Prior to entering school my son did not have any diagnoses. Sure there were signs but there was not enough for anyone to put together a diagnosis, I really wish there had been. I wanted the best for my son so I sent him to a Christian private school. I remember taking him to the open house and he seemed comfortable there so we decided to send him to school there.
Some ideas on how to handle things will be in a future post. Unfortunately we had a horrible experience in elementary school that I did not handle correctly. I decided to share the story so others can learn from my mistake or at least know his story.
In 2nd or 3rd grade is when he first started saying that the other kids were picking on him. I would ask around with parents and teachers about what was happening. I would get different stories from people and it honestly didn’t all add up. I would hear stories of him being picked on but I would also hear that he was too sensitive. I would also get told that he would get upset because someone didn’t follow the rules and he would then yell at the other child.
At the time he wasn’t diagnosed so unfortunately I didn’t know how to explain it to the teacher. But I did try to explain that my son was a good kid and we needed to try to figure out how to help my son. Some teachers were really good with him. The 4th grade teacher was actually really good with him and I thought things were getting better.
I was wrong, 5th grade was awful. He started writing about how he wanted to die. This is when I took him for a new evaluation and ended up with diagnosis of depression. He was very upset about a lot of things but he was mostly upset about school. I started him back in counseling to see what we could do to figure things out.
I would meet regularly with the school about various issues including my son’s behavior but also about other kids picking on him. None of those meetings resolved anything and all I would hear about was his behaviors. I would leave feeling so defeated. I didn’t understand what was going on with my son and why no one seemed to want to listen or help. I thought often about changing schools to see if that would help. When I tried to discuss it with my son he would become upset and say he wanted to stay with his friends. I should have pulled him out but I can’t dwell on the past. Unfortunately it got worse.
One day in before school care he got into an argument with another kid over a ball and my son punched the other kid. Since this was a private school this was a huge deal and everyone knew about it. When I asked my son about it he said the other kid had been picking on him for a while. When I tried to discuss this with the principal he said that no matter what the other kid did my kid shouldn’t have hit him. Well no my kid shouldn’t have hit him but maybe he felt that was all he could do.
I don’t rememember what punishment he received for his behavior but I remember that he had to sign a behavior contract. I also remember we were told he wasn’t allowed to go to a band festival that he had been invited to go to. That hurt him the worst.
He was playing basketball at the time and I would always attend practices to make sure everything went okay. He never had any issues at all but one day the principal approached me and told me he heard my son hit a kid at practice, I was so shocked because I was always there and nothing had happened. The principal shrugged and said sometimes kids just say things. They were lying to try to get my son in trouble. This was a form of bullying as far as I am concerned.
One day my son became upset over a math assignment and he walked by another kid and shoulder checked them. Really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things but the call from the teacher was quite disturbing. The teacher started going on and on about how he lunged at the other child and kicked them. I said, WHAT? That isn’t what I was told and I said what I was told by the principal. She then said “Well, that is true but he could have done worse.” I was so shocked, I realized that my kid would never be able to do anything right. I reported this to the principal but he clearly didn’t understand why this was so upsetting.
To me it was quite clear the whole school had it in for him. At the time I didn’t understand that his behaviors were his way to communicate his frustration. It was April at this point so I thought we would try to finish the year and then switch. I was already started talking to the public school. They had told me they would take him and we started discussing a 504 or IEP. I just hoped the rest of the year would go okay.
The next week I received a call in the evening that my son put another kid in a headlock during recess the day before. When I inquired why I wasn’t notified when it happened they explained that they didn’t know the day it happened. Apparently no teacher saw it and some kids reported it after it happened. I said I was confused because don’t 5th grade boys rough house and if no one saw when it happened it clearly wasn’t a huge deal. I was told that according to the other kids it was worse than normal kid behavior. Right, because a bunch of 5th graders should be the judge of that.
I talked to the school about how I felt this was all unfair. They were discussing with me about how his behaviors are inapporpriate and about how they didn’t think he was safe to be with other kids. I wanted to scream. We agreed we would sit down and discuss the lack of supports and his behavior. The next day the principal called to tell me he didn’t think this was a correct placement and we needed to discuss that further. I said no, my husband was on his way to pick up our son.
My husband called the principal a F-ing A-hole when he picked up my son. I wish he had said worse. The principal called me and wanted to sit down to discuss because he felt we needed closure. I took a friend with me as a witness. The asshole told me that my son belonged in a group home for kids with anger issues. I almost punched him. I never told my son he said that. I told my son that I chose to remove him from school. He was upset but he needed to be out of that horrible school.
My son was also in boy scouts at this school and the scout master talked me into letting him stay in scouts to keep something constant in his life. I agreed since he got a long with the kids in his troop and they are really well monitored there. I usually stayed but for some reason that one day I didn’t. He was sobbing when I picked him up. He told me some kids dragged him across the parking lot and took his shoes. He wasn’t injured but still I was in complete shock.
I talked to the scout master and he explained that most of the adults had to go to a meeting. And my son’s story was accurate based on what his son told him. He apologized to me and I told him that it is really amazing that I was told my kid is the monster for putting a kid in head lock but this is what the other kids do to him?
This was all very traumatizing to my son and to me. I certainly learned a lot from all of this. But the teacher has to earn my trust now. 1) Private schools do not have to follow the same rules and regulations as public schools. 2) Teachers and school staff do not always care about the best interest of the child. 3) The only person to trust with my child is me. Okay so I am working through these last two because I can’t always be there. Especially now that he is a teenager I have had to take a couple of steps back.
The bullying at the private school was beyond anything that we could have resolved with the school. Especially once the school officials were in on it. I know this is not always an option for people. In the next coming weeks I will be posting about the bullying that occurred at the middle school (mild in comparison!) and how we worked through it to make things better.