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I worded a conversation wrong and a student got hurt as a result
Old 04-18-2019, 05:56 PM
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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.

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