When your child doesn’t feel safe at school

The phone rang Friday.    I looked at Caller ID and saw it was a call from school.   Why would the school be calling my house in the middle of the day? I knew it couldn’t be good.   My first thought is.. which kid is sick? So I took a deep breath, picked up the phone and said “hello”.

The first thing I heard was an introduction by the Junior High Assistant Principal followed by the words.. “Your son isn’t in trouble”.   If he’s not in trouble then why are you calling? My first question is “Is he hurt?”.    The Asst. Principal assured me my son wasn’t hurt and then said, let me have him tell you what happened.  He handed the phone over to my son.  There was silence and then a rush of emotion.    My 7th grade son was so upset he couldn’t even speak. 

My heart started racing.  What in the H>LL happened? The  Assistant Principal politely took the phone back from my son and explained there had been an incident in the hall at school.  Another student had shoved my son twice and slapped him. 

I was stunned.   The first thing I asked is how did this happen? The other student thought my son had been talking trash about him, which is not my son’s M.O.  

The Assistant Principal explains how the school plans to investigate.    I ask if I should pick my son up from school now? If he would feel safe at school the rest of the day? If this other child was going to be expelled? I ask everything I can possibly think of while I am on the phone with the Assistant Principal.  I am angry.  How could the school let this happen? Isn’t school supposed to provide a safe environment for our kids to learn?

My son decides to stay in school the rest of the day.   He said he was not injured by the slap, but I could tell, he was emotionally bruised.  When he returned home in the afternoon, he informed me that the boy threatened to gather his friends and hurt him even worse on Monday? He was scared to go back to school on Monday.

I was so angry.   So instead of sending my kid on the bus this morning, we set up a 9am meeting with school administrators.  The first thing I wanted to know is that everything my son told us was in fact true with no exaggeration.  And yes they said, everything my son said was corroborated by other students and even the perpetrator.  There was no disputing what had happened.

Our concern was the future.   This kid had threatened our son.   What was going to happen to this other boy? If you physically go after someone and threaten them, shouldn’t they be expelled? Isn’t that what zero tolerance is all about? What we learned is, it’s not that simple.    The student who bullied my son is in Special Ed.   It’s much more difficult for a school district to expel students with special needs? Did you know that? Students in Special Ed are protected because they have disabilities.  And in order to get them expelled it’s much longer drawn out process.  Is that fair? Should Special Ed kids be treated differently when they are the bully?  I don’t raise this question because I plan to make a stink about it, only to generate discussion and get other opinions.

The school asked my husband and me how we wanted to proceed.  We both agreed, if the student who bullied our son actually felt remorseful once he found out my son hadn’t said anything about him, we thought it would be best if he apologized to our son face to face.  In meeting with the school liaison officer, she agreed.  She would sit down with the other boy first when he returned to school from his suspension. And if she got a sense the boy was clearly remorseful, she would set up a meeting with the two boys.  This would be our hope.  A peaceful resolution that provides closure. 

In the meantime, the Assistant Principal called today to confirm the boy had been removed from the only class the boys shared together.  So besides the possible meeting mediated by the school liaison officer, chances were slim they would see each other at school anymore, even in the halls.

It is also important to note,  the school was very tight-lipped about the other student’s punishment because of privacy issues.  They never said this other boy was suspended, but we were able to make the connection when they said he was out of school.  Also, the school did not come out and say this boy was in Special Ed. They just explained this student had special protections that made an expulsion under these circumstances virtually impossible.

All in all, our anger seems to have dissipated. It’s been replaced with hope.  We appreciate how the school is handling the situation.  Most importantly, my son came home from school today feeling much more positive and at ease. 

Have you encountered any situations like this? How did your family deal with it? What was the outcome?