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SciNerd2019 04-18-2019 05:56 PM

I worded a conversation wrong and a student got hurt as a result
This kid, who I'll refer to as E, has had issues with showing up to class on time and completing work on and off since the beginning of the year. I have fairly regular contact with his parents as a result. He had been doing much better this semester until the last 2 weeks.

He wasn't showing up to 1st block, but I didn't pursue it because I didn't know if he was just arriving to school late or actually skipping. Today, I saw him in the hall during class and asked him to come into the classroom. He said, "Not right now." I explained that if he stayed in the hall without a pass, I would have to write him up for skipping, which I hate doing. He argued that he wasn't skipping, and I gave up and went back to teaching my class.

Fast forward to the last class of the day. I get a call from the front office and it's the E's dad. The dad asks why E was marked absent. I explained that he did not show up to class, but that I had seen him in the hallway and spoken to him during the class he skipped and that a referral had been submitted to the office already. The dad asked what his son said in the hall. Wanting to keep things short so I could get back to teaching, I told him that I asked E to come back to class and E said, "No."

The dad immediately started yelling at E, who I could hear pleading that he had not actually said, "No." I tried getting the dad's attention to clarify, but he hung up before I was able to speak again. I brushed it off and decided I would call after school let out to clarify so that the student might not be grounded *as long*.

Dismissal rolls around and I walked out to monitor the halls only to watch E collapse in tears as the assistant principal and counselor carried him into the office. My heart sank. I went to another teacher to ask if they saw or heard anything. The other teacher said they saw the student attempt to run from the building while the parents shouted something about juvenile and the assistant principal intercepted. We then watched 2 SROs walk to the office muttering something about DCS.

An hour and a half later, I finally made it into the office to speak with the parents. I explained the full conversation I had with their son in the hall during 1st block, emphasizing that it was not a hard, "No," but more of a brush-off. The damage was done. DCS had been called and a police report for a domestic dispute had been filed. The dad had apparently laid into the kid way harder than necessary and threatened E, so E ran to the assistant principal and refused to see or speak to his parents because he was afraid of them.

The assistant principal later told me that the parents were already in the school for one of the other children when they saw E in the hall and knew he was skipping a class. They marched him to the office to pull up attendance records and saw how many classes he had skipped. E, who has anxiety, was already in a heightened state of fear because he had not expected to run into his parents in the hall. The perfect storm of anxious teenager and fed-up parents led to a whirlwind of out-of-control emotions that I had no way of knowing about. She said I did my job by holding the student accountable and speaking with the parents.

There was no physical harm done, but I still feel responsible for the mental trauma I inadvertently caused. I know that I should have been more careful with my words and thought things through before responding to the dad's questions. I feel like this is an unforgivable mistake. What can I do?

TL;DR I inadvertently made it sound like a conversation with a student about misbehavior was a lot more rude than it actually was and the parents took it out on the kid with extreme emotional abuse on school grounds.

lisa53 04-19-2019 01:36 AM

That incident did not happen in a vacuum, and you did not cause it. Perhaps it was a trigger, but I doubt that a parent would go off the deep end like that in public if that behavior never ever happened at home, nor would a child be hiding from his parents afraid of them, if he had never experienced an inappropriately angry and abusive reaction from his parents before.

Please know that this could possibly be a turning point that brings some positive changes into the life of that child. He is clearly hurting, based on your description.

It won't get better all at once, but the parents' abusive behavior has been identified, and in the end, that may help the child. Don't beat yourself up!

dee 04-19-2019 03:26 AM

Agree with previous poster
Not only was your inadvertant omission not the cause of this, it may have actually been the tipping point to get that kid help.

Certainly sounds like there's a LOT more going on than just one incident with this one child.

Your conversation may have been the ONLY reason that child got help

SciNerd2019 04-20-2019 03:54 AM

Should I talk to the kid and apologize Monday or leave it alone?
I don't want to retraumatize him, but I do want him to know that I care. We have had a good relationship previously where he would come to my classroom to cool down whenever something upset him in another class.

lisa53 04-22-2019 03:26 AM

You did your job, which you have to do, so do not apologize for that. It probably wouldnít have made a difference how you worded your response to the dad, actually.

You could certainly express concern for the boyís well being. I would probably say something like, ďAre you OK? Iím sorry that happened the other day. Iím here if you want to talk.Ē

You will be able to judge your next step after each of those sentences, by how he responds. The important thing is to let him know you care about him.

kahluablast 04-22-2019 07:18 AM

I donít think that the difference between not right now and no is very big. Either one is disrespectful of your reminder, and not a good answer. I would not say a word of apology to them. He is the one who was in the wrong, anyway you look at it.

I agree with others regarding you might have been the tipping point, but the boat needed tipped. Kid hopefully will get help.

teabreak 04-22-2019 08:05 AM

Rough day
I feel really bad for you and the student. If you are close enough with the student, maybe just ask how they are doing and if they need anything. This seems like a pretty traumatic situation for all involved. Make sure they have the supports needed such as a counselor or trusted adult.

You didn't cause this, but it seems as if you were the straw that broke the camel's back. My guess is there have been other issues going on in this family long before you were involved.

caseycat 05-15-2019 05:46 AM

I don't think
what you told the parent caused the meltdown. The parents were in the building for another child and saw E skipping class. This is on the student and the parents and not you.

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