If you are a special needs parent, how many nights do you stay awake wondering about your child’s future or even, their present? The answer is a lot. We special needs parents don’t just fall asleep at night. We crash after a long day of making sure our children have everything they need in this life to be successful to the best of their ability.
Recently, I was in the local news, standing up for my child after an incident at his school. In this instance, my son was refusing to get up off the floor, so a teacher and school nurse dragged him down a hallway, but I was told by the teacher that she had to pick him up instead of what had actually occurred. I’m sure that wasn’t their finest moment. I am also sure that my child got hurt in the process.
My son recently started going to a new school. I insisted that he be moved to middle school on time to prevent incidents like these from continuing to occur because he’d been hurt before. But, alas, as a parent of a non-verbal child, these things do occur. They shouldn’t and I believe that if more support were provided by the district officials and if there were cameras in all schools and all classrooms, these instances would not occur.
After going to the media, I was surprised to learn that the teacher involved was dismissed. I still don’t know what happened with the school nurse who was also involved. I knew that the teacher had been put on administrative leave, but I didn’t know that she was dismissed until after I read one of the articles that was posted by a local media station where I spoke up and called for better staff and teacher training and cameras in every school and every classroom.
Reading and watching the video of this story was how I was able to find out about the teacher’s dismissal and I find it tragic that not only was my child hurt, but a teacher who didn’t have the district support she needed was allowed to make this mistake in the first place that cost her a job and possibly a career. I definitely want to make it clear that while I am appalled that this could happen and while I do not agree with the decision of the teacher and school nurse that day, I also know that this situation could have been prevented. My son could have been unharmed if the teacher had had better training in what to do in such an instance as this.
Let me also note again that this is not the first time my child has been hurt at school in the school district he is in. It is just the first time at this school. The difference was that this incident was caught on camera and the principal of the school took the initiative to keep my child safe in the future. In this instance, a full investigation is taking place (it isn’t even over yet), but in the times that my son was hurt before, nothing was done. The teachers stayed until they finally moved on to other schools. The principal at that school was dismissed over a completely unrelated incident and perhaps things have gotten better for special education students at the previous school, but I really don’t know if they have or not.
The first instance of my child being hurt was the day that he fell and broke his arm at school.
The picture on the left is the x-ray that shows both the ulna and radius bones clearly broken. The picture on the right is my son at the hospital the day he broke his arm. When my husband went to pick him up from school that day, he noticed that our son was not moving his right arm, was holding it, and instantly, my husband knew something was wrong. The para-educator at the time told my husband that my son fell on the playground, that he had been holding his arm like that all afternoon, and that he was moody all afternoon. That fall happened three hours before my husband picked our son up from school. That’s three hours of bone pain without pain medication or medical treatment of any kind because no one knew what to do at the school and they didn’t call his parents to inform us that he had even fallen, despite us having access to three phones that day and plenty of time to come and tend to our child.
Now, I don’t expect the average person to know this, but children with Autism, like our child often experience pain differently than a neuro-typically developing child, but those who work with children with Autism should know that fact since it is well documented in current research. Instead, as my husband took our son to the ER for treatment, I was being lied to by the principal of the school at the time about what had actually occurred. Of course, I was mad when this happened and who wouldn’t be, so I called the school district office and demanded to know why my husband and I never received so much as a phone call. I was told that the principal would call me and she did. She called to me and proceeded to lie to me about what had happened, stating that he didn’t fall on the playground, but that he fell at the end of the day, but then, why would the para-educator tell my husband something different? It was definitely a poor attempt to cover up responsibility on the school’s part. There was no incident report, despite my requesting one. There was nothing. We hired a lawyer that day and have been working to challenge the school district to change and provide better staff and teacher training since that day. At the time, my son was in second grade. He is now in sixth grade.
After this incident, we didn’t have any issues for a while, but alas, our non-verbal children who cannot speak out for themselves will always have something occurring so long as there is no one to protect them.
This was taken the morning following an incident at school. I was told that at the time, my son was having a meltdown in the cafeteria and that the crisis team had to come and get him off the floor. Again, there was no incident report in this case. I wasn’t even told that my son had a meltdown until after I saw these marks. This happened in December of last year at my son’s previous school and I was only told about the incident the following day when I talked to my son’s teacher about how marks on my child was not acceptable and I didn’t know what happened, but there should have been no reason to leave marks. I was later told that my son probably had sensitive skin and that is why I found clear thumb print marks on his arm pits.
These were taken after my husband picked up our son from school one day. We had been told that he fell and that he scratched his head a little bit. It was seen as “not that big of a deal” to school staff, but obviously needed to be checked out since it was a pump knot on our son’s head. Keep in mind, again, that he has Autism, he is non-verbal, and he has other conditions (epilepsy and celiac) that the school was aware of at the time. Due to his epilepsy, this could have been much more that just “a scratch” for him, as we were told.
A year before that incident, my son was bit at school. I found out that he was bit at school later that day when I got home from work. My mother-in-law picked up our son from school where they informed her that he had been bit. Again, my husband and I did not receive a phone call.
I do realize that kids get hurt at school, but to not call parents and let them make medical decisions for their medically fragile children is just unacceptable. In all of the previous incidents, nothing was done. I had to demand incident reports that I never received. I only actually have a copy of one incident report because I sent my son’s state waiver case manager to obtain a copy of the report after I was initially denied access to the report.
These are issues that other parents in many other school districts face as well. It’s not just the school district where we are, which is the second largest district in our state and probably the very reason why people are afraid to stand up for our children.
But I am not afraid. I have been afraid, having suffered childhood trauma. I was that child who couldn’t speak for myself. I am now a survivor of that trauma and I won’t back down. I won’t be bullied into believing that I fucked up someone else’s life by protecting my child and trying to make public school a better place for our children. I don’t want to have to take my child out of public school where he is making friends and could be thriving, if only staff were better prepared to handle an incident such as the one that occurred on September 14, 2018. In all honesty, when the teacher and nurse made the decision to drag my child down a hallway, regardless of their intentions, which I honestly don’t believe were ill-willed, they fucked up their own lives and I am sorry that any of it happened, but I will protect my child who cannot speak for himself and all the other children like him.
If that is something that disturbs you (I have noticed the dirty looks I am getting from some of school staff and other parents who liked this teacher lately), then you are part of the problem.
These issues don’t just simply go away. Our children aren’t just hurt physically by them. Our children change. They lose their trust of adults meant to protect them. They over react to pain just so people know that the pain exists at all, which was the case with my son after his broken arm. They go on through life genuinely believing that no one can prevent these incidents from occurring and in some cases we can’t, but often, that isn’t the case. Some of these things can be prevented with better staff training and when things can’t be prevented, our children should be able to trust that their teachers know what to do if they are accidentally hurt so that they don’t spend several hours in pain without medical treatment.
Now, in case you are wondering, am I mad at the teacher and the nurse who dragged my child. No. I am not. I am mad at the district that failed them by not providing adequate training. However, I mad that this action was somehow deemed appropriate in this instance by the teacher and school nurse and it took my going to the local sheriff’s office and a good principal to create any change in the pattern of what has been happening to my son for years. Each time I spoke out and I won’t hesitate to speak out again. If those involved are mad at me because people lost their jobs, let them be mad. I don’t care if they are mad. I care that children are safe in our public schools and I will stand by teachers who do what is right in caring for our children, but I will not sit by while my son is continually hurt and say nothing due to fear of him being hurt again. Retaliation will get those involved in things like this nowhere. Hate me, disagree, I am okay with that, so long as my son can safely go to school and learn in an environment that protects him and does what is right.