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What to Do When You Suspect Abuse at School

When I picked RJ up from school a few weeks ago he was sitting at the table in his classroom pouting. This wasn’t that much of a shocker to me. He’s a moody 4 year old, he’s whiny and he’s a pouter much like most kids his age. But when I found out the reason he was pouting I was surprised. He told me he was in trouble for punching his teacher. Ummmm, what?! Of all the adjectives I just used to describe my child aggressive was not one of them. My child isn’t nor has he ever been a hitter. He’s a sweet kid, he’s a cuddler and sometimes he is just too dang friendly. So if I had to pin down one word to express my feelings in the exact moment he looked me in the face and told me he punched his teacher it would be… CONFUSED. 

In the moment all I could say was exactly what was in my head…. WHAT??? Why would you punch the teacher. I questioned him repeatedly once we got home about what exactly happened in the situation that would lead him to believe it’s OK to put his hands on anyone, much less an adult. The only thing response he gave me or his father as much as he asked was that he was afraid. This happened on a Friday and Sunday night rolled around and I mentioned the incident to his grandmother and in front of me he gave her the same response.

When I left, he had a completely different story.

RJ told his grandmother, after I had been asking him all weekend that he was afraid to go back to school because the teacher hit him. *cue another Ummmm, what?!* This time I wasn’t confused. The maternal instinctual feeling was rage. I had no idea how to even begin to process the 100% emotional reaction that I was having to my preschooler telling me that his teacher put their hands on him. Thankfully, the incident was resolved quickly and I’m comfortable with the outcome however, in the time we live in these happenings are become far to frequent. The news stories are highlighted everywhere and I’m wondering if people are listening to the cues from their children so that we can prevent these things from happening as much as possible.

What Do You Do When You Suspect Abuse at School?

Take a deep breath – I almost added this as the last tip but it needs to be said first. Breathe, assess and don’t react. Easier said than done, but reacting without assessing the situation could be detrimental in many aspects. It’s so important to collect yourself first so that you can respond to the situation as calmly as possible.

Watch your child – Children don’t always have the words to express what is happening. And even if they do, they may be nervous to share what they are experiencing. RJ repeatedly told me he was scared and refused to say anything else. Up until this particular incident he never expressed any anxiety about going to school. He loves to play with his friends and he loves the interaction he gets with both his teachers. Him expressing fear about school was definitely a behavioral shift, something that couldn’t go ignored.

Speak to the teacher privately – And when I say privately I mean without your child present. RJs situation turned out to be a misunderstanding (trust me, it was investigated fully) but I believe addressing the situation with the teacher privately is one of the most important steps. You want to be able to get a full scope of the situation without causing any more adverse negative effects. So in this instance, I didn’t want RJ to feel even more uncomfortable with being in the classroom in the event that he was to remain in that class.

Speak with school administrators – You want to have everything on record in the event that another situation happens. So even if the situation is “resolved” within the classroom it should still be brought to the attention of someone else and a formal report should be made.

Don’t feel any type of guilt. The safety of your child comes first.

Document everything – This again is merely another step in covering yourself in case you need to escalate. If you can have each meeting documented and signed by all that were in attendance so that there are no discrepancies.

Utilize the open door policy – I know in most cases we send our children to school with the expectation that they’re going to be well taken care of and you don’t have to worry, but if you worry then check in. My son’s school has an open door policy which I definitely utilize. Don’t feel bad about popping up unexpected. If you can check in unannounced, you may feel. It also gives you a chance to see the true classroom dynamic at any given time.

Change your child’s class – If it comes down to it, have your child moved to a different class. Both you and your child deserve to be in a situation you feel comfortable with. If you suspect or have a fear your child is being mistreated or treated differently after investigating the event, a change may be needed.

Stick to your guns and follow your instinct – This is a two in one tip. As a parent no one in the world knows your child better than you. Follow their cues, and your instinct if you feel something is amiss. You deserve to be comfortable with the care your child is receiving when they are away from you.

You’re doing amazing mamas! I’m so proud of you!

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