The Final Letter: When the school fails to effectively discipline my son’s bully

I picked up the boys from school on Monday afternoon and just prior to them walking out, I was greeted by who I think is the interventionist. It hadn’t occurred to me that she would be a resource. She was quite upset and apologetic about what’s been happening to Elliott. 

Having just learned about it, she has assured me it will be dealt with swiftly on Tuesday morning. Why she’s just now hearing about this if just one of the many questions I have. 

It’s not that I don’t believe her. She’s very genuine and frankly, the reaction she had to this is what everyone’s reaction should have been all along.  

Having said that, I won’t let up until I know this has been put to bed.  In the spirit of trying to be a good Dad, while at the same time keeping my wits about me, I have to ensure the safety of my kids. This includes inside the school building. 
I was feeling a little better after our impromptu conversation in the parent pickup car lane of the school parking lot.  The feeling was short lived because of what happened immediately after.

Elliott came out to the car with Emmett. He was in tears as he climbed into the car and asked me to find him a new school. He explained what had happened today and that he couldn’t take it anymore.  God love Emmett because he’s so upset that this is happening to his brother, he wants to confront this kid. 

That was addressed and Emmett understands that he can’t do something like that. I’m not gonna lie though, I was pretty damn proud to hear that defensive brother talk.. ☺ 

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Elliott explained that this kid had stabbed/scratched the back of his leg, behind his knee with a sharpened pencil. He said this kid dropped something on the floor in order to disguise this assault inside the process of retrieving his dropped item. 

It took quite awhile to settle Elliott down after school and it definitely set the tone for the rest of the day. 

I had to run to the bank and I took Elliott with me. We grabbed an ice cream cone on our way and talked about how he was feeling about all of this. He feels this kid should be suspended until he stops hurting people in school. 

When we arrived home, I composed another letter and sent it to his teacher and fully intend to follow up in the morning. Below is the letter and I’ve removed the names for obvious reasons.  

I want to share this because I’m unsure of how to handle something like this and I’m figuring it out as I go. I’m trying to handle this in a responsible manner, while still ensuring the best interests of Elliott.  That’s a very delicate balance because I don’t want to paint a target on Elliott or make anything worse by reacting to this purely on base instinct. Trust me, it’s not easy to do things this way. 

All I want to do is keep my kids safe and all I can hope is that I’m going about this in the right way. 

Mr. Xxxxxxx, 

I’m very quickly running out of patience with this xxxxxxxx situation. Xxxxxxx is physically assaulting Elliott and I won’t stand for that. Today it sounds like xxxxxxxxx stabbed/scratched the back of Elliott’s leg with a sharpened pencil. 

There’s verbal harassment that continues as well.  I know all about sticks and stones but the continued verbal abuse is impacting Elliott’s school day.  It’s a distraction and prevents him from devoting his full attention to his school work.  You should also know that Elliott left the school building in tears today, asking me to find him a new school.. 

This is unacceptable and I’m beyond disappointed that these things are continuing to happen. Ms. Xxxxxxx has assured me that this will be dealt with in the morning but xxxxxxxx is not to make any physical contact with Elliott.  

Any further instances will be taken much higher up the chain of command.  

Xxxxxxxx doesn’t have the right to physically and verbally assault or harass the students in your classroom. This is a pattern of problem behavior that needs to be dealt with immediately. Taking away points is not a deterrent for this type of behavior.  

This situation is continuing to escalate and as the person responsible for Elliott’s safety while in class, I hold you personally responsible for anything that happens from this point forward. 

My intent is not to come off threatening but instead convey the level seriousness this situation warrants.  I’m always willing to work together to help resolve these things but at this point, my child no longer feels safe in your classroom and that has me greatly concerned and frankly, very upset.  

Rob




14 Comments

  1. BJW

    That was physical assault. Charges could be filed. Okay, I don’t know much. I think you should consult an attorney. I know, I know, it’s expensive. Sometimes you can get in and talk with an attorney who won’t charge you for that meeting, but will give you an idea. I’m thinking that having an ATTORNEY send a letter to the teachers/principal/super would make a huge impact.

    I was bullied in school, verbally harassed, and so was my older brother. Both of my sons had issues, albeit not to the extent your son has. And I am now sour on public schools ways of dealing with bullying. Oh, another idea! Maybe contacting the parents?

    Anyway, I know I have a small town attorney who I’ve sent a couple friends too. And he doesn’t automatically charge. If you can ask around you might find someone similar there.

    Bless you all! (PS–I had something happen I want to talk to you Rob and/or Lizze. Maybe through Facebook messaging?? It isn’t directly related to our autistic children, but it has an impact on mine.)

  2. Annie Says

    It’s absolutely horrible that your son is getting bullied and I can’t even begin to imagine how it must of feel as a parent in this situation. I’m glad my parents never had to go trough it because I managed to handle all bulling attempts on my own.

    However no matter how upsetting it is. The school/teachers can’t really do aynthing in this situation, unless you’re asking them to expel the bully (and I doubt that will happen). Bullies don’t listen to reason, nor they find what they’re doing as wrong, so talking to them to make them understand that they’re hurting someone or even taking disciplinary acts won’t help. In fact it can make the situation worse.

    Now I understand that might sound completely unreasonable and maybe even impossible to achieve. The easiest way to stop the bullying is done by the students alone. To tell it simple. If your son finds a classmate (or more) that’s willing to help him and stand up to the bully instead of him, the situation will slowly get better. With this a teacher could help, but most don’t know how to handle it.

    1. BJW

      My younger son was getting picked on in 7th grade. A kid took a dislike to him. Somehow, my son managed to completely turn that relationship around. But my younger son isn’t the autistic son. My older son learned enough self defense that he ended up rolling a couple kids over his back when he was smaller. When he finally grew into his over 6 foot size, physical bullying stopped.

      Bullies should be separated from the kid(s) they are bullying. Someone should be put in a different class.

      1. Annie Says

        I know where you’re comming from with wanting to separate the bullies from others. But in a way that would be the same as separating autistic kids from others, just because. Bullies are mostly the kids with problems. So separating them from others would only enable them to learn how to function in a wide society.

        Bullies bully to show “domination”, because they feel that this “domination” will fill the thing that they lack the most.

  3. Kim Gebhardt

    I’m curious, what do you want to see happen? I’ve read both of your letters to the school and you say that you want the bully dealt with but don’t say how or offer any other solution, such as moving Elliott to another desk or changing classrooms. I know you want the situation resolved, but what does that entail for you?

    1. It’s been a rough day so I’m behind on comments.

      Moving this child or Elliott to another desk isn’t a solution because this kid seeks him out. Moving classrooms isn’t an option because there’s only one classroom for his grade.

      Personally, I would want to see the parents notified because sometimes parents aren’t aware that their child is a bully.

      Outside of that, this child should be suspended…

      I realize that bullies have problems as well but that doesn’t give them the right to verbally and physically assault their classmates.

      I’m all for a peaceful resolution but bullying is inexcusable and should be dealt with swiftly, each and every time they hurt someone.

      This kid has been relentless for a long time, with no accountability. I would think at least temporary removal from the classroom is warranted.

      1. JR

        Kim makes a good point. Your letter does a good job as far as putting the school on notice and having a written record, but it’s always helpful if you can articulate some specific goals in writing, even if they are minimal ones, such as changing seats.

        Also, I had suggested this with respect to your earlier letter, but maybe this letter should be copied to the principal, social worker, and other administrators. Make sure that you know who these people are, and just as importantly, that you know you they are. If this “interventionist” (that’s a thing?) had been involved earlier from being copied on your earlier letter maybe things would be further along. Best of luck…

        1. JR

          Just realized a typo- I meant to make sure not only that you know who they (administrators, etc.) are, but also that they know who *you* are. Not so you can use them as a threat, but so you have an open line of communication with people who can ensure that both of your boys are getting what they need at school.

      2. Kim Gebhardt

        I’m not doubting what you say, but if Elliott and this kid were across the room from one another, how would he be able to seek Elliott out without anyone seeing what was going on? I am going on the assumption that the classroom is one large, open space with desks or tables; how did this kid get from his desk to Elliott’s, stab and scratch him with a pencil, and have no one see it? Also, does Elliott speak up the minute this kid does something? Does he call out and draw attention to make the teacher aware of the situation?

        1. Yes he does. What happens is that the teachers asks the kid if he did it and the kid says no. The classroom is small and there’s less than a dozen kids (I believe), with 2 teachers. I don’t know how this stuff isn’t witnessed.

          1. JR

            6:1 student teacher ratio and all of this is missed? And they refuse to do anything about it unless they actually see it? As long as the kid denies accountability, nothing is done? Their policies and obliviousness are completely bizarre. I’m not doubting you, but is there anything else to this story? Do they have reason not to believe you/Elliott? Do they have reason to bend over backwards for this other kid?

            I’m sorry you (and Elliott) are experiencing this.

            1. There’s nothing you’re missing. This whole thing started last school year I believe. This kid was hurting himself while in class. He was cutting himself and bleeding. Elliott was worried and so he told the teacher what this kid was doing. Ever since then, this kid has been targeting Elliott because he feels Elliott is a “rat” for telling on him.

              I guess in a way, that makes this worse because he’s holding a grudge for so long. When Elliott would tell me about this in previous school years, it seemed more like kids being kids. This kid was more annoying than anything else or so I though t anyway.

              When I asked about it, there wasn’t anything to tell.. This was during the time I was a single parent and maybe I missed the signs but either way, I’m on it now.

              I suspect that things have significantly escalated this year for some reason.

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