My 7 year old is in a class at public school with a new boy who has always been physically aggressive. In the fall, he was tripping my daughter, pulling off her shoes, throwing pencils. My dd is a focused, sensitive child and didn't say anything to anyone, but when she told us, she was very upset. We spoke to the teacher, who was unaware that she specifically was having issues with him, and moved them apart in seating. As far as I know, she is not being bothered personally by him. We kept telling her he was adjusting to a new school/town and that he would get better.
We're now over half way through the year, and this boy's physical attacks are continuing. My daughter said that on Friday, when there was a sub, he hit a classmate so hard on the side of the head that she had to get an icepack. There have been other physical fights in the classroom. My daughter was so upset about that and that the whole class got a talking to from the principal ... she was weeping and saying she didn't want to return.
My question is: what are reasonable expectations in this situation? Is this chronic, physical aggression allowed ? When do schools blow the whistle and say this child needs to be in a special classroom?
I think a certain amount of physical roughness happens at this age. Kids get angry, and can't really help themselves and it gets physical. I don't think that means a child should be taken out. But this feels different -- and this boy has been a major disruption to the entire class in so many ways for the entire year. This class is apparently the talk of the school for being the most out of control -- and this boy is, I am guessing, the epicenter.
We've set up a meeting w/the principal really to clarify what the school rules are on this and what measures would hypothetically be taken.
As an aside, I don't know much about the boy beyond personal observation -- he seems to crave attention but to have a very unhappy mean streak. His family seems to be trying but to all be very depressed. But these are all just very vague impressions. I don't see meanness/roughness in public from them -- you know, the classic yelling at the kid thing or nastiness. Just deeply depressed. :(
Thanks for any ideas/experience
You need to make sure these incidents are being documented. Many times they aren't. Many times the kids don't report them. There needs to be a paper trail.
Make sure you don't but the school in the position of "protecting" this child. What I mean by that... if it comes across as if the rest of the parents are "ganging up" it puts the staff in a very difficult position. Avoid any large group meetings about him. Certainly meet with the principal as individual entities but don't "storm the castle." Don't start a petition or anything like that. I've seen attempts at this and they always fail. Instead, when you approach the principal, come from a place of compassion. Yes, you are there to protect your child but if you are concerned for "all parties involved" you will get a much better response.
Be prepared to remove your own child. I know, it's not fair but sometimes it has to be done. We removed our child from a program last year due to bully issues. DS loved the program and it is incredibly unfair that he's the one that loses it but the school could not control the other children (and it had been an ongoing issue.) We finally just had to stop compromising. Now DS is very happy at school, has lots of friends and thriving.
Thank you for that.
I actually wouldn't consider speaking to another parent about this unless they brought it up. I do feel compassion towards the boy -- he lives a few blocks from us and I know something is wrong. I would never start a petition or something.
I am not at all at the point where I want him removed from the class. I think I am at the point where I want to know what are the expectations for behavior, is this being addressed by the school ~ and how bad does it have to get before something changes. Or is this just considered w/in acceptable range of behavior -- I am not being sarcastic here, it may be.
I am not at the point where I would take her out -- she is no longer being targeted. If she had some major run-in, I would, just to keep her safe. But short of that, I don't want her to be moved.
Perhaps I am overly concerned about this -- but when I have a child weeping that she doesn't want to go to school again -- I need to let that be known at the school and I need more information on how this is handled.
Is this second grade? I have a kinder and a second grader. I had a situation with my kinder daughter and another girl in the fall. Not exactly the same as yours, but it did take my daughter awhile to start telling me about it. I documented by emailing the teacher every time my daughter reported an incident. Then after a couple incidents, the teacher and I had a meeting. The teacher, while sweet, was pretty ineffectual, and basically agreed with me that the principal should get involved. Then it was immediately dealt with and has not been a problem since.
I made it clear to my daughter that the grownups are in charge and that she would not have to worry. At our public school, if a kid physically hurts another child on purpose, they immediately go to principal's office and sometimes go home for the day.
Honestly, I think my daughter's teacher didn't really want to deal with problem child, and I had to keep the pressure on her to do it. In my case, escalating helped a bunch, and I think, helped expedite getting this girl the testing and help she probably needs.
In your case, I would probably make it clear to the principal that your daughter does not feel safe in her classroom. That's a HUGE red flag. And how can you assure your daughter that the grownups are in control and will keep everyone safe? I think the teacher/school is dropping the ball here big-time.
best of luck,
Momma to 8 y.o. DS and 5 y.o. DD. Married to a Maker!
Yes, ask the principal if complaints are being documented. Often what happens is they don't and so while the child may be causing 3 injuries a week, in his record, there may only be one. When something really big happens, they can't act as strongly because the child doesn't have a "record." I'd also keep a little list for yourself of when your DD comes home upset over something that happened.
My experience is that these situations rarely get better without some real intervention so it's good you are going in to talk now.
Oh, and I wasn't trying to suggest your didn't have compassion, only that it helps to display it during these sorts of meetings. It allows administrators to focus on your DD's issues as opposed to having to defend the other child who they usually know is a problem.
What you say to the principal is that your daughter does not feel safe in the classroom and that you're worried about your daughter, the rest of the class and this boy. That will make it clear that you're not out to get him.
Ask your daughter who got hurt this week and then report that to the principal. Describe to him what happened to your daughter before she actually told any one to make sure that s/he knows that the kids are a bit reluctant to speak up. Ask what the purpose of the principal's visit to the class was? Ask to make sure the incidences of aggression are being documented. They will not, based on privacy laws, be able to tell you what else they're doing.
No, it's not acceptable at any school. However, if they don't have them documentation, they also can't make changes for him. Unfortunately, the way that the system works is that they have to document that a child is failing in a classroom environment before they can pull in a higher level of support for him (special ed services, an aide, or whatever). If his family isn't very savvy at navigating the school system, they might not know just how proactive (i.e. a pain in the neck) you have to be to get a child help.
Yes and Yes. Talking about student safety is the right approach here. It's an excellent way to focus on the important aspects of the situation. It is not your place to question whether or not the child is appropriately placed in the room, but it is your place to ask for assurances for your daughter's safety.
Another way to put it to the principal is to ask if this child is being appropriately supported in the classroom to ensure the safety of himself and the classroom community. Note that this question is stated as a yes and no question. You are not asking what is being done, which then puts the principal in a difficult position of trying to support you while respecting this child's privacy. If this really isn't satisfying, then you can ask what your daughter should be doing if she still doesn't feel safe. This then turns the conversation back to your daughter in addressing the needs for this boy to get appropriate support.
I report all instances of physical aggression to my dd's teacher and encourage her to do the same. The complaints can often be used as leverage to deal seriously with the behavior or to get a parent to take the situation seriously enough to get an evaluation. When the teacher isn't effective I begin sending a copy of the email to the principal as well. Violent behavior at this age really isn't the norm in our area. There were very few children hitting in preschool and less when my dd was in Kindergarten. The schools are quick to catch and redirect violence and when it slips by they treat it seriously when they are informed about it.
This is a little off topic but I also don't try to excuse violent behavior to my dd (except by telling her the child has some serious social problems that have nothing to do with her). I don't believe in teaching children that they should allow others to hurt them and that they should have compassion for violent people, it isn't a good message in the long term for either the hurt child or the child doing the hurting.
I just re-read your entire post. If the class has the reputation for being "out of control" then it's more than one child. It might be a combination of children, and it might well be the teacher. It sounds like there are some serious classroom management issues here, and the teacher needs more support.
If you don't get satisfactory answers about whether they're doing things to keep the classroom safe, I'd ask to have my child moved to a new class.
This is all really excellent advice, thank you. I plan on printing out the thread before our meeting and highlighting some what you all said so I am prepared linguistically and approach - wise. I can't thank you enough, really -- Geofizz, what's next, lucky mom, one girl, lynn ... thank you.
Lynn, the class is out of control. The teacher is veteran (her last year) and she always has a second teacher in the room, with a total of 15 kids. It is certainly more than one child. There are several that get triggered and it spirals. I don't see that the teacher needs more support, I just think it is an incredibly difficult combination of kids. I did, at the beginning of the year (after I sat in a crazy class where 50 percent of the teacher's statements had to be redirection), ask when was she planning on moving some of the kids to the other class (which had no problem kids). She was not about to switch anyone out.
My sense is she is such a "can-do" person she doesn't see this as something where she needs help or to switch the kids out.
I think it is too late in the year to switch my daughter out. She has two close friends in the class and I am reluctant to do anything to rock the boat -- it was hard for her to find reliable friends in this school. There was some cliquey things happening with the girls in the other class and I knew that would be an equal or worse stressor for her. Or I thought. In retrospect, I think I should have moved her out at the beginning of the year.
One -girl, I also see your point about the violence and not making excuses. But truthfully, I do have compassion for the boy in question. He does not want to be like this. He is doing the best he can given what his world is. He needs more support or his parents do ... I just can't agree that people who are violent don't merit some understanding. I go so far as to say even people who have murdered deserve compassion. I guess that's radical. (I was a volunteer at a max prison with murderers, and did work on death row and against the death penalty). Yes, my number one interest hear is my child's well - being and being compassionate towards her and advocating for her. But I feel for the boy.
We met w/the principal for an hour (half an hour at the end was really just chatting about the changes in the district -- our principal loves to chat, I guess).
She really reassured me that, at least in theory, there is a really good procedure in place. She said there is a zero tolerance for physical violence and likewise with verbal "assaults" and language. She said they use PBIS to create a positive atmosphere and reward good behavior, but when a child strikes another, they are taken out of class and speak to the principal. If old enough, the child has a chance to tell their parents, then 24 hours later the parents are called -- unless it is serious and they have to be sent home. In other words, combined with positive reinforcement, they do use discipline.
We didn't get into the particular boy at all but she generally explained that someone in this situation would actually be having all incidents tallied by computer. She said part of the issue was that there was a sub in the room, two actually, and that they aren't familiar with the 504's developed for each student. She said the child study team discusses weekly what is happening to these kids based on reports from the class room teacher.
At the end, I came out knowing what I needed to to be able to confidently explain to my daughter that the adults are handling this and following up on this. The principal also said that my daughter was sensitive and it would effect her, but that she should report any and all things that she is seeing to the teacher.
I do sense they are really committed to both the boy in question and to creating a safe, calm environment. She said, and I agree, that a lot of the classroom issues are because three new kids arrived from schools in other parts of the country which have far lower expectations in terms of behavior. This rings true, and our school has always seemed to be particularly focused on creating, for lack of a better word, a wholesome environment where people's space and feelings are respected.
Anyway, thank you for listening to me and giving me the language and ideas to deal with this ...