Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Importance of Teamwork

Last week we had a small incident at school. When I went to pick my son up after school, the teacher pulled me aside and said that we needed to talk privately in the office. So, with the feeling of dread pouring over me, we went behind closed doors with my son. There she explained that minutes ago, during recess, a student told her that my son was jumping off the playground equipment, which is a forbidden act. When she approached my son, he admitted it and told her that he was trying to kill himself.

I took a deep breath and asked my son if this was true. He said in a defensive tone, “yes, I want to kill myself’. But after speaking with him for just a few seconds I could tell by his behavior that this wasn’t the whole story and that there was more going on with him.

As I listened to him, I could tell that what he said was said out of frustration, fear of getting in trouble and maybe embarrassment. I wasn’t sure what actions the school wanted to take, especially after reading in the news about a school that had a child taken to a psych ward for a 72 hour hold for writing the same thing. Unfortunately, these type of procedures aren’t outlined in the school manual, so I kept talking to my son, showing the teacher who was quietly watching the whole thing, that I had this under control.

When I was done, I asked her what she needed to do on her end. She said that she was letting me handle it since the incident just occurred and because she didn’t see it herself. She also said that seeing what he was going through emotionally, proved that he had suffered enough and she didn’t feel it was necessary to punish him.

Once we left the office, my son explained that he had been at his desk all day without a recess (it was minimum day) and that he didn’t eat his lunch and was feeling like he had to let his anger out, feeling frustrated because he couldn’t hold it together at school. I think it was just an impulsive moment where he had to let it out, even if it meant breaking the rules and saying that he wanted to kill himself, it was just a way to express the frustration he was feeling.

By the way, he showed me how high he was when he jumped and it wasn’t anything to be concerned about.

I’m so thankful that our school kept a level head over the incident and allowed me to make a judgement call as to what was going on with my son. By the time we were home my son was doing great and happy the whole incident was over.

Can you imagine the damage that could’ve been done had the school stepped in and had my son taken for a 72 hour hold? That’s why it’s so important for the school to work with the parents, we know our kids so well that even the tone of their voice signals to us what may be going on inside.

If you haven’t been in this situation, you may want to talk with your school about this before you’re pulled into the office. A lot of kids with mood disorders say things that they don’t mean, but at the same time, we need to be aware of any threats. I wish I had addressed this sooner, but I’m so thankful that everything went as it should.


  1. I am so glad that the school kept a level head about all of this. You are right that they need to be vigilant about any perceived threat because they can be held liable if they hear a threat and don't report it. But I think that they did the right thing by calmly letting you know what was going on and then letting you take over from there. When my daughter made a "suicide" threat at school I was called by the counselor and told to come pick her up immediately and that she could not return until she had been seen by a pdoc or at a phosp. Then they recommended a 504 plan. I was like... she has an IEP and there is a behavior intervention plan listed in it. I guess they had not even bothered to check that before they called me. Her first question when I arrived at the office was whether she was going to have to go back to the hospital. Their concern was valid and I appreciate that (she did end up at the pshosp a few weeks later because seh was suicidal), but they could have handled it a little bit better. She learned that if she felt too much pressure at school all she had to do was say she wanted to kill herself and they would call me to come get her. Bravo to your son's school for handling this with a little grace and love.

  2. I'm glad the school handled it well too. One thing you might want to discuss with your son is what language and terms are good to use at school and which ones aren't. Suicide threats or suicide talk is not going to serve him well as he moves out of elementary school and it will be important for him to know that. My guess is he had no real plans to kill himself by jumping off some play equipment but it will be important for him to know why he would choose those words and what point was he trying to get across so he can choose a different path of language and problem resolution next time.

  3. Thanks for mentioning that Meg, that’s exactly what our therapist said, “to teach him to use more accurate words to describe what he’s feeling.”

  4. Excellent point Meg. I was thinking the same thing when I read this. The fact that he said it with defensiveness and that Mama could tell how he was feeling made me think he just didn't know what to say. Teaching them to transfer/use what is learned in calm moments to when they are in the heat of the moment can be the hardest part.

    I am so glad the teacher enabled you to take the time to listen and sort it out with him, as well as, to stay and observe your interactions. Statements of a dangerous nature are certainly not something I had considered addressing with the teachers/school team as I assumed they would have my child's best interest at heart. Unfortunately, there are different oppinions of what is in the child's best interest. Based on what happened just a few weeks ago, as I was recovering from surgery, I have the feeling that the school would call authorities, then me. I think this is something I need to address, ASAP!

    Thank you for this post :)
    BTW, I would love to sign up via email for your blog, but don't see a way yet. Let me know when you do :)

  5. OK, Hahaha, never mind about the email. I'm a DORK!
    I thought I came her via my feeds, as I had been doing that a few moments before...

  6. Mel- I hope your surgery and recovery went well! Let us know how it goes with your school once you address it, that is if you care to share.