A/N: This story takes places during the 2nd season (obviously, since Mike's in it), but I was never sure which 2 episodes to put it between. So feel free to use your imagination. Also, the only characters I own are Mrs. Kirkhart, Dr. Elliott, Officer Mitchell, and Keith & Todd Jamison. All others were created by David W. Duclon.
There comes a point in every child's life when they must choose between revenge and forgiveness. Punky was about to make that decision for the first time. She stood in the hallway of Cook County Hospital, watching Todd Jamison as he walked toward her from the elevators. Punky bit her lip, and wondered what he was doing here...
"Good morning, good morning, good morning," Mike said cheerily the previous Monday morning. He was standing by his classroom door, greeting each student as they filed in. Mike offered a "high five" to Punky and each of her friends just as an office helper walked up and said, "This is for you, Mr. Fulton," as he handed Mike a folded piece of school stationary.
"Thanks," Mike returned, opening the note just as the tardy bell rang. He shut the door behind him, and quickly read the note to himself as he headed for his desk.
"Mike, what's that piece of paper for?" Punky wanted to know.
"Class, we're going to have a new student joining us this morning, and he'll be here shortly. While we're waiting for him, let's say our Pledge of Allegiance and get started with some history."
The students rose from their desks, looked up at the American flag, placed their hands on their hearts, and began to recite the Pledge. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
As the children sat back down, Mike started passing out folders. "Okay, kids, take one and pass the rest back, but don't open them yet. I want you to take a good look around at your classmates. What do you see?"
"Poor choices in fashion," Margaux said.
Mike supressed a laugh as he patted the blonde on the back. "Good guess, Margaux, but try again."
Just then there was a knock at the door, and the principal poked her head in. "Mr. Fulton, I have your new student here with me."
Mrs. Kirkhart opened the classroom door all the way and allowed a boy with strawberry-blond hair to enter ahead of her. "This is Todd Jamison; he's just moved here from Georgia. Todd, you'll like Mr. Fulton. He'll work with you to make sure you're caught up with the other students in the class." Mrs. Kirkhart left with a gentle smile and a wave, closing the door behind her.
"Well, Todd, welcome to the fourth grade; I hope you enjoy yourself," Mike said, doing his impersonation of Bill Cosby.
Todd looked up at Mike as if he couldn't decide what to make of his new teacher. He didn't move, and he didn't blink; he simply stood there, staring.
The child's gaze unnerved Mike. "Uh, Todd, if you'd like to take a seat, there's an empty desk in the back corner by the window."
No response and no movement; Todd continued to stare.
Mike squatted so he could see eye-to-eye with the boy. Placing a hand on Todd's arm, Mike said quietly, "Todd, are you all right?"
Mike's touch broke Todd's trance. The boy wrenched away, muttering angrily, "Don't touch me."
Withdrawing his hand, the teacher stood and gave Todd a folder, taken slightly aback at the child's response. "Okay, Todd, just calm down. There's no need to get upset. Go ahead and have a seat." Mike turned his attention back to the class. "Now, where were we?"
Cherie raised her hand. "You wanted to know what we see when we look at each other."
"Right. Do you have any ideas?"
Cherie took a second look around the room. "We don't look the same."
"Right again. Can anyone name some things that are different about us?"
"The color of our hair," Allen said.
"The way we dress," Margaux added.
"The color of our eyes," Punky piped up.
"The way we dress," Margaux repeated.
This time Mike did laugh. "All right, Margaux, thank you. We all know we don't have your taste in fashion. But you're all missing a pretty big difference."
After a moment of thoughtful silence, Cherie figured out what Mike was getting at. "Our skin. The colors of our skin are different."
Mike noticed Todd rolling his eyes. "Anything you'd like to add, Mr. Jamison?"
The boy scoffed. "It took you guys that long to figure out what makes us different? Boy, people out here are really slow at catching on to things."
"Hold on," Punky said as she turned to look at her new classmate. "What do you mean, 'what makes us different'? How we look is how we look. It's our personalities that make us different."
"Yeah," Allen piped up. "And just because I'm slow at catching on doesn't mean that everyone else is. And I thought I said dumb things in class." He rolled his eyes.
"Kids, we're getting off topic here. Let's get back to these folders that I passed out. This month in history, we're going to be celebrating Black History Month."
"We're going to celebrate the history of the color black?" Allen asked.
"No, stupid," Todd responded. "It's the history of the slaves."
"Todd, name-calling is unnecessary and uncalled for, and I won't have it in my classroom. And, actually, Black History Month is about the accomplishments of the descendants of those slaves. If you take a look through your folders, you'll see names like Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr. There's a copy of Dr. King's famous speech, 'I Have a Dream,' and a photograph of him giving his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. These folders have brief biographies of 28 African-American civil-rights leaders, poets, etc., one for every day of the month."
Todd scowled. "So in other words, we're going to spend the entire month studying ape-faced celebrities."