Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some Kids Have Issues Larger Than Academics

Several years back we had a student who had, in my opinion, profound emotional issues.  Peter came to us in the middle of the year in 5th grade.  His teachers quickly dubbed him a psychopath.  He had just about everything working against him.  His mother was clinically bipolar and a raging alcoholic.  His dad was out of the picture.  Mom had a boy friend who was blown up while serving in the military and was rumored in have swastikas displayed at their apartment.  This kid didn't have a chance.

By 6th grade Peter had become a 'cutter.'  His pathetic parental units blamed the school for everything from bullying that wasn't occurring to the fact that we let kids have little pencil sharpeners (he'd take the blade out of them and use it to cut).  However, they did at least attempt to get him some help.

A therapist of some variety came to the school once a week to meet with Peter and met with the whole family on weekends.  They quickly stopped showing for the family visits so the therapist increased her efforts to see Peter at school where she knew she could find him.  Peter wasn't interested in working with her.  He would spend the majority of the time swearing at her and watching the clock.

One day while with her, Peter announces he wants to kill himself.  They talk about this a little, but Peter shows no signs of backing off his claim, at which point he's told by the therapist he'll have to be hospitalized.

This is not quite how I would have handled it.

Peter goes crazy.  He punches her, bites her hand, and takes off down the hall.  The therapist catches him, and they wrestle toward the main office.  I'm fairly certain he headbutted her squarely at least once.

My secretary appeared at my office door, "Um, I think you may be needed in the hallway." Yep.

I grabbed another male teacher (Don) and we pulled Peter into the teachers lounge.  He was enraged, and carrying on about what a bitch his therapist was and how he wasn't going to the hospital (though using language that would make a sailor blush).  We just let him go, and eventually he calmed himself down.

Meanwhile, Peter's therapist is in the room working her cell phone like a bookie.  Don and I were busy calming Peter down so I didn't know who she was calling and I didn't really care.  Evidently Peter again overheard something about going to the hospital and made another run for the door.  Don and I stopped him, so he wheeled and race to the opposite side of the room and hopped up on the air conditioning unit which ran along a set of windows.

By this point Peter was a crying mess and carrying on about not wanting to go to the hospital.  He started kicking the window- hard.  Don and I are both trained in restraint methods which are only to be used if a child were endangering himself or others.  We felt this qualified.

Peter kept kicking the window; each time a little harder.  We asked him to come down off the air conditioner several times and told him that we'd have to bring him off if he wouldn't, but he was having no part of it.  So Don and I hopped up and grabbed him.  That's when things got real.

Peter was in total shock.  In his mind, teachers weren't allowed to touch kids- ever.  After we got him down, we let him go since the danger of the window breaking was now taken care of.  Peter used the opportunity to pick up a book and smash me in the face.  10 seconds later Peter was pinned face down in the prone position.

He was screaming like I've never seen a kid scream.  The look on his face has to be one of the worst things I've ever seen, and it will forever be burned into my memory.  This kid's life was now catching up with how it had been running in his head for a long time.

The therapist, who helped ignite this kid, calls the police without even mentioning it to me.  Predictably they sent about four squads, two fire trucks, and an ambulance for one 50 pound 6th grader.  The police came in and took over for Don and I.  They were informed that he was a biter so they put on gloves and several officers grabbed this little boy, secured him, and cuffed him.  "You're fucking arresting me!?" he screamed.

This all happened right around dismissal time so my school buses couldn't enter the property because they were blocked by fire engines.  I had half my parents standing around wondering what the hell was going on, and the other half would be calling when their kids bus was 30 minutes late.  To add a cherry to a great day, one of our kindergartners had a grandfather picking him up who was an amateur photographer for a local on-line 'newspaper.'  He called the paper up and reported we were in a lock down (we weren't), which turned this into Columbine for some parents (they ran with it, and later 'corrected' it).

Peter's mom showed up about 5 minutes later and the police reluctantly un-cuffed him.  He collapsed in the fetal position in the lap of a mother who he hated.  Peter was taken to the hospital by ambulance with his mom riding along.

You don't have many days in education that are worse than this.  I drove home with tears in my eyes, and visions of that poor kids frightened face as we held him down.

Peter returned and continued to cause problems at school.  Other parents didn't want their kids around him, and the junior high didn't even want him attending there.  The family eventually moved as these sorts of families often do.  In reflecting on his time, I'm not sure what we could have done differently.  There isn't always an answer.  I do know he's another example of a kid whose needs are bigger and different than passing a standardized test at the end of the year.  No child left behind, right?

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