What do you do when your child allegedly assaults a teacher?
When you first get the phone call asking you to come to school because “Stig is not having a good day”, you feel a little sick, your heart starts to jump like a jumping bean and the furrows across your forehead deepen. Met by his slightly shaken teacher you try to take in what’s happened and reassure her whilst sympathising with the horrors of the situation. Then ushered into an office you listen to the details of the enormous meltdown your child has experienced. Started by what seems to have been an immaterial comment the situation quickly escalated to a rage where his aggressive actions involve throwing, damaging, and kicking two teachers. Your child then takes flight with a number of staff in pursuit. Once caught he is restrained, feeling trapped he wriggles to free himself and head butts a teacher in the process. He draws blood. At this news, this is when the sickening deepens, the penetration of shock and sadness sends waves of nausea through your being and you blink hoping it will all wash away like a bad dream.
Your broken son is in brought forward, sobbing, frayed and rolling inwards to a shell that doesn’t exist. As his mum you have to restrain every fibre of your being to not reach forward and draw him to you. Instead you adopt the expected straight back stern face position showing the school that you stand beside them. The seriousness of the situation is spelt out to your son and he anxiously apologises to all there and expresses his hurt over the situation. Kindly the school allow him to stay for the rest of the day all be it excluded from his class and in the deputy’s office. You return home and cry.
When collected from school you take him home and explain again the seriousness of his actions and the therefore consequences which need to be adhered to at home. Grounded, he can no longer go to climbing club, enjoy the cinema treat, a reward for a good parents evening, no computers, limited television instead there are apology letters to write, chores to do and reflection to be had. You also explain that you yourself have had to cancel plans to go to the theatre that evening as it is not ok to leave him with anyone other than his parents after such a frightening day. This news upsets him more and he offers to give you the money for the theatre ticket you’ve paid for.
Together you sit at the kitchen table one nursing a cup of tea the other a Capri sun. You probe delicately trying to fathom out how this could have happened. What fears does your child have and who or what created such feelings of vulnerability? Such a fear which required such drastic actions. He doesn’t know. He expresses his own fear in not knowing. You feel helpless but you stay with him, together at that kitchen table, talking, him drawing, you tapping at your laptop. Not wanting him to be alone and retreat into a space where he will start to believe his own hype, the voices telling him how bad he is.
After dinner he has a bath and goes to bed, he makes a small error of judgment at this point and is caught “messing about”. This is the point where you lose it, pushed over the edge by this one clownish move. You shout, and ball about his lack of respect for those trying there hardest for him. You then go downstairs and cry again, mortified and angry that at that final hurdle of the day, the full stop was such a negative one.
The weekend passes as you explained it would and he is calm and helpful, resigned but not too sad, reassured by the support and understanding his parents are trying to show. He is obviously anxious and wary as Monday morning and a meeting with the Headmaster approach.
And there it is that nausea again as you sit waiting to go in with the Head, whilst trying to help your scared son to not worry and reassure him things will be ok. Sat in that office, the Head, the SENCO, the husband and you, there is a false sense of possible hope as smiles are shared.
When asked if your son has thrown any light onto why the situation occurred, you open your heart about the troubles he faces and the remorse he feels. The effort he makes daily to make the right choices over riding his natural instincts time and time again, leaving him shattered by the end of the day. You hope that you are fighting his cause and the cause for children misunderstood everywhere. You hope that the school will support your hopes as you have supported them. Your hopes are shattered.
Two day exclusion. Not for the good of your son, because the headmaster recognises that this action will not benefit him in anyway. No this decision is “the right thing to do” decision. The one that stops parents gossiping at the school gate and keeps the governors happy. The one that reveals the lack of commitment the school has in supporting these misunderstood children. The one that reveals the fear that a lack of tangible label for children who have suffered early life trauma places in the hearts of those who educate them and the one that screams out the misunderstanding of the misunderstood.
Of course the true fault does not lie with this school or any other school that has to open its doors to vulnerable children who move through the care system, countless homes and carers, post a grim and unacceptable start to life. No the true fault lies with the government’s lack of support for these children, their families and those that educate them. Once again I am left feel overwrought with loneliness having for the time being lost one of my only allies in supporting my children. Lost because the supposed allies don’t fully understand how best to support the complex requirements of these children, because no resources and support is offered to them. Lonely because as a parent there is little post adoption support provided. We form our families with these hurt children, we are warned it may be difficult and then come legal adoption day we are near enough left to get on with it. They may make the odd visit but I can assure you this does not mend the gaping wounds this trauma is bringing to our family, my relationship with my husband and some of our friendships.
So you write a letter because you need to have your say and you have some concerns with the way things were handled. You reassure your son that in your opinion the school has on this occasion made an unfair decision and that he is not a bad person and he is much, much loved. And you hope that tomorrow will ease the pain and dull the heightened senses and that your hope will be restored. That is what you do when your child has allegedly assaults a teacher. Or at least that is what I do.
What I also do is let you know that these are obviously all my opinions of this event.