Situation 1 – My child has always been extremely anxious about fire drills, to the point where my child would refuse or attempt to refuse school on days when there were scheduled drills. A new principal, bless him, came up with a strategy to allow my child to have advance warning 5-10 minutes before drill to leave class, and exit the building with the firefighter ahead of the alarm going off. This worked, even to a point where my child was comfortable enough to accompany the firefighter that pulled the alarm (that was cool). This strategy was in place for about 4 years and worked well. New principal comes. Fire alarm strategy remained in place for a bit. But then new principal decides, without conversation with child or us/parents, to try to see how child reacts without strategy in place. Ack!!! New principal says… “Your child doesn’t seem anxious o me….” and didn’t think it was necessary anymore. Well – it was necessary. Principal didn’t seem to understand that anxious kids can hide it well. All those years of trust-building out the window, and back to school refusal during “fire drill season”.
Situation 2 – At age of 12, child went through serious depressive and anxious phase to point where child was discussing self-harm and researching ways to commit suicide. Obviously, as parents, we sought treatment immediately via paediatrician and child psychologist. Plan was put in place, including strategies with school; teacher to keep close eye on child and watch for any signs of concern. At end of year, child transitioned to junior school (next door). Case conference held, attended by principals of both schools, SERTs of both schools, child’s teachers, psychologist overseeing treatment, and parents. Principal of junior school fully advised of concerns and issues. Letters from paediatrician and psychologist put on file at both schools, and parents ensured communication with new school in September. Anxiety at new school begins shortly into new school year. Admin reminded of student’s mental health history and academic needs. Case conference in November – attended by same principal, same SERT, same psychologist as 6 months earlier. Principal indicates that they have never been informed of mental health issues/self-harm risk. One teacher in attendance at a case conference indicates that if our child is anxious, child will have to come forward and tell teacher in order to get help… in spite of having been advised several times that self-advocacy is a difficulty for child.
Situation 3 – Child struggles with fine motor skills; this makes writing laborious. We constantly had to ask for handouts, notes, and information to stay caught up. There was no difficulty with comprehension. One week, child had two tests. Despite asking for help with notes, it didn’t come. Child didn’t have all info covered on tests. Fails both tests. Refuses to go to school because so ashamed of failing. Parent calls SERT to discuss. SERT says maybe child needs to spend some time resting and thinking how child could have done a better job.
Situation 4 – For a year and a half, my child complained about being bullied at school – name-calling by others, being harassed, being ostracized, etc. This was raised with the principal on a number of occasions. One time, I was informed by another parent that my child and her child were sent to the principal’s office because of a schoolyard tussle between our two kids. My child was terrified, as my child does not have behavioural issues, and being sent to the principal’s office is a BIG DEAL in their eyes. I had a good rapport with the other parent, who was equally concerned, so I said that I would inquire with the principal about what happened – because there was no call from the school informing us of this situation. I emailed the principal in a very neutral, friendly tone to ask what had happened. I did not receive any reply – at all. (Meanwhile, my child is now afraid to go to
school). It took two weeks for the principal to respond, and that was only because we were face to face in a school IEP meeting. The principal said that they didn’t reply to my inquiry because “it was based on hearsay” (i.e., I said in the email that I had learned that my child was sent to the office from another parent and not the principal), and that the principal “doesn’t reply to gossip”. Meanwhile, the bullying continued for the rest of the year. The next year, a new principal came, but the bullying didn’t improve. The new principal was more open to listening, which was good but didn’t do much, reporting that they felt that their attempts to resolve issues with particular bullies were not working. My child eventually couldn’t take it anymore, and permanently refused to return to school, reporting “feeling unsafe” and that nothing is done about bullying. When I informed the principal that I could no longer, in good conscience, force my child into this situation, the principal replied, “We have nice kids, the teachers see nothing, it must be your child’s perception.” This was using my child’s learning difficulties against them, assuming that my child was not able to judge what was bullying and what was not. (It WAS bullying, and my child’s LD did not impair this judgment.) Given that lack of support, we pulled my child from that school, initiated home instruction, and eventually switched to the school that we are at now. ONE MORE KICKER – several months later – the kids that were bullying my child showed up at our house, of their own volition, and apologized to my child for their actions. Wow (I was impressed)! So the kids took responsibility, but the adults, the ones that we entrusted our child to…did not.
I have so many other scenarios that I could share. I could write a book.