To the Principal:
Christian has had a really rough school year this year. There has been such severe bullying from his classmates that we are concerned about his psychological and physical safety. We had to file an official bullying report through the district, as one particular child would not stop physically assaulting and humiliating our child. While the physical bullying has ceased, the emotional and verbal attacks continue, as the kids will call him “Retard,” and will make fun of his disabilities. Christian is diagnosed with high-functioning autism and AD/HD and is currently being treated with extensive ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), Mental Health Counseling (specifically because of the bullying) Occupational Therapy, and Social Skills groups.
We first alerted his teachers of his disabilities via email on October 4, 2013. In that email I asked his teachers if they could accommodate him in class by allowing him to type his assignments (he has difficulty with fine motor skills), allowing him to take a “photo” of any assignments written on the board (so he would not have to write those assignments down) and if he could digitally record any lectures so that he could take notes on those lectures at a later time. The majority of his teachers were open to these accommodations and willing to help him in any way they could. The only teacher who had a problem with this was Mrs. G-, who refused to allow Christian to tape-record any portions of her class. At that point (early in October) Christian told us that “Mrs. G- yells and is always angry in our class. That’s probably why she doesn’t want anyone recording her.”
As months have gone by, Christian’s grades began to drop, particularly in Science. This is VERY odd, because Christian is very logic-based. Science and Math have ALWAYS been his favorite, and strongest, subjects. Around December, Christian started giving us a hard time, every time he had to go to school on the days when he had science. When we finally got an answer from him as to why he didn’t want to go to school, he informed us that “Mrs. G- hates me. She is always irritated with me and she says mean things to me. She is always yelling at me and embarrasses me in front of the class.”
After Christmas break, Christian did not want to return to school at all. “The kids are mean to me, and Mrs. G- is mean, too.” When we tried to ask for specific details, he would lock up, as many children with Autism do. We never had any real specifics, except for the fact that Christian would say, “She is always angry at me and yelling at me and the class. She thinks I am annoying.”
On March 11, 2014, we had a parent-teacher conference with all of his teachers. In that meeting, we shared his diagnostic information as well as strengths and weaknesses with his teachers, and Mrs. G- was present. At that meeting, in front of all the other teachers, we informed Mrs. G- that Christian felt that she “hated him” and that Christian was telling us that she was mean to him. We told her that Christian is afraid of her and does not want to make her angry, but that he states that no matter what she does she is always angry at him. He feels like he cannot do anything right and she is always annoyed with him. We wanted her to know how Christian was feeling, so that maybe she could be mindful of the way that she talks to/around him. Her response was one of (somewhat obviously feigned) shock and surprise. She stated she had no idea why Christian would feel that way, and that she thought that she and Christian “friends.”
Over the past few weeks, Christian has not felt like the situation in Mrs. G- classroom has improved. If anything, the situation has worsened, and Christian is afraid to go to her class. He wakes up in the morning and it’s a big challenge to get him to school simply because he is stressed because “not only are the kids mean to me, but Mrs. G- is mean to me as well.”
Then yesterday, April 14, just a little over a month since our meeting with Mrs. G- and the other teachers, Christian came home from school very upset. Apparently, due to their standardized testing schedule, the school schedule had changed, and he had Science class at a time with which he was unfamiliar. Because of the weird schedule, he had forgotten his science book. At which point Mrs. G- said “I ought to smack that boy [referring to Christian] across the face.” Christian was so distraught over this that he wrote it down on his report card, because he wanted to make sure we knew what happened. His classmate, NIcky, who sits beside him in class, overheard her statement.
Our son is very literal, and very logical. He feels as though Mrs. G- hates him. He does not want to go to school at all during FCAT week because he knows he will have to see her every day because she is his homeroom teacher. He is afraid of retribution from Mrs. G- for reporting this, and we are concerned about this as well.
Christian has suffered significant psychological trauma this school year, such that he has nightmares and the child who (last year) loved to go to school now dreads every single day. He is showing significant clinically measurable signs of depression and anxiety, which lay well outside the “average” bracket of stress associated with transitioning to middle school. As a result, his autism symptoms are extremely exasperated, which, in turn makes him appear to the average or neurotypical student as “weird,” or “retarded.” Then, as the students around him do not understand what is happening, they tease him, or ignore him, or ice him out of groups, which increases his depression and social anxiety, creating a cycle that has continued to worsen and worsen throughout the school year.
It is imperative that Christian be protected from bullying — both from his peers and most especially from his teachers. Christian lacks the social awareness and understanding that many neuro-typical children have. He has a deeply emotional heart, and he takes everything literally, and feels the hurt deeply. When a child calls him “Retard,” or pushes him to the ground in front of a moving bus, or the children “ice” him out, ignoring him because he is different, or a teacher states she wants to smack him: whenever this occurs, this damages him deeply, and his only way of coping with that pain is to hide himself in his Autism. EVERY DAY THIS SCHOOL YEAR I HAVE WATCHED A LITTLE MORE OF MY CHILD DISAPPEAR. The stress associated with this school year has been so devastating that Christian is currently receiving 2 hours of counseling every week SPECIFICALLY to help him deal with the psychological and emotional trauma he has had to endure over the past 8 months. Even with that counseling (which he has been receiving weekly since October) we are still VERY concerned about the levels of his depression and anxiety. Going forward we also feel that implementation of an IEP for Christian would help ensure Christian’s safety – both from the students and from the teachers.
As parents of a disabled child, we are extraordinarily frustrated and we are afraid. Despite the fact that we try to be very involved, we still feel that our child is both unsafe and unprotected while he is at school, to the point where we have considered pulling him out of school and homeschooling him, just to keep him safe. However, we want Christian to have to socialization that comes with attending school, so we are trying to hang in there, but we are extremely concerned about his physiological and psychological safety. We are also worried about retribution from Mrs. G- in the meantime.
Thank you for your time and for your help. I hope this can be resolved quickly.