Monday, February 11, 2013

Tough Teachers, Bullies, and the Battle at Middle School

Tonight I’m preparing for a meeting with my oldest son’s school. Things are getting worse and one of his teachers has refused to comply with our agreed 504 plan. On top of that, my son had his lunch taken from him (before he could eat) on one day and a soda purposely poured over it another day last week. After the vice principal pulled up the video, proving my son’s harassment, my son was told that the next time these boys mess with him HE should get up and move to another seat. I don’t know if the bullies faced any consequences or were just scolded for their behavior—the laws prevent us from knowing either way—but the fact that my son was told that he should leave the safety of sitting with the only friends he has at this school and sit alone somewhere else was enough to cause a melt down at home. As he said, “There is NO way I can leave my friends and sit alone!”

As you can imagine, I ended up in the principal’s office expressing my frustrations when he stopped me to ask, “Do you think he’s depressed, or do you have an actual diagnosis?” I was stumped by this questioning since we provided a psychiatrist’s note listing his mood disorder symptoms at the beginning of school. I quickly responded by exposing his current diagnosis of Bipolar NOS and shared details of the symptoms he faces day to day. The principal seemed shocked and even waved his hand towards me and said, “Wow, but you all look so... normal.” Not knowing how to respond I said, “Well, yeah...” (trying to imagine what he thought a family like mine would look like). I then proceeded to explain why triggers such as bullying are so detrimental to my son’s stability. From there he softened and said, “I honestly can’t imagine what you’re going through as a parent.” He then encouraged me to share these details about my son’s symptoms in a meeting so that the other teachers would be more understanding of his challenges in school.

So that’s exactly what I plan to do! I’ve decided to start the meeting by presenting a brochure called, Educating the Child with Bipolar Disorder that The Balanced Mind Foundation provides online. I will outline what bipolar disorder is and how it affects his day to day life and ability to learn. I hope to educate these educators about my child so that we can come together and work as a team.

When we established his 504 plan we avoided the label “Bipolar Disorder” to lessen any stigma he might face. But now we’re moving full steam ahead and are going to use his current diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder NOS. At this point we have to take this step with hopes of making things better. If not, we’ll move on to plan B, maybe a new school.

Tonight I’m frustrated, angry at the non-compliant teacher and overwhelmed with the amount of information a parent has to process, investigate and prepare in order to preserve our child’s rights for a fair and appropriate education.

Why must it be this hard?


3 comments:

  1. As hard as my personal experiences have been with my Bipolar disorder, watching my daughter live her painful experiences has been much worse. Your son is blessed to have a mother fight for him. I have sat in multiple 504 meetings and have had mixed reactions. Some not so favorable and some I left feeling very heard and understood. I am surprised that a teacher is unwilling to comply. I thought they had to by law. I fought, and I fought hard, for a few of my kids. As mother's if we don't fight for them then who will? Thank you for being willing to share your experiences online so that other's don't feel so alone. We still have so far to go in people understanding mental illness and any efforts that speed up the process is much appreciated. Blessings and thoughts are sent you way.

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  2. You are doing an amazing job!
    Love Mom

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing our Educating the Child With Bipolar brochure as a resource. I hope it was helpful in breaking down some barriers and setting that non-compliant teacher straight.

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