Read an Excerpt
My name is Casey Smith, and I had proof that the grown-ups had cracked. The evidence was right here in my hands. I stared down at the stack of flyers my homeroom teacher handed me to pass along the row.
To All Parents:
In light of recent tragic events aroundAs always, we welcome your questions
the country, the PTA has decided to step up school
security. As part of a pilot program, we are installing
metal detectors at the school entrances.
You will be informed of other measures as they are taken.
The letter was signed by the principal, Ms. Nachman, and Amy Caldwell, president of the PTA. So this was the reason we'd been sent back to homeroom ten minutes before dismissal? Not that I minded having Spanish cut short. Senora Nunez had been so thrown that she'd forgotten to assign homework. Too bad.
"What's the holdup?" the boy beside me hissed. He held out his hand for the flyers.
I blinked at him. I had been frozen, midpass. I couldn't help it. This input required processing.
I peeled off the top page and handed him the stack. He took one, gave it a quick scan, and shoved it into his backpack. Then he passed the stack to the next kid.
Metal detectors? Here? That could only mean one thing: They were going to check us us! for weapons!
Were they nuts? Were they actually planning to treat the kids at Trumbull Middle School like criminals?
Then a second scary thought hit me so hard my eyes bulged. The way they do when I getwalloped in the stomach during a game of dodge ball in gym.
Why? I wondered. Did the administration have a noncracked reason to install the metal detectors? Maybe there was a serious problem here. One we knew nothing about.
I wiped my sweaty palms on my red sweatshirt and took in a couple of deep breaths. Logic returned.
I'm a very observant person. I mean, it's what I do. And I'm pretty sure I would have noticed if there were something weird going on at Trumbull especially something dangerous. It's the kind of thing that would be hard to hide. Rumors spread faster among kids than the flu.
The sudden panic over school safety had to be a case of grown-ups being grown-ups. Hysterical, as usual.
I heard murmuring around me as some of the kids in my homeroom read the flyer. "Ms. Wendall?" someone called from the back. "What's this about?"
Before Ms. Wendall could answer, the bell rang. And no matter how curious we all were about what was going on, most of the kids were far more interested in booking it out of there.
Explanations would have to wait.
Unless I found out the answers myself ...
There was a definite upside to this metal detector business, I realized. Not only did I feel it in my gut I felt it in my nose! My nose for news was tingling.
See, I'm a reporter. I may only be a sixth grader in sleepy old Abbington, Massachusetts, but I've still managed to uncover some great stories for our school newspaper, Real News. In fact, if it weren't for me and a handful of other gutsy sixth graders, there wouldn't even be a newspaper. But that's another story.
As creepy as the idea of needing metal detectors in school might be, it qualified as news. Not the gushy, school spirit, who's-having-a-bake-sale kind of story that Megan O'Connor, the editor in chief, usually goes for. This was hard news. Newsy news.
My red hightop Converse sneakers squeaked on the floor as I rushed out of the class. Shoes are my only fashion statement. I have a closet full of Converse sneakers in all different colors. With brown hair, brown freckles and brown eyes, I figure I need a little color in my life.
I headed over to the Real News office. At least, I tried to. It was hard to get through the chattering clumps of kids. A crowd clustered near the front entrance.
"Oh, great," said a girl in a wheelchair. "Next thing you know, they'll be searching our lockers."
"They already are!" said a tall girl with spiky blond hair. "Dave told me they're doing random locker searches while we're in class!"
I didn't know them or their friend Dave, but their conversation fueled my story. I squeezed my way through the group. Sometimes being kind of short with pointy elbows comes in handy.
Two men wearing gray uniforms were taking measurements of the front doors and the hall, A man with a clipboard stood talking to a hyper woman in a red suit.
I'd recognize that helmet-head anywhere. That frozen mass of blond hair belonged to Ms. Caldwell, president of the PTA. My grandmother claims that when she sits behind Ms. Caldwell at PTA meetings, she actually gets dizzy from the hairspray fumes.
"You'll have something to check backpacks and purses and things, won't you?" Ms. Caldwell asked.
"Whatever you feel is necessary," the man replied. He jotted down a note on the paper attached to the clipboard.
"Oh, it's necessary," Ms. Caldwell insisted. "in fact, we're thinking of banning backpacks altogether."
My eyebrows shot up. Banning backpacks? How would we live?
"So we'll meet in Principal Nachman's office at four o'clock for a complete assessment," Ms. Caldwell said. Then she wafted down the hall, trailing a cloud of SuperHold hairspray.
A sixth-grade girl leaned against. a row of colorful election posters. "Did someone bring a gun to school?" she asked a teacher tearfully.
"No, of course not," the teacher soothed her.
"Then why are they doing this?" another girl demanded.
"So we all stay safe," the teacher assured them. But she didn't look all that certain to me.
"This is totally bogus," an eighth-grade boy standing near me complained to his friends. "Some parent freaked out, and now we all have to suffer."