Saturday, February 15, 2014

School Rules: Keeping Kids Safe or Overreacting?

I had a rough Monday with the kiddo's school and it really got me thinking about the role that schools play in caring for our children vs what parents want for our children.

Early Monday morning, I got a call from Christopher's Kindergarten teacher. She told me that she noticed an scabbed-over injury on Christopher's wrist and she wanted to know what it was. An injury? I was confused. Don't all little boys get scrapes and scabs on them? I didn't know what it was off the top of my head. He'd been active all weekend, with a play date at Imajine That on Saturday and 90 minutes of soccer on Sunday. It really could have happened at any time. On top of that, really what business is it of hers to call me and ask why my highly active 6 year old son had a boo boo?

When I told her I wasn't sure what it was as it really could have come from anywhere, she tosses out, "well it looks like a cigarette burn to me and I'm going to take Christopher down to the nurse's office to have it assessed."

I'm sorry...what? A cigarette burn??? I very pointedly told her that there was no way Christopher had a cigarette burn on his wrist. And I certainly didn't appreciate the insinuation that I'm burning my child with cigarettes. She told me, "well I just have to be honest with you." And then she said she was off to the nurse's office to have Christopher's wrist examined.

I got off the phone and asked my manager sitting next to me, "did I just get accused of child abuse?" Not only am I wondering what the hell this injury is but now I have to worry that the school is launching an investigation into my parenting? Seriously?

I was pretty upset about this so I called the Principal. He said he would look into it. About half an hour later, he called me back and told me that the nurse deemed the injury to be a "scrape". I literally laughed out loud. A scrape? I am upset, wasting time out of my busy work day with back and forth with the school because my active 6 year old has a scrape on his wrist? This is how we best use our time?

I spoke with the teacher and the Para at the end of the day and was told that whenever a child has a visible injury (bump, bruise or scrape, etc.) that the teacher will call the parent to find out what it is and if she doesn't get the answers she needs from the parents, she will escalate by taking the child to the school nurse and the assistant principal to have the injury assessed. So yes, after I wasn't immediately forthcoming, my child's 1/4" scab was assessed by both the school nurse and the assistant principal.

Oh and when I spoke to the teacher she said, "we have noticed another injury...between his fingers." You know what that turned out to be? Magic marker! Seriously. They are investigating coloring injuries now. Talk about overreacting.

Okay so no one understands the importance of keeping kids safe more than I do. I became a mom to Christopher because his birth mom was not able to keep him safe. However, there are ways to handle this and there are ways to overreact. And the school, in my opinion, overreacted.

Do you really need to know what every scrape is? Really? I would suggest taking that sort of notification down a notch.

Also, perhaps treat the parent like a partner and not as a child abuser. A little kindness on the phone goes a long way: "hey Miss Ecker, I'm just calling to check on Christopher. He seems to have some sort of a scrape on his wrist and we like to follow up on things like that, if that's okay. Do you remember how he got hurt?" Leave out any mention of a cigarette burn if in fact you have no idea what it is. Especially if you haven't even seen the nurse yet. The teacher told me Christopher has a cigarette burn but the nurse said it was a scrape. Those are two very, very different things.

For the record, when I picked Christopher up, he remembered that he got the scrape when he was going down the slide on his belly at Imajine That. This is an indoor playspace near our house where we had a play date last weekend. He didn't tell me about it at the time because it didn't hurt. And he didn't want to stop having fun.

Christopher loves his Kindergarten Para and he feels comfortable in his class. He likes his friends and the structure of the classroom. So I'm not going to move him into another class. However, I will say that this experience was rough for me. I work very hard to give Christopher a good life and you know, a little positive reinforcement would be kind of nice. I don't ask for praise but I could sure live without unverified accusations, thank you very much.

Anyway, as I told the teacher on Monday afternoon, I'd like to put this behind us and move on. There are only a few more months in this school year and let's just get through it shall we? I'm not happy but I'm no going to keep being upset so I might as well just move on. I learned a little something about dealing with the schools this week though and I won't forget that, that's for sure.


  1. Sounds like they have had some abused children prior to Chris and are over protective. They should have handled is much differently and should have not ever accused you of abuse. Good luck I know you have lost a lot of resect for the teacher and Para.
    - Doreen

  2. Yes I'm sure there have been other kids that were abused and that's terribly sad. I spoke with some school teacher friends today and they told me that they are not allowed to make phone calls like this. A call like this should come from a professional trained in this type of scenario, which the teacher clearly is not. The principal told me it was a breach of protocol as well so hopefully they start to handle matters like this with a bit more sensitivity.

  3. A quick follow up on the above: I did eventually receive an apology from the school, where I was told that the administration was horrified by what had happened. The school psychologist is the one who made the call. She told me that indeed another child in this class had been abused with cigarette burns and that the teacher, in an effort to be hyper-vigilant to all the needs of her students, reacted a bit strongly. I told the psychologist that I was terribly sorry for the other child but you cannot accuse all parents of abuse just because their child has a scrape. She agreed wholeheartedly with me. I appreciated the call.