevin took the names and phone numbers for both. He thought about it and decided to call the woman. At first, he wasn’t sure why; then he realized a woman might be more understanding, empathic, and compassionate.
Thinking about having to talk to a therapist still frightened him. He started to leak tears. Shit! That was the last thing he wanted to do. He had to keep his emotions in check.
He phoned the therapist’s office. Her name was Doctor Jennifer Ranse. She had an hour and a half available on Wednesday right after school, the next day, the first day he was going to be back at school, so he made the appointment. Her office was walking distance from the Edison campus. That made it easy. He would leave his bike at school and walk to her office, then walk back and ride his bike home. Piece of cake. If he could return to school on Wednesday. Getting registered for school was still the first step.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019; Morning
Kevin went to school Wednesday morning. This was supposed to be his first full day back. He spent the day in the office and never saw the inside of a classroom.
Getting registered to return to school turned out to be fraught with a whole series of interrelated obstacles. He went to the registration office. He’d filled in all of the forms he’d received on Tuesday marked as required in order to return to school, and they were complete. He brought proof of residency in the Edison High School attendance area — copies of a PG&E electric and gas bill with his name and address and the latest paid property tax bill with his parent’s names and the address of his house.
When he turned them over to the registration clerk, she told him the forms had to be signed. He leafed through them, signing and dating each one that had a signature line, and entering his initials where indicated if a page didn’t require a signature, all while she watched. He’d look up every once in a while, and she would grin; he’d grinned in return. She wore a badge with her name. Sara Tanaka.
“Okay, all done,” he said.
“Thanks. I’ll take them to Ms. Joffrey — she’s the registration secretary — and she’ll review them.”
Kevin smiled. If he was into girls and if he were a senior he’d ask Sara for a date. She was cute. He’d always liked the way Asians looked, especially their eyes. Very sexy, he thought.
After about twenty minutes Ms. Joffrey came out of her office to the counter where Kevin was standing.
“These haven’t been signed,” she said.
“I signed all the forms that had a signature line and initialed the others where indicated. I stood right here and Sara, the registration clerk, watched me do it.”
“It’s required that a parent or guardian has to come in and sign your registration forms in person,” she said. “The instructions spell out that requirement. You can’t just sign them yourself. You must have a parent come with you to this office, prove their relationship to you and that they are legally responsible for you, and sign the forms.”
“But I explained in the reason for being absent without notice that my parents were both killed. I don’t have any parents who can come in and sign the forms.”
“I’m so sorry about that, Kevin,” she said. “In that case, you must have a guardian or other responsible adult come in and sign the forms along with proof of their responsibility for you,” she said. “You cannot return to school without your forms being signed by an authorized signatory. The list was given to you, and is on this sheet.” She shoved the sheet across the counter to him, then tapped her index figure on the authorized signatories section, in a manner that showed that she wasn’t pleased.
“I don’t have a guardian. I’ve been emancipated and have signatory rights equivalent to those of an adult. I included a certified copy of my Declaration of Emancipation with the forms.” He pulled it out and shoved it across the counter to her and tapped on the title of the form, in the same manner, to show he wasn’t pleased. “California law allows any minor fourteen years of age or older to be emancipated. Because my parents were killed I petitioned the court to be emancipated and it was approved by Judge Roger Forrester; he’s a judge in the Family Court, and he signed it here.” He tapped his index figure on the signature of the judge. “My Declaration of Emancipation was registered with and certified by the Contra Costa County Registrar.” He tapped on the county seal. “It means I can sign legal documents, including these documents that will allow me to return to school. My emancipation is recognized by the State of California including the State Board of Education.”
“Well, there’s nothing I can do. Our signatory list is clear. You’ll have to speak with Mr. Parks, the vice principal. He is in charge of student registration.”
So, after about a half hour of sitting on a hard chair, Kevin saw Vice Principal John Parks. He came out to the counter and, as Ms. Joffrey had told him, announced that he was in charge of student registration. Apparently, Kevin didn’t have sufficient priority to meet the vice principal in his office. Regardless of its location, the meeting wasn’t productive. Kevin showed him the Declaration of Emancipation signed by the judge and with an official Contra Costa County registration stamp.
“I’m sorry, Kevin. The rules are very clear. To register to attend Edison High School, or any other high school in the district, a parent or a legal guardian or other responsible adult who can show proof of responsibility for you and who lives in the Edison High School attendance area, has to be here, in person, to sign the forms. That is what is clearly stated on the list of signatories you were given. There are no exceptions.”
“Then I’ll call my attorney, Jonathan MacIntosh, and have him come in and explain to you why your list of signatories is incomplete and doesn’t comply with the laws of the State of California. He will explain that since I am an emancipated minor, I can sign these forms so I can self-register as a student at Edison High School.”
“Then I suggest you contact your attorney.” The vice principal turned and stormed toward his office. He wasn’t used to sixteen-year-old kids attempting to intimidate him this way. ‘An attorney, indeed!’ he thought, and he suppressed a chuckle as he walked into his office and closed the door.
Kevin phoned his attorney and explained the problem he was having. Mr. MacIntosh said he was sitting in a deposition but based on when he expected it would wrap up he should be able to meet Kevin at Edison High School at two o’clock. Kevin checked the time on his cellphone. It was almost twelve-twenty.
Kevin asked to see the registration secretary. She came out to the counter.
“My attorney will be here at two o’clock to meet with Vice Principal Parks. Please add an appointment in his schedule at that time for me, Kevin Alan Young, and my attorney, Mr. Jonathan MacIntosh, of MacIntosh, Westfield, and Phillips, LLC.” He handed her one of Mr. MacIntosh's business cards. “Is there somewhere I can wait until Mr. MacIntosh arrives?”
“Yes, there’s a meeting room, and you can wait there. Sara will show you where it is.”
“It’s this way,” Sara said. As they walked she asked, “While you wait, would you like some water? Something to eat?”
Kevin was glad she was friendly compared to the others in the registration office. “Both, please,” he replied.
She showed Kevin to a small meeting room next to the registration office. She returned a few minutes later with two bottles of water and a small bag of tortilla chips.
“The water and chips are free,” she said. “I can bring you something from the cafeteria if you’d like. Unfortunately, it won’t be free.”
“Thank you, maybe a sandwich?” He smiled and gave her a five dollar bill. She smiled, too, then left. When she returned, she brought him a turkey and avocado sandwich and 75 cents in change.
Kevin ate his sandwich and chips and read a story on the Kindle app on his phone while he waited.
Wednesday, March 20, 2019; Mid-Afternoon
Jonathan MacIntosh, who was dressed like he was coming to assist a high-powered client instead of a teenager, arrived at the registration office and asked to see Kevin Young. Sara showed him to the meeting room where Kevin waited. She closed the door as she left.
Kevin summarized what his experience had been and the lack of results. “They don’t understand anything about emancipated minors. They claim a parent, guardian, or another responsible adult must be here to sign my registration forms. I met with John Parks — he’s the vice principal in charge of student registration — and showed him my Declaration of Emancipation. He said there are no exceptions to the approved signatories on the list he gave me.” He showed Mr. MacIntosh the page with the list.
“I’m sure the school district has someone who’s familiar with students who are emancipated minors. Perhaps Thomas Cantrell, the attorney for the school district knows or can look it up. We know each other; we were in the same graduating class at Hastings College. That’s the law school at the University of California San Francisco campus. I’ll ask Mr. Cantrell to talk to Mr. Parks, and I’m sure it will be resolved to our mutual satisfaction.”
“I really want to be back in school tomorrow. I’ve already wasted two days trying to get registered,” Kevin said.
“A little pressure at the district office can guarantee you’ll be able to return to your classes tomorrow morning.”
Mr. MacIntosh phoned his former classmate, and they had a short conversation. The upshot was that Mr. Parks was to phone Mr. Cantrell and Mr. Cantrell would make sure Kevin Young would be registered to return to school effective immediately.
They left the meeting room and returned to the counter in the registration office. Mr. MacIntosh handed the registration clerk one of his business cards and told her who he was and that he was Kevin Young’s personal attorney, and they needed to meet with Vice Principal Parks immediately to enable Kevin’s return to school. She went to the Registration Secretary’s office and Ms. Joffrey came to the counter. Kevin reminded her that he’d asked to have an appointment added to Mr. Parks schedule. They were ushered into the vice principal’s office with more deference than Kevin had received. They sat down, and Ms. Joffrey, the registration secretary, joined the meeting.
Jonathan MacIntosh showed the vice principal the copy of Kevin’s Declaration of Emancipation with the dated Contra Costa County Recorder’s stamp indicating it was certified. “This document shows that my client, Kevin Alan Young, is an emancipated minor under the laws of the State of California and has the right to enroll himself in school.”
He also presented two copies of the ‘Legal Services for Children — Emancipation Manual’ with one copy for Vice Principal Parks and the other for Ms. Joffrey.
“You’ll see that this explains California’s law establishing the right for a minor who is at least fourteen years old to petition the court to be emancipated, and what emancipation means, what rights are granted to an emancipated minor and what specific rights are not granted to an emancipated minor. It clearly states that one of the rights granted by emancipation is enrolling yourself in school.
“Now,” Mr. MacIntosh said, “if this is something you don’t recognize nor realize what it means, I have an option for you. I spoke with Thomas Cantrell at the school district office a few minutes ago. He’s the school district’s attorney. He said you should phone him immediately. He’s waiting for your call. Do you have any questions?”
“I’ll have to verify this with the district office. Please return to the reception lobby, and I’ll place a call to Mr. Cantrell.”
While they waited, Kevin asked, “Have you ever had a problem with other kids who were emancipated?”
“No, because none of them had been absent for more than a week or two, and your being absent without notice is unique in my experience of helping teens who we’ve assisted to become emancipated.”
After about fifteen minutes the registration secretary came out and told them the vice principal would see them. They returned to Mr. Park’s office.
“I apologize that we didn’t have information about how to handle emancipated minors in our instructions for registering a new student,” Mr. Parks told them, “or for reregistering a returning student like you, Kevin. Everything is now cleared for you to return to school.”
Lydia Joffrey, the registration secretary, accepted the documents Kevin had provided, with his signatures where he’d already signed, and entered his information into the school district database. That completed the reregistering of Kevin Alan Young, an emancipated minor, as a sophomore returning to Edison High School, effective immediately.
“Can I start tomorrow instead of going to my sixth period Spanish 3 class? It’s almost over.”
“Yes, that’s fine,” the registration secretary said, “Kevin, you are reregistered starting with first period Thursday morning.”
Sara took Kevin’s photograph, and he received his new student ID card and his class schedule, with the same student ID number, periods, classes, and teachers as before, and he and his attorney left just as the school day ended.
“Thanks for coming and rescuing me from the jaws of the Edison High School administration,” Kevin said, and he smiled. “It will be good to be back.”
“Do you need a ride home?” Mr. MacIntosh asked.
“No, thanks. I rode my bike to school. And, in about fifteen minutes, I have an appointment with Dr. Ranse. She’s one of the two therapists you recommended.”
“Let me know if you find that she’s able to help you resolve the things that are bothering you, Kevin. Or if she isn’t.”
“I will. Thanks again for helping me get registered.”
He grinned. “I have to say it was fun for me to solve your problem, Kevin. Let me assure you, it was more fun than sitting through a four-hour deposition this morning. And I hope more fun than the two days of lost time you experienced. Now, I need to get back to my office.”
They said goodbye and Kevin left for the short walk to Dr. Ranse’s office. It took him about ten minutes. The office was in a regular office building, not a medical building. That surprised Kevin at first. Thinking about it he realized that she wasn’t a medical doctor so she could have her office anywhere.
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