A few weeks into the school year, Nicole and her friend are using the girls’ bathroom when Jacob walks in. He calls Nicole a “faggot” and uses one of the stalls. A moment later, their teacher Mrs. Molloy storms in demanding to know what he’s doing in the bathroom. Jacob explains that he’s just “a boy using the girls’ bathroom,” and that if Nicole can go in, so can he.
It is in this incident that Nicole has her first real experience of discrimination. It is also worth noting that Jacob’s prejudice is not of his own making—his bullying and attempts to make Nicole feel like an outsider are due to coaching from his grandfather. Prejudice isn’t innate; it is learned.
Mrs. Molloy marches Jacob into Erhardt’s office. Erhardt then speaks with Bob Lucy and Nicole and her friends. Nicole’s friends reveal that Jacob had been calling her a faggot behind her back. The girls return to their classroom, but Jacob does not. When Nicole gets home from school, she began to cry to Kelly. She’d done nothing wrong, and yet she’d been embarrassed in front of her friends. For the first time, she felt “freakish.”
Jacob’s behavior and language shows how discrimination can be so hurtful. It makes Nicole ashamed of her identity, which is not something that she is able to change. He is bullying her even though she has done nothing wrong.
Kelly tries to call Erhardt, but Bob Lucy had instructed Erhardt not to speak to the Maineses about the incident. She is furious, and calls the school administrator, Kelly Clenchy. She and Wayne want Jacob moved into a different fifth-grade classroom and want Nicole, who’s been temporarily barred from the girls’ bathroom, to be able to use it again. Clenchy says they can’t allow that.
The school also begins to show its complicity in Jacob’s discrimination toward Nicole. Not only does the school not want Kelly and Wayne to be able to speak to staff about Nicole’s safety, but they are also taking no steps to ensure that the incident doesn’t repeat itself.
Over the next few days, Jacob continues to watch Nicole and follow her whenever she’s in the hallway. In early October, Jacob follows Nicole again into the girls’ bathroom. She comes home crying once more. Kelly calls special services director Sharon Brady, who agrees that Jacob had violated their agreement with the school but says that they can only guarantee Nicole’s safety in the staff bathroom, not the student bathroom.
Due to the school’s lack of punishment towards Jacob, there is nothing discouraging him from further abuse towards Nicole. And even though Nicole is following the school’s initial recommendation that she use the girls’ bathroom, they have taken no actions to guarantee that she can use that bathroom safely.
The next day, Kelly and Wayne call the Orono police department. The police visit Paul Melanson at his home, but Melanson does not back down. He insists that Jacob should have the same rights as “that boy,” referring to Nicole. Melanson assures them that he would stop what he was doing if they assured him Nicole would no longer use the girls’ restroom.
The irony of Melanson’s actions is that he feels that Nicole is somehow infringing upon Jacob’s rights. However, Jacob isn’t losing any rights—it is Nicole who is then deemed unable to use the restroom that the school assigned to her.