Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lesson for the Day: It's Okay to Strangle a Classmate. The Principal Says So.

Something I have really worked hard on over the past couple of years is not making decisions when I am angry. In the past, something would happen to upset me and I'd make a decision while in the thick of things and often come to regret that decision later when the smoke cleared. My hasty decision-making when angry was such a deviation from my normal process. I am very calculated. I think things through, weigh the options, never rush decisions of importance, and basically drive my husband insane trying to talk through every possible scenario.

This struggle of mine, trying not to make decisions when upset, has never been more important than when my daughter started school. I taught for 6 years so when something happens at school I always try to give the teacher and the school in general the benefit of the doubt. I realize, from my own experience, that the perception of events often clouds the reality. With that in mind, anything that seemed iffy I would get clarification from the involved parties before getting upset or making a point of things.

Our daughter had a pretty awesome, uneventful Kindergarten year. She also has had a pretty good 1st grade year as well. There have been some incidents on the playground where she has ended up hurt. We realize that kids are kids and sometimes an inadvertent byproduct of horseplay is injury and we aren't bothered by that. It is part of childhood. However, lately there have been a couple instances of physical violence that go well beyond just kids being kids. We addressed these concerns with the teacher who assured us they were being handled and addressed. We assumed, since it is in the handbook this way, that these instances were being brought to the attention of the administration and not just being handled at a classroom level. We were incorrect in that assumption.

When I picked my daughter up from school on Monday she had red marks around her neck. She came through the gates and told me that a boy had placed his hands around her neck and squeezed. The aide on the playground saw this and apparently wrote him up -- although it hadn't made its way up to the office by the end of the day. Nobody at the school called to notify me of this. I went and found the teacher who tried to dismiss it as two kids playing, getting a little rough, and as a result she ended up hurt. She tried this tact earlier in the year with another incident and basically it took every ounce of self-control not to lose it at that moment. When I get really, really mad I become singularly focused and steely. I don't raise my voice, I don't rant and rave. There is almost this incredible calm that comes over me, which is probably a good thing. We went to the principal who had never even heard of any prior incidents of violence in which our daughter was injured. She was pretty flip and cavalier about the whole thing until I mentioned the number of times there have been outbursts like this. She looked genuinely surprised and I think at that point she was like, "Oh shit, my staff isn't following protocol."

My husband drafted an email expressing his concerns about our daughter's personal safety. The response we got from the principal is flabbergasting. Without even talking to our daughter, a student who has never been in trouble, she took the word of a kid who is on his third school this year and is regularly in trouble when he said it was an accident. Pardon my language but how the fuck is strangling my kid an accident? According to district policy his punishment should have been an automatic short-term suspension. This is his second violation that I know of. He could have more. Instead he received a conference with his mom and principal.

I took her to the doctor yesterday, The boy squeezed so hard she has a contusion on her vocal chords. We submitted this paperwork to the principal who then had the nerve to suggest our daughter did this to herself because the teacher claimed she was squeezing her neck after it happened. She apparently couldn't have possibly been rubbing it because she had just been strangled.

There has been a lot of back and forth since and the only thing the principal has convinced me of is that she is far more concerned with protecting the next Jared Loughner than she is in protecting and ensuring the safety of my daughter.

My initial reaction is to pull her immediately from the school. Logic prevailed for the moment and she returned today. I did, however, fill out open enrollment forms today for next year in case this situation or ones like it aren't resolved to our satisfaction. While I believe this boy needs to be held accountable I believe more strongly that the school does. They are charged with ensuring the safety of my child for 6 hours a day and not only do I question their ability to do this I now question their desire. If, as the principal, she does not mete out a consequence severe enough to deter future outbursts than what impetus does this child have to change? He has just been taught that he can strangle a classmate and get away with it. Great lesson.


Nancy said...

Can you go to someone over the principal's head? I would want to make sure my child would be safe does or the rest of the year!
Very disturbing.

Moxymama said...

We can go over her head. We really wanted to wait to give her the opportunity to do the right thing, but since that doesn't seem to be happening.

Nancy said...

Yeah I don't think she gave you much choice!
Is this the same principal from last year with the attendance issue secretary?

Moxymama said...

Great memory! Yep, same principal. The school would be great if she left. She's equally hated by parents and teachers alike.