This is the second time we have experienced school refusal due to anxiety, first in kindergarten and now in grade 5. (We left public school in kindergarten and were forced to move into distributed learning.) Thank god they have that in BC, so we could do part-time homeschool and attend part-time classes at a local brick-and-mortar school.
The teacher and school refused to allow us to attend KINDERGARTEN on a part-time basis. We were pressured into full-time and told that there was something wrong with us; the teacher actually said, “Must be nice to be able to come and pick up your child, a luxury for you and your husband to do a different schedule,” and “The other children will want to do the same.” This was even with a note from a DOCTOR telling them that our whole family had PTSD from a car accident that had taken place around school the year prior, and the DOCTOR had diagnosed my son with PTSD that was strongly related to school. This teacher believed my child had “attitude” and was convinced that if it “really” was anxiety, then best to let his ANXIETY peak.” Teachers are not counsellors or psychiatrists, and I find (being a counsellor myself) that there are VERY IMPORTANT decisions being made about children’s mental health by SCHOOL ADMINISTRATION and TEACHERS who are not only not qualified but dangerously IGNORANT to the point of detriment….We were not supported by the teacher or the principal, who saw my son and said “HIM? PTSD? What a great-looking kid….” The teacher would use manipulation tactics in front of my son to get him to stay for the whole day: “Well, he is really going to miss out.”; this would send my son into anxiety. She told me I was too sensitive (I am an older parent so it’s easy to be judged as being the high-maintenance, helicopter parent) and that he wasn’t listening….
We did that school (distributed learning) from half of kindergarten to grade 3. We had to, as our child’s anxiety about school (from the car accident) was huge separation anxiety, and the teachers let us sit in the room there; then we gradually stood at the back of the room; then we sat outside the door, etc. We gradually were able to leave our child at the school. THAT TOOK 4 YEARS.
We did our first year of public school, grade 4 and now this year, grade 5.
SO many teachers, including this one we are switching classrooms from, TALK about my child IN FRONT OF my child, like they have no understanding – and they are talking about MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. I stopped this teacher (present grade 5 situation we are in) in the hallway in the first week of school. I had to stop her from talking to me about my SON – in a public hallway with parents walking by at the end of classes – about my son’s anxiety. She too said, “It’s just attitude,” even though I sent her a one-page laminated sheet detailing his school life, letters, CMHA anxiety program, and all of it. I told her that I had booked a meeting with her next week – please stop talking about this in the hallway, and she kept going! IN FRONT OF MY SON and his friends! BOUNDARIES. This was a red flag for me since September. It is now January 7; we’ve had 2 new principals; I’ve asked twice to get my son removed from this class. I have called BC Inclusion, BC Family Services. My child went from grade 4, wanting to go to school 20 minutes early and read books and get to class to say hi to his teacher, to grade 5, depressed, highly anxious, having nightmares, unable to get out of bed, and angry like in a rage. The first thing that school does is, “What is wrong with the parents?” In our case, we were lucky that the school counsellor knew us from the year before. She only works 2 half days; she could vouch for “who we were” and what our son was like the previous year. My son was shamed, yelled at, sent out of the room, and more. This teacher is not up to date; she told the kids, “Life is a competition,” and “Use your voices – speak up three times a day and I will measure if you do it right” It’s not education; it is her manipulation. I could go on about how she “genders” everything, how she, without knowing my son more than 3 days, grabbed him by the arm, how she called the children “honey”, “sweetie”, “dear” (not as endearment and not earned), how she does not know anything about CONSENT. It’s a buzzword for her, like inclusion, like standing desk for special needs. My son has been taught to NOT GENDER and not say, boys can do this, and girls can only do this, or vice versa; my son has been taught that no one touches him, that they need to ask, and that no one should go through his desk and rearrange it because it’s not perfect. She did this; she completely took away any of his own personal respect or power in the classroom. And she sat in a team meeting for an hour and did not speak because her union told her to stonewall us. Because she was guilty of doing it, and my son spoke up. How many other kids in that room are having their rights violated? That is why they have high anxiety, and why they are in school refusal. My son refused to go; he was sick 6 times, very ill since the start of school, due to stress. This is a grade 4/5 class.
When I spoke on several occasions, like parent-teacher interviews, about my child’s anxiety, this teacher just smiled and said nothing. Nodded her head. We told her what the previous teacher did in class, “catch the calm time”, which helped my son a lot. She said they could only do that once a week; all the other grade 4/ 5 teachers do it every day. It was all about her needs and refusal to look at the anxiety/trauma needs of the children. When I asked them to adapt, they said, “We can’t. Your son is only 1 out of 23 other kids. BC Inclusion’s response to that was, “Yes, and tell me, are there any other children in the class who could benefit from this new style or program?” The school’s response? SILENCE. The truth is, in that class, statistics for 8-10-year-olds now show that anxiety is ON THE RISE – and we have First Nations kids in the classroom who have trauma. The power lies in the teachers and school system, to not change…that’s where their power lies. Serving the children means to them – that they have no “real power”. It is heartbreaking.
To know where we began due to trauma, with school refusal and anxiety, only to be now in this situation where my child, BECAUSE of the treatment from this teacher, is now BACK to that place…and because of his age, he’s very social and bright, he wants to be around kids and not be homeschooled. He actually wants to be in school; that’s the thing, even on his most anxious days, he wants to go, until this year, and what is brutal is that as BC Inclusion states: EVERY CHILD HAS A RIGHT TO FEEL WELCOME, SAFE, and READY TO LEARN.
None of those has happened yet this year. It’s January. A child should feel confident and secure by now in school. His learning has been deeply affected, as much of his energy is spent on managing anxiety now.
I hope this switch works…and don’t even get me started on how to deal with the bias passed to the new teacher from the old teacher, or the “conversations” that happen in the staff room about who we are and how hostile we are because we are advocating and know our rights.
I am a certified addiction counsellor; I am a workshop leader; I am a keynote speaker. Thank you for doing this survey; there is much more work to be done. Let’s do it.