By Stephen Gosewich, Dad Blogger
It always seems that at this time of year, our children are counting the days as they slowly wind down to the end of another school year. Their thoughts are not on learning; instead, they turn to summer and all that it represents; popsicles, amusement parks, camping programs, fireworks and nights when the sun never seems to set.
This is normally an exciting time of year. Many are transitioning from elementary to middle school..others are just moving up a grade while staying with the same group of kids. While these can be happy times, they can also be bittersweet.
I was shocked and disturbed by a recent story told to me by a friend of mine who is a mother of two young boys. Her youngest son is finishing off his grade 6 year and is about to embark on an adventure at another school. However, this young boy has had to endure to personal challenges and was surprised to find little comfort in the school system in which he is a student.
This young guy has had a severe stutter since the age of 2 (he is now 12). He is a wonderfully sensitive, caring and intelligent young boy and has a strong-willed set of parents who have bent over backwards trying repeatedly to seek help from specialists to provide him with the treatment he so desperately seeks to rid him of this horrible, paralyzing condition. They have had no success..lots of promises made and thousands of dollars spent, but no success.
The young guy has been placed under a microscope by these practitioners, performing dehumanizing and invasive tests and talking candidly and bluntly to his mother about his condition with him being present in the meeting.
To put it simply, he has been through hell and he has not come back.
To add insult to injury, this young guy was the victim of an act of bullying at his school this year…the year that was supposed to represent the end of one stage of his academic career and the exciting start of the next.
The shocking part of this is who the bully was. It was not a big, dumb, heartless classmate….it was a teacher.
While this young guy’s Mom and Dad monitored his progress with the school’s principal and was in constant contact with his teachers, they thought they had the support and understanding of the school’s faculty in not only providing support and compassion but also ensuring that his classmates and other students showed the same kind of tolerance.
But it was a teacher of his who one day, belittled our young friend and humiliated him with some completely unnecessary and inappropriate comments. Because he is a strong-minded individual and is perfectly aware of the challenges he is facing, he stood up to this bully teacher and told this individual that he did not like the way the teacher was talking to him (this, was done in front of his fellow students).
My friend has a strong communication with her children so he felt at ease articulating to his mom what went down at school, when he came home later that day.
Aside from this unfathomable act of blatant bullying displayed by a teaching professional, what followed later was a complete an utter breakdown of the school board and an utter disregard for the rights of the child involved and their lack of interest (all the way up to the Superintendent level in dealing with the teacher involved.
After days and days of unreturned phone calls to the Superintendent, my friend reached out to her local School Board Trustee, ironically a child stutterer himself. While she finally found a person who would respond to her story with swiftness by immediately notifying the Superintendent, Principal and teacher, the parents were invited to outline the events as they unfolded in a closed door meeting with all parties present. The net result was a attempt at offering this family, who had already been through so much, an insincere apology.
That’s it. A teacher who bullied this young man (and who incidentally has a history of traumatizing other children), was merely scolded for behavior that is typically found in the school yard by children; not the teacher. Imagine…a school board that has a zero tolerance policy towards bullying but clearly has no protocols pertaining to reprimanding teachers and staff for similarly unacceptable behavior.
Every day, hundreds and thousands of parents see their children off as they venture into school to be educated, nurtured, encouraged and loved. Kids from all socio-economic backgrounds; some with physical and mental challenges are welcomed and treated with the same kind of optimism as those children who are blessed with healthy bodies and healthy minds.
We place our faith in these educators…we trust them with our children’s lives.
This is an example of a school board that clearly has the interests of its staff in front of those of the children.
While I don’t know what the outcome of this horrible event will be, I do know what kind of effect it has had on this family and the young boy. He is angry…angry that justice has not been served. Angry that the apology that he and his family received was obligatory and not genuine. Angry that the teacher has not been formally reprimanded. He has lost interest in participating in extra-curricular activities and the faith that he has long placed in the grown ups in his life who represent authority and safety has been broken.
My friend is now reaching out to senior people at the school board and is taking advantage of her network of business associates and friends who all agree as I do that this fundamental breakdown is representative of a bigger systemic problem.
I hope my blog and the actions that she is able to take will bring this boy some peace.
Stephen Gosewich is still working on becoming an enlightened male (as are we all). In the
meantime, he spends his weekdays as a commercial real estate
professional, and all other times with his wonderfully supportive wife
and two very active and inspiring daughters. He lives in Toronto and
enjoys family time, pop culture, spinning up a storm and perfecting his
downward dog. www.theenlightenedmale.wordpress.com