The Encyclopedia Britannica defines riot as:
“In criminal law, a violent offense against public order involving three or more people.”
This information would have been helpful in 1985 when I was suspended from high school for a day by Vice Principal Powers for “inciting riot upon myself.”
Powers suspended me in order to prevent me from attending the Freshman-Senior Get Acquainted Dance, and it worked. My mother was informed that I had been suspended for actions that prevented administration from being able to guarantee my safety.
I had fought back against the hazing of the seniors throughout the fall, refusing to carry their lunch trays or wear their signs around school.
I had also been non-compliant at band camp during the previous summer, which only served to compound my problems (I joined the marching band when I was in eighth grade, allowing me to make enemies even earlier than most freshmen). As a result of my refusal to bow to the whims of the upperclassmen, I spent the week learning about the joys of being ringed (a senior turns his class ring around and slaps you on the head with it), doughboyed (you're thrown into a bathtub and covered with dry baking dough and water from the shower), handcuffed to a moving bus and having fire extinguishers blasted at my exposed limbs.
After several beatings during the month of September, I showed up at school one day wearing a Seniors Are Wimps button (I still have it). I stood at the front doors of the school before the first bell and handed out flyers explaining how seventeen and eighteen year old seniors thought that they were tough because they could gang up against a fourteen year old freshman and cause him harm.
It didn’t go over well.
Later that year I would be sent to the hospital in an ambulance following a beating that took place during track practice.
But according to criminal law, I would have needed at least two accomplices before I could have been suspended for rioting.
I should have been allowed to attend that dance, damn it.
Unfortunately, my family only owned a half-set of Funk and Wagnalls encyclopedias, letters A-M, and though I had read most of the volumes that we had on hand (there were very few books in my house growing up, so I read whatever I could find), we did not have the R edition of the encyclopedia, and so my illegal suspension went unchallenged.
If I remember correctly, Peter Archambault was made King of the Can at the dance in my place. He was paraded around the high school cafeteria in a garbage can, apparently second on the senior hit list.
My mom, feeling bad for me, took me out for ice cream.
Hazing, of course, was made illegal by the time I was a senior, though I doubt that I would have participated in it as exuberantly as the seniors had on my behalf.
By the end of my freshman year, I had experienced enough hazing to last a lifetime.