A minor problem during an exam escalates

By Joanna Jones

Harriet hated three-hour exams. They were something, though, that seemed to go with the territory as far as her A-levels went; three exhausting hours poring over obscure questions of varying degrees of difficulty. It was not that the exams were that difficult for her. She had been blessed with a very capable, logical mind and her results usually showed that. Indeed, she usually won maths and science prizes in her girls’ grammar and, even if she took nothing for granted, most of the small group of sixth-form friends sitting their A-level physics with her rather expected her to get the Physics prize.

However, two hours into the exam she was experiencing quite some discomfort, and realised she had no hope of getting to the end. She cursed herself for having that extra coffee at breakfast and put her hand up. Soon she was being escorted by Mrs Richards to a single toilet that was located in a room behind the stage.

However, as she made to go in Mrs Richards suggested she look after her blazer. Harriet looked surprised but shrugged the green jacket off and passed it to her. A few minutes later she had it on again and was more comfortably writing hard in the rather cold hall, poorly insulated against the February weather outside.

As the clock reached quarter past noon it was Mrs Richards who said: “Right girls, pens down and check your name is in the front of the exam script as you leave.”

The small number of girls doing physics, and a larger number doing biology, all started to tidy up in various states of relief. For many, including Harriet, it was their last mock exam, giving them two or three days of relaxation at home before classes restarted.

However, as she made to leave the hall Mrs Richards accosted her. “Harriet, can you wait a minute please?”

Harriet looked puzzled but separated herself from her friends, and was surprised to find herself following the Assistant Head to her office a few minutes later.

Once inside with the door closed, the Assistant Head did not sit down but faced a confused looking girl.

“Harriet, can you explain what this was doing in your blazer pocket?”

Suddenly it was clear as Harriet stared, clearly shocked and rather horrified, at the piece of paper in Mrs Richards’ hands. It was her revision sheet of formulae that she had been staring at over breakfast. She had completely forgotten it’s presence in her pocket.

Harriet without needing to think blurted out the truth. “It’s my revision sheet. I always write down key formulae, facts and equations on a piece of paper, to look at and help me revise. Normally I leave it in my bag, or at home, but this time I clearly forgot and left it in my blazer.”

Mrs Richards looked at the girl, knowing she was in all probability telling the truth. The trouble was, in cases like this the truth only took you so far.

“Harriet, you do know if I had not taken your blazer and then found that paper then we would be unable to say for certain that you did not cheat during the exam.”

Harriet gulped as that sunk in. It took a rather long time before she meekly replied: “Yes Miss.”

Mrs Richards looked at her sympathetically for a moment. “I am afraid the school also has quite strict rules on cases like this, where it could be seen that you made an attempt to cheat.”

“But I didn’t, Miss! I would never deliberately cheat.” Harriet replied with unexpected vigour.

Mrs Richards was outwardly unmoved. “I never said you did make an attempt. I said it could be seen by others that you did, and that is the problem.”

Harriet looked much more worried now. “I am very sorry, Miss. These, well these ‘rules’, what do they mean?”

Mrs Richards replied slowly. “I am afraid the first is quite embarrassing. I need to check that you did not hide any pieces of paper anywhere else.”

Harriet looked outraged that her claims of a simple mistake were not being accepted. However, before she could give expression to her feelings the Assistant Head reminded her that this was not an indictment on her honesty, but application of rules that had to be equally applied to all.

Harriet slumped at the news. “What do I need to do, Miss?” She asked resignedly.

“First, give me your blazer again.”

Harriet did so, and watched as the teacher emptied her pockets. Happily there were no other incriminating bits of paper.

“I now need you to take off your sweater and skirt.”

Harriet looked in shock as the word ‘skirt’ was uttered. However, after a moment to consider objecting she acquiesced and removed her green jumper, with its red stripe around the ‘V’, and the A-line knee length grey skirt. Mrs Richards merely shook the sweater and swept her arms along the sleeves, but made the effort to search the two, found to be empty, pockets on either side of her skirt. No bits of paper dropped out as she had taken the clothes off, therefore meaning that, happily, there was nothing trapped by the skirt waistband.

“Next your shoes.” She ordered the girl.

Soon they were unbuckled and slipped off, allowing the teacher to see there was nothing inside.

“Put your left foot on the chair.”

Harriet rather embarrassedly did so and Mrs Richards first examined the tight fabric of the green knee socks encasing her calves to see if there was any obvious paper, then tugged around at the top for a double check.

Without her skirt, Harriet felt very vulnerable during this search, with just her green school knickers on below her blouse.

A few moments later her right leg had been checked too.

Mrs Richards continued “I also need to check there is nothing inside either your bra or knickers.”

Harriet’s jaw dropped in shock at that. However, she slowly raised her blouse tails and allowed the Assistant Head to pull them back and down slightly, to peek inside, first at the back, and then more humiliatingly at the front. Already blushing furiously, she reddened further as she removed the red and gold school tie, undid the buttons of her plain white blouse, lifted the vest underneath as best she could and unclipped the back of her white bra to allow confirmation that there was no scrap of paper inside. She wondered, given the effort, if really anyone would hide a crib sheet under so many clothes. It was, she thought, perhaps the school’s horribly embarrassing punishment for her carelessness.

As soon as Mrs Richards was done she clipped her bra back in place, pulled the vest down and buttoned her blouse back up. It was as she made to pick her skirt off the teacher’s desk that the second major shock hit.

“Harriet, it is best you leave the skirt off for the moment, I am afraid there is the unfortunate matter of disciplining you for your attempt to cheat.”

Harriet’s eyes opened wide in shock, realizing the sort of strip search was not a punishment in itself. The reason for the redness in her cheeks changed from embarrassment back to outrage as she considered Mrs Richards’ words. “But I didn’t attempt to cheat!” She exclaimed, scandalised.

“Whether it was deliberate or, as I believe, accidental, you nearly managed to take a piece of paper into the toilet that you could have read there. If that alone had happened in your real exams in three or four months time that would be enough to fail you automatically and you know what that would have meant for your chances of getting to University! If you had taken the piece of paper actually in, even by accident, then we would have had to fail you for the mock, and suspend you in addition to administering corporal punishment. As I said, the school has rules and I am afraid they apply equally whether it was deliberate or carelessness as we can never absolutely know which. I appreciate in your case it was most probably carelessness, but I am afraid I am obliged to strap you. I spoke to the Headmistress during the last hour of the examination and she has confirmed that we need to apply the rules equally.”

Harriet’s face turned from outraged red to pasty grey as the reality of her predicament set in. She looked appalled, and started to shake as Mrs Richards extracted a two foot blade of thick dark brown leather from her drawer. It was somewhat over an inch wide at the business end, with a taper in to form a handle of a width a little less than an inch. It was clearly partially rigid as she held it in her right hand.

How could this be happening, Harriet thought, as she looked, mesmerised, at the implement. The strap was a very rare punishment in the school, though the slipper less so. She had, however, never before received either at secondary school.

“Normally cheating in an exam is an automatic maximum twelve stroke strapping. However, as you were lucky enough to be caught before you had any opportunity to do so it will only be eight.”

Harriet’s eyes stared incredulously at the Assistant Head. Eight! Eight was an incredibly severe strapping. Most girls got a standard four, or six at worst. Only the most serious or repeat offenders got more.

“Please,” she begged, nearly in tears.

Mrs Richards retained her sympathetic but firm approach. “Come Harriet, you have made a very bad, very careless, mistake, one that could have been a lot worse. You are not a little second year, but an eighteen year old young woman. Now get yourself over my desk and we’ll get this over with.”

Harriet looked sickly at Mrs Richards’ tidy desk. She desperately did not want this to be ‘over with’, as she had a pretty good idea what state she would be in once it was ‘over with’ from Mrs Richards’ perspective. And that meant it would most certainly not be ‘over with’ for her. The consequences of strapping lasted much longer than the couple of minutes or whatever it took to actually get it.

However, finally accepting there was no option she slowly went to the desk, bent slightly to place her forearms on it, before ever so reluctantly bending further to settle her upper body upon the well polished wood. She gave a sniff of misery as she resigned herself to her fate.

Her blouse tails were tugged up slightly, increasing the sense of vulnerability and the sense of panic within her as she waited.

Mrs Richards looked at the girl in front of her. She was of average height, and blessed with a rather pear-shaped figure, though her exercise meant that it was very well toned with a narrow waist. She felt sorry for her, and it was unfortunate the Headmistress was such a stickler in cases like this, where it was so obviously a genuine mistake. However, if she had done it in her actual A-levels then she could have ruined her chances for University. By that score, a strapping was getting off lightly indeed. It would do no harm to reinforce the need for care to her, and indirectly to that group of the most able girls in the year that she tended to socialise with.

Raising the leather slowly she paused, then brought it down sharply.

Splat!

It landed right across the centre of the green-clad target. Harriet’s body jerked slightly upward as she reacted to the sharp sting. It was long indeed since her parents had put her over a knee as a young girl, and even longer since a primary teacher had given her a couple with a slipper for misbehaving with a group of other girls, aged eight. As a result Harriet gave a surprised wail of pain and had to consciously make the effort to remain with her elbows on the table. Slowly she settled her upper body downward back onto the desk.

Splat!

As soon as she was back in position then the second had been delivered. The pain built significantly as once again she jerked up slightly and moaned: “Oh-h-h!”

It took slightly longer for her to get hold of herself and resume the undignified pose.

The chastisement continued with three more strokes across her mid-to-lower buttocks. Each one was met with a mild jerk upwards and quiet wail as she coped with the ever increasing stinging pain in her bottom.

The sixth was low at the base of her knickers and caused Harriet to give a screech of pain. The tears that had been threatening to come, ever since she had bent over in her knickers, started to ooze out.

She tried to sniff them back in, but it was no good, as the seventh landed agonisingly on the same place.

Mrs Richards always ensured the last couple would be something to remind a girl not to want to ever return to this position. As a result for poor Harriet the dam broke. Small continuous sobs were heard as she desperately concentrated on keeping her forearms on the table and her left cheek on the desk, as she had done throughout. She did not want to see anything of Mrs Richards, standing to her left, as she swung that dreadful piece of leather at her rear end.

After a slightly longer pause the final blow crashed down vigorously right across the meat of her bottom. With a final wail the sobbing sixth former stood and her hands went to her bottom as she jumped on the spot caressing her tenderised rump. All thoughts of retrieving her skirt were lost in the sea of pain that her brain was bobbing around in.

Mrs Richards did not rush her, waited till she had some control and then offered her a tissue.

“Th, thank you, Miss.” She stuttered as she managed to prise her right hand away from attempting to soothe the outrage inside her knickers, and wipe away the worst of the stains on her face.

Having done so, Harriet was able to slowly get herself dressed, accompanying the regular deep sniffs with moans as she bent to slip her skirt back on.

Mrs Richards waited till the miserable young woman was dressed before giving her a final admonishment to be more careful. Finally she said: “There is one final rule you should be aware of, that I did persuade Miss Foster to bend. She did agree that your result could be considered for any prizes based on my judgment, and in my judgment the strapping for your carelessness is enough punishment.

While thanking the Assistant Head, at the time Harriet was in just too much pain to care, though a part was considering the embarrassment of seeing her friends, some of whom would certainly be waiting to walk home with her. What would they say when they saw that she had been whacked? However, she was thankful enough to Mrs Richards at the school prize giving in July, when she duly won her prize.

The End

© Joanna Jones 2013