Thursday, March 22, 2012

When the Teacher is the Bully

Today my son came home from school in tears because one of his teachers called him “Debbie Downer” in front of the whole class. This of course made everyone laugh and now he has students calling him this name outside of the classroom.

I can’t tell you how mad this makes me. For a child with depression, calling him “Debbie Downer” in front of his peers is really no different than calling a child with a learning disability “retarded”? Her actions lack any compassion and consideration. While the teacher laughed it off, my son was dying inside. When he came home he fell apart emotionally and today is still replaying those words inside his head, even saying, “See I am a Debbie Downer” when upset.

What made the situation worse was that the principal responded with an email stating that the teacher did admit to calling him that name but was doing it because,
“She was trying to get him to open up and respond in a more favorable manner, which he did. There was no intent on the teacher’s part to make him stand out and the comment was not made to scold or punish him but was made light heartedly in an attempt to involve him in a positive manner.”
Huh? Are you kidding me? Honestly, it feels like they’re trying to cover their butt for a mistake the teacher made. In no way does calling a child a name in front of his peers “involve him in a positive manner.” This response is just lipstick on a pig!

Then in response to the fact that other kids are now calling him this name, the principal responds with an invitation for us to tell them who the kids are so they can address it. Which is ridiculous since the only reason these kids are calling my son this name is because the teacher did it, thus making it appear acceptable. If anyone needs to be talked to, it ’s the teacher!

As you can imagine I was pretty upset by this, mainly because I saw the impact this had on my son, it hurt him to his core, undoing all the positive work we’ve been doing in therapy.

Thanks to my rockstar husband, he decided to take things into his own hands and contacted the principal directly letting him know that he needed to cut the crap. He explained the impact this teacher had on our son, requesting that the teacher apologize to our son and to leave our son alone for the remainder of the year and in the future, she should refrain from using her “strategies” to help him open up.

In the end, the principal admitted that “sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong, it looks like this time, we got it wrong.”


12 comments:

  1. My tip and advice,is when emailing ALWAYS cc the District admin superintendent in charge of elementary or secondary schools whichever applies; in other words, when emailing the teacher, cc the Principal...always cc the person's boss. It not only keeps them accountable, it is another way of necessary paper trail keeping for those upcoming IEP conferences you will be having annually.

    That remark was not appropriate, because it was promoting discrimination, and encouraging the kids to make fun of another student. It really is intolerable, at I would request the teacher apologize to your son is what my next email to the Principal would be.

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  2. I feel so bad for your son being treated that way! The teacher was totally out of line and horrible! Bug would have been devastated, and furious, if her teachers said something like that to her in front of her whole class. And I wouldn't blame her! I was very shy as a kid and I would have felt humiliated if a teacher had "kidded" with me like that in front of my peers.

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    1. Yeah, I just don't think this teacher understands how vulnerable he is. We’ve had problems with this teacher several times this year, for a while she would hound him for wearing his hoodie in class, even though he has it in his 504 plan, giving him permission to do so because it helps him shut out all the stimulus when feeling overwhelmed. Thankfully this teacher is not his regular teacher and he only has to see her a few times a week.

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  3. :( This makes me sad. Everyone makes mistakes, but this teacher should've stepped up to the plate and apologized immediately to your son and to the class. It could have been a powerful teaching moment. It's too bad your son had to be the brunt of it. :(

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    1. I agree that everyone makes mistakes and I wouldn't have such a problem if she had apologized, but I think it was the lack of apology and the support of the principal that made this worse, it was just validating her bad behavior. I think some teachers aren't wired to work with kids who aren't the “norm“.

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  4. I'm sorry this happened to him. I could tell you so many stories like this it is horrible. I really think all of the anti-bullying campaigns now in the schools are a medium at best effort to help students and correct students behaviors but the real problem is often the adults/teachers/administrators and nothing is ever done to them so I'm not sure this will ever get resolved. It's a trickle down effect starting with those at the top.

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    1. You bring up a good point about correcting students behaviors. All 3 of my boys don't like telling the teachers that someone was mean because as they say, “The teachers never do anything”.

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  5. I agree with with the first comment. You need to send the emails to the district. The teacher is completely out of line and should be accountable for her words. This is a form of bullying and she humiliated your child. Please send a copy of all emails and responses from the principal to the principal's boss. Not only should the teacher apologize to your child and you, the school needs to rectify the damage that was done in some way to make your son feel safe. There needs to be disciplinary action taken for the teacher and the apathetic principal response. This kind of unkindness stays with kids for a long time and it's very serious.

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  6. I would definitely save this email and start documenting ANY further negative or derogatory remarks. This is just so unacceptable! What does name calling accomplish? Going to the district is always a good solution if the Principal doesn't want to address an issue!

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  7. I'm going to play devil's advocate here, even though I think the teacher is out of line. Humor can be a great way to deal with very deep troubling things. The issue is that the humor needs to come FROM the person dealing with the issues and needs to happen in a very safe relationship. I doubt that your son has that kind of relationship with his teacher. I can see a therapist using humor (but not derogatory name calling) to get someone to open up--but it is not the role of a teacher... I hope he can get past it soon. My son is still talking about a custodian who called him a name two years ago.

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    1. You bring up and excellent point about humor coming from a very safe relationship. I think that was one of the problems we had with this event is that this teacher has been a problem for my son several times by not following his 504 plan and as a result he doesn't trust her.

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