This week’s Mother of Intention is Christina from Blog Antagonist. If you don’t know her blog, you should. She is insightful and funny and irreverent, but don’t mess with her when it comes to the needs of her kids in the school system. This post, cross-posted from her place, is one part of her family’s saga about what can happen when your child doesn’t fit a school system’s vision of what a student should be. For her whole story, make sure you read the other great posts that precede it.
Mere moments after I completed my post yesterday, I got a call from the school social worker.
This caused me to experience a glimmer of hope. Sadly, it was fleeting. I quickly realized she hadn’t called to offer assistance, but to issue a polite, but emphatic threat.
In short, if I don’t get my son back in school post haste, they will pursue legal action under the auspices of the current truancy laws.
I was calm. I really was. I know that ranting and raving rarely achieves anything positive. People don’t WANT to help when you behave like a carping shrew.
So I explained the situation. She knew of course, that bullying was at issue, but she didn’t know any of the details. Nor did she know that I have had past dealings with Principal Dragonlady and do not have any confidence in her ability to resolve this matter with objectivity, fairness, or sensitivity.
In fact, I told her quite bluntly, I feel that Principal Dragonlady is something of a bully herself. I did not expect empathy or cooperation from her. I expected to be bullied into accepting measures that are ineffective at best, counterproductive and further injurious at worst.
“So what would you do, in my position?” I asked. “Obviously, he needs to be in school. He misses his friends and he needs the structure that the classroom provides. But right now, he is thoroughly demoralized and nobody is taking that seriously. I can’t put him back into that situation without knowing measures are being taken to put a stop to it. And I have absolutely no confidence that that will happen.”
She said that she understood, and I think she really did. “But…” she said, “We have protocols in place to deal with these types of situations. I can’t protect you from legal recourse if you don’t follow those protocols. I need to know that you understand that.”
I understood the consequences all too well when I made the decision to keep him home.
Here’s the thing you need to know if you have or you will have a child attending a public school. It’s important so make note:
The people that you think are there to serve your children’s best interests? Are merely purveyors of policy. Puppets. Minions.
Policy is the foundation of all governmental administrations. And public school is no exception.
Individually, they may empathize with your situation. They may see the wrong and wish to right it. They may think that the whole situation stinks like a dirty gym sock.
But as a collective body, they don’t give a hang about helping you or your child. They care about crafting policy that will cover their asses and net the quickest, easiest, and least messy solution.
For example, instead of actually addressing the bully’s behavior or meeting with the bully’s parents, it was suggested MY son, i.e., the victim, be moved to another classroom. Quick. Easy. No muss, no fuss. What a great solution, huh?
Except that is completely and totally WRONG.
I call it soundbite administration.
Whatever the situation, they can quote policy. It sounds good. It sounds very official. It sounds very much like people who actually know stuff made it up.
But here’s the thing:
Children are not policies. They are people. And the things that people encounter in the scope of life experience, do not always fall neatly in line beneath a series of bullet points.
My demands were not and have not been met, because the current policy on bullying prevention and intervention dictate that my demands are not “appropriate”.
Fuck appropriate. What I need is to know that someone is being held accountable for this child’s behavior, that consequences are being imposed, and that the persecution STOPS, immediately.
After an entire year of demoralizing treatment, “appropriate” is being taken off the table. And “effective” is being put in it’s place. Though, again, if you read the policy on bullying, my proposed course of action is not effective either. Because according to them, bullying is not a conflict that needs mediation. It’s an issue of abuse that needs to be addressed with the individual.
“To make an impact bullying should be addressed at home, at school, at play and in the community. It must be a systemic effort for sustained effect. It’s everyone’s responsibility.”
Okay. I can see the sense in that.
SO WHY HASN’T THAT BEEN DONE???
I’ll tell you why:
Because policy isn’t really there to protect anyone except those who crafted it.
They can say with conviction, “Well, we have a policy in place to deal with that.” And it’s true. They do. It doesn’t matter that it’s ineffectual, or, that nobody is really interested in actually using it. It’s there.
Collective asses, covered.
So where does that leave us?
I told the social worker that I wouldn’t even consider sending him back until I was convinced that his mental and emotional state was stable.
I had called Diminutive One’s therapist when all this first started, but she’s in the midst of a court case and wasn’t able to see him immediately. But yesterday, after speaking with the social worker, I left a 911 message on her voice mail, to which she promptly responded.
He saw her this morning.
As I suspected, he is in “crisis”, though most likely not a danger to himself or others. She was deeply, deeply concerned about his anxiety level, and his depressed state.
“You absolutely did the right thing removing him from the situation.” she said emphatically.
In my heart, I knew this. But my brain needed somebody qualified to validate that decision.
“You did the right thing.”
Funny how those five simple words can have such a huge impact on a Mom.
She is preparing a report for the school, and that should keep them off my case for a while. At the very least, it gives me validation for my actions, and a platform from which to reiterate my demands.
Honestly, I wish I had followed through on my initial impulse to circumvent the school altogether and just contact the parents directly. If I had it to do over again, I would. And I will, if there’s a next time.
That’s my advice to you. Handle things on your own whenever possible. Because you are the only one that cares about actually effecting change for your child.
It’s all up to you.
Isn’t that a cheerful thought?
Since this posting, things have taken a decidedly better turn. I never cease to be amazed at the power of moms as advocates.