Michael Bodomov, 17, is a senior at Mount Lebanon High School in the suburb of the same name, just six miles south southwest of Pittsburgh. Last month, his drama teacher gave the class an assignment, asking them to create a character and then to actually be that character for an entire day.
To fulfill his assignment, Bodomov decided to be a homeless man. He created a background history for his character saying that after he had accidently run over his younger sister which resulted in a falling out with his family. Then he supposedly got involved with some guru who convinced him to give away all of his possessions.
Then he dressed like a homeless man, wearing several layers of coats, sweatpants, fingerless gloves and mismatched shoes. He put his school backpack in a plastic bag and then covered it with socks and empty plastic bottles. To complete his character, Bodomov smeared some ink on his face to make himself look dirty.
Michael was so convincing that his mother decided she had better drive him to school instead of his walking like normal. He arrived at school early, before they opened the main gates. He made his way around to a side door and rattled it to get someone’s attention. When someone came to the door, he found himself improvising and according to him:
“I had to kind of think on my feet.”
“I kind of mumbled [and] said I need to talk to some people.”
At that point, he wasn’t sure whether he should tell them who he was and why he was dressed this way or to act out his character as the assignment said. He decided to act out his character but as he did, he kept trying to drop hints as to who he really was. One of the hints was to show them his plastic bag full of stuff, hoping they would see his school backpack, but all they saw were the empty bottles and socks. Michael added:
“At one point, I think I said, `I might be a student here,’ and a school official responded, ‘No, you can’t be. You look like you’re 30 and you haven’t showered in 10 days.’”
“It’s not like this entire time I wasn’t trying to let them know I was a student. It was pretty funny to me.”
It wasn’t funny to school officials who called the police about the homeless man. After the police arrived, Bodomov revealed who he really was and explained the class assignment and why he dressed and acted like he did. The school then suspended him for two days for not properly identifying himself as a student at the beginning. He says the suspension stings and that school officials overreacted.
Michael has plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh when he graduates and is wondering if theater or drama might be calling him to that field of study. It appears that he would excel in that line of study since he was able to fool all of the school officials into believing that he was a 30ish year old homeless man.
My question to you is whether the school acted appropriately when they suspended Bodomov for two days for not identifying himself as a student? It is a school policy to do so, but the drama class assignment was to create a character and to be that character for an entire day. Michael was doing exactly what he was assigned to do.
I know there are those that will ask what if a student decided to be a mass murder or some sort of psychopath and my response would be that those would present problems with school policies and therefore should be avoided. But a homeless person should not be seen as a threat or a problem with school policy. Personally, I believe the school did overreact and that he should not have been suspended. The drama teacher needs to inform students given that assignment that they need to abide by all school rules and regulations. I also believe that Michael Bodomov should get an A+ for his assignment.