School Democracy

by Derek Farmer

Characters in this story:

Sal A girl: 14
Billy A boy: 14
Disa A girl: 14
Jo Dobbs A girl: 14
School council leader A woman: 30-ish
Head teacher A man: 50-ish

Scene 1: Sal's bedroom, early morning.
Sal is still asleep; her mobile phone rings.

Sal: (Groans and opens her eyes, reaching for the phone)
Ohhh! Who's that now?
(Answering the phone)
Yeah? What's up?
Billy: (Voice distorted)
You should be! We're late. I'm outside.
Sal: What!!!
Billy: Quarter to nine. I'm going.
Sal: No - wait! Mum will let you in. I'll hit the bathroom. Get me toast and some orange juice, while you're waiting, will you?
Billy: (Sarcastic)
Is that all?
Sal: Err, no, my uniform needs ironing! You up to it?
Billy Course I am!

Scene 2: Sal's kitchen
Billy is pouring orange juice into a glass. Next to him toast has just popped up in a toaster. Sal is out of view throughout the scene.

Sal: (Calling through)
Everything OK, Billy?
Billy: No problem. I just need to get organised.
(To himself)
OK. Put the toast on. Then get the ironing going. Then finish off the uniform! Easy.
Sal: Something burning.
Billy: (Realises he's left the iron on top of Sal's skirt.)
Oh no! Like, you've got another school skirt though?
Sal: I spilt paint on it - it's in the wash. Why?
Billy: Bit of a problem!

Scene 3: Sal's kitchen, the next day.
Sal has been banned from school for wearing trousers. Sal and Disa are sitting around the table. Billy is at the sink scrubbing at Sal's skirt.

Disa: I'm telling you, Sal, there's no way they can ban you for wearing trousers.
Sal: Tell them that.
Billy: (To Disa)
It's in the school rules - the Head showed her.
Disa: Rules! Who needs rules?!
Billy: Everybody.
(To Sal)
Anyway - you can wear this tomorrow. Once I've got the paint off it.
Sal: No way. Not now!
Billy: Then what you going to do?
Sal: Just wait and see!

Scene 4: School playground
Sal and Disa are parading up and down with home-made signs: one reads "Equal uniforms for girls!" The other reads "Time for women to wear the trousers!" They are both wearing trousers. Billy, looking worried, is sitting on the ground watching them. The Head is looking on disapprovingly.

Billy: This is just going to make things worse, you know.
Sal: Everybody's got the right to protest, Billy!
Billy: Who says?
Disa: It's in the Declaration of Human Rights or something.
Billy: Tell that to the Head!
Disa: The Head? What can he do?
Head: (Approaching)
The Head can send you home to change, that's what he can do.
Disa: But Sir - that's just not on!

Scene 5: Sal's kitchen
Billy and Sal are looking on as Disa finishes off a huge protest banner which reads - "Fight for the right to protest!"

Disa: This'll really get everybody going.
Billy: (Holding up Sal's school skirt)
Why not just wear this? I got most of the paint off it.
Sal: No way.
Disa: That's not what it's about now. If boys can wear trousers - so can girls.
Billy: Then go back to school and get the rules changed.
Sal: Get the rules changed how?
Billy: Never heard of the School Council?
Sal: School council...? Worth a try.

Scene 6: School playground
Jo Dobbs is wearing a badge: "Jo Dobbs - School council rep". Sal and Billy have her cornered. Disa looks on scornfully some way away, holding the unfurled banner just in case.

Jo: Girls! Wearing trousers to school??
Sal: Why not?
Jo: I'm against it.
Sal: But you're my Rep - it's your job to represent me!
Jo: You and a hundred others! Who else want's it?
Billy: Wants what?
Jo: Girls to wear trousers.
Sal: Everybody!
Jo: (Walking away)
Prove it!
Sal: (Calling after her)
I will!
(Turning to Billy)
So come on - how do we prove it?

Scene 7: School playground
Sal, Billy and Disa in a huddle, each one holding a clipboard.

Sal: This petition'll show her how much support we've got alright.
Billy: I still think the wording's a bit iffy.
Sal: (Reading)
"Fair Play for Girls....We the undersigned say it's a basic human right for us to wear what we want. And demand that school uniform is changed right away."....What's wrong with that?
Disa: What's it matter? Nobody'll take any notice of it anyway.
Sal: Course they will - it's a petition. They've got to. Now get to work - as many names as we can.

Scene 8: School playground, the next day
Jo Dobbs is looking at the petition. Sal and Billy have just handed it over. Disa, slightly distant, watching suspiciously.

Sal: There! Fourteen hundred and twenty three names!
Jo: There's only a thousand in the school!
Sal: Who cares? It proves they all agree with me anyway.
Jo: Agree what? (Reads)" wear what we want. And demand that school uniform is changed right away.".....Changed how? Swimming costumes? Clown outfits? Gorilla suits?
Billy: (Sighs)
I said the wording was iffy.
Disa: No! She's just looking for a way out because she don't agree.
Jo: (Pushing the petition away)
I don't need a way out. A Representative has to do what they think best - not what they're told! And I think we should keep school uniform as it is. You think different - stand for election yourself!
Sal: Election? Me?
Billy: (To Jo)
Oh no - I really wish you hadn't said that!

Scene 9: School hall
Sal is standing in front of a group of pupils holding poster saying: "Vote for Sal"; "Sal's the 1 4 U!"; "Trousers for girls"; "Leg equality now"; etc.

Sal: So that's it then. Who's got a question?
(A moment's silence then a confused babble of questions rings out.)
Sal: (Yelling)
OK, that's enough!
(Silence descends)
All I'm interested in is changing it so that girls can wear trousers. If you want that as well - vote for me!
(A confusion of cheers and boos rings out)

Scene 10: School corridor
Billy, Disa and other pupils are straining to see a noticeboard with the results of the election. Sal is standing a way apart, frowning: she can't bear to look.

Billy: What does it say? I can't see.
Disa: Jo Dobbs - 142 votes.
Billy: And Sal?
Disa: SAL- 146 votes!
Billy: SAL! You did it! You're on the School Council.
(Sal's face breaks into a grin)

Scene 11: School hall
Sal, together with other school councillors, are sitting at a table. Sal looks bored.

School council leader: Time to vote then - all those in favour of a shorter afternoon break?
(The majority of hands are raised)
School council leader: Against?
(The remaining hands are raised)
School council leader: Anybody abstaining?
(Sal raises a tentative hand)
School council leader: Carried then. And that brings the first meeting of the new school council to a close.
Sal: (Horrified)
What?....What about changing the uniform? That's the only reason I'm here.
Head: I think you'd better come and see me in my room. There's something you don't understand.

Scene 12: Sal's kitchen
Sal is telling Billy and Disa about her interview with the Head.

Billy: What do you mean the School Council can't change the school uniform?
Sal: That's what he says. It can only suggest that it's changed.
Billy: I don't get it. Why?
Sal: He says the School Council changes all the time. One lot might want the uniform changed. A couple of years later another lot might want it different again. And you can't keep changing uniform all the time.
Disa: I told you you were wasting your time!
Billy: No wait! If the School Council recommends it. Who else has to agree for it to happen?
Sal: The Head - the Teachers - Governors - Local Authority - Parents - just about everybody!
Billy: (Shrugs)
Looks like you're stuck with skirts then!
Sal: No way! We're not stopping now. We're carrying on till we get what we want. And the sooner we start the better.

Scene 13: School playground, several weeks later
Sal and Disa are wearing trousers and looking triumphant.

Sal: See! We had to get the school council majority vote, the Head's agreement... and the teachers, the governors and parents, but I told you we'd do it in the end.
Disa: Right! On to our next big battle now then.
Billy: (Looking very uncomfortable in a skirt)
You know... I'm just not so sure about this.