It Happened to Joey

I saw this post on facebook the other day about a little girl with Down syndrome who was abused by her teacher.  She suffered both physical, verbal, and mental abuse and the child’s mother didn’t find out until the day she was contacted by Children’s Protective Services.  If anyone is interested in reading about this little girl I will put a link to her mother’s blog at the bottom of this entry.  As I sat and read what this little girl was subjected to I began to cry.  Not only did I cry for her but also for Joey.  Joey had a similar experience when he was in 4 year old preschool.

Here is my sweet little boy when he was four years old.

He was smart and athletic and and just beginning to make some headway in school.  He was in the Early  Childhood Program in our district because of  a diagnosis of Early Developmental Delay.  What little speech he had was usually only understood by myself, Dave, Joey’s older brothers and my mom.  One day when Joey got off the bus after preschool the bus driver told me that there was an issue on the bus with another child.  The other child (also a 4 year old) dropped an F bomb.  Of course my sweet little boy who could barely talk picked that word up immediately.  The transportation company contacted the other child’s parents.  A week later I was on a field trip at the apple orchard with Joey’s school.  I was talking to the two speech teachers that had worked with Joey and relayed to them what happened on the bus.  I told them more in a joking way – you know my kid who doesn’t talk but look what work he says perfectly now!!  I never told them who the other child was as it had already been dealt with.  Well, within an hour Joey’s teacher came up to talk to me.  She had a mouth full of donut and was angry.   She was going on and on about how I should have come to her and that it is terrible that  a parent would tell anyone else what had happened.  I was very taken aback.  I don’t think I have ever had a teacher yell at me, even as a child.  (Well, maybe once.)  I was so focused on her mouth full of food that was spewing everywhere that I couldn’t even get my thoughts together to respond.  So I apologized.  The next day she sent out a newsletter which was basically directed at me.  She wanted the parents to know that she handles all the behavior issues that come up with the children; including those would happen on the bus.  She talked about respecting children’s privacy and respecting her behavior system she had set up in her room.

Once I cleared my head and was able to think about it for a little while I got really mad.  Joey was my son.  I had every right to tell anyone I wanted about something that happened to him on the bus.  I could have used the other child’s name but I didn’t.  And I only told school personnel.  But of course me being the non-confrontational person that I am, I just let it go.  About a month later Joey came home from school and using his words clearly told me that his teacher got mad at him and spanked him.  Being a teacher myself I knew there was no way this was possible.  I told Joey that it was wrong to lie and made him sit in time out.  He just shrugged his shoulders and sat in the chair for a little bit.  He never told me anything negative about her again.

One the last day before Christmas vacation I showed up at school with a gift for Joey’s teacher, the parapro, and his speech pathologist.  When I walked into the room the para told me that his teacher wasn’t there and she would make sure that the board got the gift to her.  I felt a bit confused but said okay and walked out.  Down the hall there were two parents from Joey’s room talking about the teacher.  I had been gone all morning but they had apparently been contacted by the police department because a report of abuse was made against the teacher and there children were named.  I immediately walked back down the hall and into the classroom and closed the door.  I looked at the para and the speech pathologist (both of whom I knew very well) and asked what was going on.  It broke my heart to hear.  This teacher was mean and cruel.  She had blue painters tape in lines all over the floor and would force the children to practice standing in line, sometimes for 45 minutes at a time.  She had a chair for “time outs” and kids would sit in it for up to 2 hours!!  These were four year olds!!  She did spank the kids.  She would also pull hair, tweak ears, and flick kids when she was mad.  She would hurt them in any way she could that wouldn’t leave a mark.  She called them names and constantly berated them.  The para was witnessing all of this behavior for a while and when the speech pathologist began witnessing it they were able to document enough to have her removed.  She didn’t leave quietly though.  She had to be escorted out and restraining orders had to be placed.  I then learned that she was a speech pathologist in the district who wanted a classroom position for many years.  She was finally given a kindergarten class in one of the elementary schools but there were problems and complaints and she was given the option to leave for this special ed preschool class or be terminated.  So the district took this woman who wasn’t certified to teach preschool and stuck her with a bunch of kids who had such huge speech issues that no one could understand them.  I was irate.  When I got home I had also gotten a phone call from the police officer.  I learned that the day Joey told me his teacher had spanked him he was telling the truth.

They were never able to bring her up on charges and the union fought hard for her to return.  She was brought back to work with speech kids at the high school level.  As far as I know she is still there.

That experience was the most heart wrenching one I have had to date when dealing with special education.  I think back to my first real encounter with her at the apple orchard and really wished I had followed my instincts and had him put in another room.  We saw a lot of regression with Joey’s speech and behavior after that incident.  He had a huge fear of getting in trouble and would overboard to try to please any teacher.  He was the one who would spend his free time cleaning up the room and putting things away.  As he grew older his teachers would always tell me they just thought it was so sweet how helpful he was.  I knew though that he was really  just trying to stay on the good side.  He learned a survival skill at a very young age.

Most teachers out there would never dream of hurting a child.  I believe the majority are there because they really want to inspire children and help them learn and overcome any disabilities.  A good school district will bend over backwards to make sure they have the best teacher in a room with kids who have disabilities.  But all parents need to be aware and to listen to their children and to their own instincts.  If something doesn’t sound or feel right better to move your child to a different room than to risk putting them in harms way.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: