Mr X is a principal at the Martin Elementary School in New Kensington, Pennsylvania (his name is not being released under medical orders). Up until last week Mr X was as normal as any other low-level official of minor authority.
That is, until Darin Simak, 7, came to school with a Nerf dart thrower in his backpack. Little Simak brought the toy to the principal’s office, perhaps thinking it would be fun to Show & Tell. But what happened next has mental health authorities across the nation deeply concerned.
Mr X suspended Simak and threatened to have the boy removed from the school for one year.
Mr X insisted the harmless toy was “a weapon”, and informed onlookers that the school had a “zero-tolerance policy” for guns. Eyewitnesses say Mr X was told that the toy was not a gun, but Mr X persisted in his fantasy. “I’m only following official procedure,” he is reported to have said.
Dr Hugo Hackenbush of the Standish Sanitarium said that Mr X’s condition was not unusual. “A hundred years ago Educators Disease was virtually unheard of. There were scattered reports in Utopian communes like the Oneida Community, but the public never heard of them. Now a week doesn’t go by without another case being diagnosed.”
Dr Hackenbush warned that the disease was highly contagious. “It spreads by contact,” he said.
Proof of that was had in the Simak case. After Mr X lapsed into his condition, he called on John Pallone, New Kensington-Arnold School District superintendent, who probably contracted Educators Disease from Mr X. His case is, however, mild.
“He didn’t have prolonged contact with Mr X, which is what probably saved him. Mr Pallone would only say ‘No comment’ when asked about Simak,” said Dr Hackenbush. “Whereas an unaffected individual would have laughed off the incident and admitted that non-weapons aren’t weapons.”
Professor Otis B. Driftwood of Milan and New York has made a career studying the disease. “There is no cure. Nothing in the pharmacopoeia has had the least impact,” he said. “There are some intriguing results with nicotine, which seems to act as a restorative in some of the patients. Unfortunately, part of the manifestation of the disease is an unreasoning, pathological horror of tobacco. We can’t get near most of the patients without they turn violent.”
Current theory suggests educators contract an incipient form of the disease at college, where educators are found in concentration. “It’s like how the methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA bacterium, is found in hospitals. With MRSA, no amount of scrubbing with alcohol and ammonia eradicates the bug, which isn’t surprising because hospitals are after all where sick people go. And universities are where educators go. It’s a bad situation.”
“Educators probably are infected by the second or third year at university,” said Captain Jeffrey Spaulding, MD, of the US Army Africa Corps. “But the disease lies dormant in most people, until it is activated by some environmental trigger.”
He said that triggers have included sharp pencils, drawings of airplanes, erasers of unusual shape. “There was even an incident where an educator saw a Pop-tart with a bite out of it and swore that it was a weapon. That case was so bad the individual involved had to be institutionalized,” he said.
“Prognosis is good if we can remove the patient from the classroom,” said Dr Hackenbush. “We had one patient who had nearly parted completely from his sanity after at school he saw one young boy pointing at another young boy while saying, ‘Bang!’. But after seven months in the Sanitarium, removed from even a hint of teaching materials, he has stopped foaming at the mouth when shown a picture of a drawing of stick that vaguely resembles a pistol.”
Captain Spaulding said common symptoms are hysteria, in men a loss of manhood resulting in an almost complete feminization, unreasoning severity in mood and attitude, incoherence, a rapid slide into bureaucratic insistence on form and rules for the rules’ sake.
“If you see somebody you suspect has Educators Disease, call 911 immediately. Do not approach the individual. The danger of contamination is too high,” recommended professor Driftwood.
The consensus of the profession is that, as Dr Hackenbush said, “Parents should be extremely careful. Best thing to do is to remove your boys to a safe distance—those with Educators Disease rarely attack girls. Home schooling, or enrollment in a parochial or all-boys school where educator screening methods are superior, are your best hopes.”