I’ve been on the phone today, trying to find some sort of protector for my daughter. I’ve been looking for a savior. I emailed her teacher pleading for her to stand up and defend my daughter.
And then, I sent this email to the behavior specialist who is supposed to be observing my daughter on Monday. I apologize that it is a little long. I wanted to tell him about the week she’s had.
Mr. #######,I am writing to you today because I would like you to have this information before the meeting that is scheduled for Monday. I hope you get the chance to read it before then.First, I would like to direct you to this article, which I have shared with some of the school staff as well.http://www.sociology.org/the-emotional-abuse-of-our-children-teachers-schools-and-the-sanctioned-violence-of-our-modern-institutions/ It discusses the emotional trauma caused by these abusive practices. Then, let me tell you about my daughter’s school year so far. She has Generalized Anxiety Disorder.The first two weeks of school she was at ######. There was one incident where a couple of girls were messing with her artwork and she had a meltdown. Then after two weeks, we had to unexpectedly leave our home. The only option for a place to stay was up north at a friends house, so we enrolled her up there. There, she was bullied by a kid regularly, and she defended herself against bullies on the bus. She was punished but the bullies were not.Then, we learned we could move back into our home. We transfer her back down here. We went to re-enroll her on 10-3-2016. They say that they want to get some supports into place first and deny her starting until the following week.We had a meeting on 10-7-2016 to answer some questions and try to help them understand our daughter.They allow her to come back on 10-10-2016. She arrives at school to be taken to the principal’s office. The principal talks to her about what is expected and how she should behave. She hasn’t been here in two weeks and instead of a welcome back she gets a we’re watching you. (fear and anxiety begin).She arrives in class to discover she’s missed breakfast (which I had assured her that morning she would get) and she missed the chinchilla petting. (hunger and disappointment mix with that fear and anger).They move on to gym class, where she exerts herself on an empty stomach. They are lining up after class and a girl is throwing her sweatshirt into the air and catching it. It hit ##### in the eye. She swung. The only question she has is why the other girl isn’t in any trouble when she hit her in the eye.Wednesday 10-12-16 when she is allowed back at school, she is pulled into the social worker’s office. She eats her breakfast in there while he goes over a social story with her about keeping her hands and feet to herself. She’s then sent to class to discover that while she was gone they moved her desk away from her classmates. She is now at the front of the room, by the teachers desk, watching the place she wants to be. And she’s got a new “helper” who is not helpful at all. The helper sits in an empty desk set up between her and the class and the teacher’s desk is behind her. (she feels isolated and trapped)They move on to technology. (She tells me something about a rhyme that didn’t make any sense and I’m left to believe that perhaps the 3 weeks she has been gone has left her behind or unsure about how things are done. I’m left to wonder if she missed parts of chapters that may help her to understand what is going on in class) (add confusion and possibly humiliation to the pot)At this time, they called me and we are on speaker phone. I learned and attempted to share all of these emotions with the room full of adults. Every time #### attempted to express these feelings by saying what was happening, they told her that it wasn’t relevant. For example the meltdown happened with her peers so being separated in her regular classroom doesn’t have anything to do with it.She expresses worry over snack because the principal had assured her on Monday that if she ever needed a snack, there is always one in the office for her. They assure me and her that snack will be taken care of. She is calm and ready to return to class.She arrives in a STEM class already in session. There is a bird skeleton. She expresses to me that she doesn’t know why the bird skeleton was there. She attempted to ask classmates but everyone said I don’t know. (more confusion and isolation)She was removed to the office where she was kept for the remainder of the day. I was not notified of this. ##### informed me that she never got a snack at school. When I asked the principal about this, she assures me that the popcorn was purchased and was sitting on the table in her office where it had been left. When I pressed ### about this, she says yes they gave it to her, but she wasn’t allowed to eat it. She says the “helper” would tell her that she could have popcorn, but whenever she’d reach for the bag the lady would move it. Then, when she’d take her hand away, the lady would put the bag back and tell her she could have some.Thursday 10-13-16, there was no smile on my daughter’s face. The girl who was so excited to be returning to school after being homeschooled. The girl who was just earlier this week excited to be returning to Mrs. ######‘s classroom. She arrived at school to find she was still separated. The lady who had teased her with popcorn was still there. They were reading a story she’d read for homework during her suspension. She was frustrated to have to read it again. They called me and I explained to her why they read it together and talk about it. She said that she’d go back to class and do like everyone else was doing.She says she went back to class and tried to do what everyone else was doing. She says she found the page in her book and then the “helper” took her book and started flipping pages and expressing that she couldn’t find it. She says that they tried to make her do math that she’d done at home with me. It was already done and she couldn’t do it again because they do it right in the book and she didn’t want to do it again because she’d already done it.I did as much work as I could with her of what they sent home. It took us all day and we were both exhausted, and I wondered how they get a classroom full of kids to do that much work. But with #### expressing to me frustration that she was done with assignments, I find myself a little confused. I can only imagine how she felt at that point. Separated, caged, teased, jealous (because the other kids all get what she wants, a normal classroom experience), fear, anxiety, confusion, worry. Any person would crack under the strain.She tells me kids try to high five her or offer her hugs and the para pro says “no”. She is allowed no physical contact. She tells me the kids ask if she wants to play tag at recess and the para pro tells her no she’s not allowed to play tag with the other children. She tells me she hasn’t had a recess the few times she’s been to school this week.She wasn’t at school today. And she won’t be at school Monday, because they have decided that she cannot be returned to her normal classroom because of the week she has had.They tell me that she cannot return to school until we agree on an alternative placement.We didn’t start the year off agreeing to an IEP. She’d been homeschooled for a year and a half before that after withdrawing when bullying staff became physical.There was no IEP in place for her anymore. And other than a run in with bullying that she didn’t know how to handle and a complete meltdown caused by having to say goodbye, she had a pretty awesome school start.What she needs is to be equipped with the knowledge of how to handle bullying appropriately. (Perhaps these would be the appropriate social stories to be using) She has not been attending those assemblies that I assume these kids have. She needs to be given the chance to learn how public school works again. She needs to be allowed to interact with her peers. She just wants happiness and some freedom.A classroom aid that can be there if she raises her hand to ask for help if the teacher is unavailable might be helpful. Not one to go over every step with her. Just a person there to help her out of a jam. She’s had anxiety her whole life. She takes care of herself pretty well. She is so kind and sweet and caring that she cannot understand when people hurt her. She needs to be in the classroom, learning. She needs to have scheduled meetings that don’t cause her to miss anything exciting or cause her to fall behind and be confused. She needs to not feel invaded and bombarded and boxed in.They’ve kept her fight or flight engaged all week by extending punishments and being aggressive and scary to her. And now they want to punish her further for trying to express herself and defend herself? She wants things to go back to the way they were before we left when she liked school.Tiffany Higgins, MA, DCW
He won’t be seeing her on Monday. She will be home yet another day, falling more behind, feeling more separated and isolated.
I just need someone to hear me. To understand that this behavior is not okay. I’m not saying my daughter is choosing the right way. What I’m saying is any person would be hard pressed to function in that situation. Many of us would break and lash out. How is that meeting her least restrictive environment needs?