The true story of Steve and Ned begins when they were classmates in Kindergarten. Steve had problems controlling his temper and Ned was a cunning little devil who liked to get others in trouble. As they went through Elementary school together, three things became strikingly evident: Steve was big, Steve was strong, and if you got him mad Steve would punch you before he knew what he done. Ned knew how to get under Steve’s skin better than anyone and Steve spent more than a few days at home for incidents Ned crafted. A sleeping lion, woken up, could be called “predictable”; Steve, at a private school, could be called “easy bait”.
One thing that really stood out about Steve was his absolute honesty. Very few kids, when confronted with a conflict, will be 100% truthful and thorough about the parts that make them look bad. But from Steve you always got an exact account of what happened. “Ned called me a freak, and I walked away because I don’t want to get suspended again, but Ned followed me, and I said ‘get away from me you b***’ (I know I shouldn’t have said that but I did), and then Ned got in my face and I punched him.” Ned would deny Steve’s version, and it took a while for his lies to catch up to him—Ned was clever and he was never caught, by an adult or a bystander, doing anything wrong.
All the teachers liked Steve, and all the administrators liked him. All the adults in Steve’s life were rooting for him, and yet you just can’t punch kids at our school and Steve punched kids—and he was the biggest, strongest kid in the class, by far. We also knew that Steve simply had to learn how to control his temper, somehow, or he was likely to land in jail someday. Steve’s teachers said, sincerely, that they really wanted him to succeed. All Steve said he wanted was the one thing he couldn’t get: He said he just wanted to be left alone.
Despite the school’s efforts to support him and keep giving him “one more one more chance,” by the middle of 5th grade Steve was on his 2.99999th strike—one more physically aggressive incident, he was told, and he would have to be expelled. Word spread among the 5th grade class. Just days later, Steve erupted again and knocked Ned to the ground in response to something Ned said or did. Ned bounced up and made a bee-line for the Headmaster. “That’s his third strike,” Ned said trimphantly. “He’s expelled, right?”
The Headmaster thought it over. “No,” he decided. “Ned, you know Steve is a ‘sleeping lion’ and you chose, willfully, to prod him with a stick. Steve may have difficulties controlling his temper but you did something far worse, because you baited him with full control of your actions. Now one thing I know about Steve is he is utterly honest. Steve will not be expelled and furthermore, if there is ever another incident where Steve loses his temper, if Steve tells me that you provoked him, you will be expelled.” Steve and Ned both graduated from 8th grade at our school and there was never another incident between them.
All of which is to say that the situation with Milton Bradley and Mike Winters is, if nothing else, undoubtedly full of many more complexities than meet the eye.