A week away from winter break, the students are rebellious, and David Petrakis is fighting for his freedom of speech in Mr. Neck’s social studies class. As Melinda watches, David turns on a tape recorder every time Mr. Neck speaks, in order to document anything racist or bigoted that the teacher might say. Mr. Neck gives a non-offensive lecture on the beginning of the American Revolution, but glares at David as he does so. Melinda is impressed by David’s bravery.
David’s fight for his freedom of speech is the opposite of Melinda’s inability to speak. He even uses Mr. Neck’s words against him, ensuring that the teacher doesn’t continue his bigoted, hateful tirades. To Melinda, David is an emblem of assertiveness and courage—qualities that she believes she doesn’t possess.
As she waits for her guidance counselor in the school office, Melinda eavesdrops on a conversation between a secretary and a PTA volunteer, and learns that the Petrakises’ lawyer has threatened to sue the school district and Mr. Neck. The next day, David has also set up a video camera in the back of the class in order to record Mr. Neck’s dirty looks. Melinda calls David her “hero.”
Once again, Melinda’s status as a semi-invisible outsider allows her to see and hear things that others do not—in this case, the gossip about David’s fight with Mr. Neck. As David continues to stand up to the teacher, Melinda is even more impressed by his refusal to be victimized or bullied.